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What Lent Taught Me About Willpower

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at BU chapter.

“So, what are you giving up this year?” No, I am not talking about New Year’s resolutions. I am talking about Lent: the forty-day period (plus some Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Easter. While the variations in how people observe Lent can be quite drastic, the goal is to commemorate Jesus’s forty days of fasting by giving up something yourself. Personally, I try to challenge myself. From giving up TV in all forms while I was a child, to giving up sweets in all forms as an adult, I try to force healthier habits on myself throughout these seven weeks.

This year was an interesting one. On average, I can get by without desserts since I don’t eat them every day, but it can be frustrating to be restricted from the odd piece of chocolate or freshly baked cookie. Granted, Sundays don’t count during Lent, so there is my one cheat-day per week. In light of giving up certain foods, I also realized how often food is ingrained into my social life. Between going out to eat with my friends or drinking hot chocolate on snow days, food is involved in everything.

Now here is where it gets interesting. Do you remember how I said I try to challenge myself during Lent? That generally leads to myself being lenient during Lent, as well. One day I thought I bought a blueberry muffin, but it turned out to be chocolate chip. Did I eat it? Yes. Did I feel guilty? A little bit. My boyfriend received care packages from his family in L.A. and Taiwan. Will I have the opportunity to try these sweets again? Maybe not. Did I eat some? You bet. Now, in a time dedicated to discipline, why is it so easy to break the rules?

Willpower must be taken with a grain of salt. As one can imagine, practicing Lent has some resemblance to New Year’s resolutions. You aim big, start strong, and are then worn out by the level of commitment. So here is the punchline. What did I learn about willpower during Lent? I don’t have as much as I expected. However, by turning it down a notch and not quitting cold turkey, it can be much easier to follow through on your promises, Lent or otherwise.

Of course, there is a learning curve: with willpower comes patience. Yes, I gave myself some leniency, but I was surprised at how well I passed up certain opportunities, aka delicious looking sweets. Going forward, I don’t plan on cutting out major food groups (yes, dessert is a food group), but I do plan to continue to challenge myself. Whether it’s only indulging twice a week or finding friends who are willing to try with me, I encourage you all to do the same. Push yourself to try something new and see what happens. If you succeed, great. If not, just remember, any form of lasting change takes time and patience.


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Writers of the Boston University chapter of Her Campus.