by Marc and Julie Anderson
ROELAND PARK – With three weeks left in Lent, you may have already given up on your Lent goals. But Annie Eller, a registered nutritionist and member of St. Agnes Parish in Roeland Park, said it is not too late to start new habits – habits that you can continue to build on after Easter.
As a nutritionist in the outpatient department of the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, Eller regularly meets a wide variety of people, all of whom are trying to lead healthier lifestyles.
Additionally, in her consulting business, she encounters clients trying to lose weight, reduce their reliance on recipes, and / or learn how to buy and cook healthy foods.
While any point in time is a good time to focus on improving your health, Lent offers a unique opportunity, according to Eller, as it focuses on almsgiving, prayer, fasting, and abstinence from meat.
Eller grew up in Christ the King parish in Topeka and was used to eating fried fish on Fridays.
But Lent, which skips meat on Fridays, offers the opportunity to include more fruits, vegetables, and legumes in your diet, according to Eller. And that can lead to a healthier lifestyle long after Lent ends.
“Lent gives us the opportunity to be creative with meal planning [since] We can’t eat meat once a week, “Eller said,” but I would encourage people to take it beyond Lent for the rest of the year and commit to a meatless meal once or twice a week. “
With a focus on fasting and “giving up” something, Eller said that Lent is an opportunity for Catholics to take that step further and reflect on all of their dietary habits. While you may be giving up cookies for Lent, fresh fruit can serve as a healthy substitute for a sweet snack.
“Lent gives us the opportunity to get a comprehensive overview of our eating habits. We can take this heightened awareness with us throughout life and be careful to eat foods that support a healthy body rather than being indulgent too often, ”she said.
As a Catholic, Eller said she relied on her faith to stay motivated. She encourages others to do the same. The scriptures, she said, are full of indications that the body is an abode of the Holy Spirit. For example, St. Paul writes in the first letter to the Corinthians: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God and that you are not your own?”
Knowing that the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit helps people set more meaningful goals, Eller said.
“People tend to start a weight loss journey or try to do more for change. . . Surface targets – whether that will fit into certain clothes or see a certain number on the scale, ”she said. “But deeper motivators are more an indication of long-term success. Belief is of course one of the most important motivators. “
Because Lent encourages people to focus on prayer, Eller said the time of year can also help people focus more on mental and spiritual health. Turning off the television and participating in activities such as journaling, praying, reading the Bible more often, and attending mass more often can affect a person’s mental and spiritual health.
“It’s easy to get better physically, whether it be through dietary changes or increasing physical activity, which are both great and important,” Eller said. “But we shouldn’t forget the importance of taking care of our mental health and well-being, and that can really play a role in our overall health, too.”
Also, according to Eller, it is important to recognize that a healthy lifestyle does not have to be an “all or nothing” approach, and Lent should be the stepping stone for – rather than the end – of all the changes people make to their health.
“It cannot be emphasized enough,” she said, “of the importance of taking care of our physical bodies in this life and allowing our beliefs to guide us as to why. These habits should be lifelong. “