In the Christian tradition, the period of fasting traditionally begins on Ash Wednesday, which this year falls on 6 March. But fasting is much more than a religious ritual and tradition. These days many people fast for the good of their health. Sweets, cigarettes and alcohol top the list of things to give up. Doing without is a way of allowing your body to regenerate and being more aware of when you're hungry or full. We've come up with a few tips on how to achieve your own fasting targets.
Giving up alcohol
If you drink regularly, a period of abstinence can do you a lot of good, with benefits ranging from potential loss of weight and fewer hunger pangs to better sleep and a stronger immune system. You'll find it easier to abstain if you don't keep alcoholic drinks at home; or if you do, keep them out of easy reach. The best thing is to put everything in the cellar over the fasting period. If you still want to celebrate, alcohol-free beer and sparkling wine are options, and if you're out on the town you can order a delicious mocktail (a cocktail without the alcohol). In general it's worth adopting the same attitude to a drink as you would to a piece of cake: think about whether you really want to indulge, or whether you can do without. And last but not least, don't drink and drive. Volunteer to drive, then you won't even be tempted.
Giving up sweets
The fasting period is an ideal opportunity to give up chocolate and biscuits and reduce your consumption of sugar in the long term. The same applies as to alcohol: if you don't have sweets at home, you won't be led into temptation. To avoid having to rush to the nearest kiosk the first time a snack attack strikes, it's important to eat a healthy, balanced diet and get enough sleep. A lack of nutrients and sleep can result in hunger pangs, which you want to avoid during this period. One of the reasons people resort to chocolate is boredom. So next time you're tempted, ask yourself why you're yearning for sugar, and in cases of doubt forget the sweets and do something else!
Giving up meat
The average person in Switzerland consumes 780 grams of meat and sausage products a week, versus only 240 grams recommended by the Federal Office of Public Health. So it's high time to reconsider your meat-eating habits. A vegetarian phase is a great opportunity to get to know and enjoy the many and varied meatless options. Use the time to explore Italian, Indian and Asian cuisine, all of which offer a wide range of traditional vegetarian dishes without being the least bit boring. These days there are also many meat-free substitutes for everything from sausage to mince that make it easier to do without.
If you want to completely stop eating during Lent you shouldn't do so for more than a week, and you should spend a few days beforehand preparing. You'll find the basic rules of thumb for fasting here.
Giving up smokingPlanning to use the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter to give up smoking? You'll find tips on becoming a non-smoker here. SWICA will also support your efforts financially, with the COMPLETA FORTE, COMPLETA PRAEVENTA and OPTIMA supplementary insurance plans paying up to 900 francs* a year towards stop-smoking measures.
*Click here for details of the contribution.