Bastian Willenborg has several answers to this question. “Of course, we take something away from ourselves when we fast,” admits a specialist in the field of psychosomatic medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy. “But at the same time, we are aware of everyday habits. And we can find out which ones we do completely automatically.”

If we abstain for a while from a box of sweets or order a beer at the pub, we can observe ourselves: what does abstinence do to us, how much are we missing out on?

This way we can check what really brings us pleasure and joy. And what might just be a bad, long-term unhealthy habit that we can break.

If the latter is true, Lent could be the starting point for changing the situation in the long term. So, for example, don’t reflexively order a glass of wine at a bar with friends, but consciously decide in advance: do I even want to drink alcohol today – or would an apple spritzer be better for me?

We gain wellness and much more

But it’s not just what happens next: even when we stick to our decision to fast, we are rewarded with a really good feeling: self-efficacy is the name for the good feeling when we have control over our lives. “So we notice: it’s not my behavior that controls me, but I control my behavior,” says Bastian Willenborg. This improves our self-esteem and therefore our mental toughness.

And even if we do without it, we gain something: it could be time for tasks we’ve always wanted to do—and it suddenly appears because we scroll less on our smartphone. Or we have experience: if we go to a party on Saturday without any interest, we get more from Sunday.

What is the best way to approach a fasting project?

Fasting is not the same as fasting. There are people who fast outside of religious traditions. As is the case with the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which this year begins on March 10.

There are people who want to change their diet – and, for example, eat vegetarian food during Lent or try intermittent fasting. But fasting can also happen outside of your diet: no Instagram, no snooze alarm, no clothes shopping, for example.

We can adapt the main idea of ​​the post to our lives. On one condition: “It must be a realistic goal,” says Bastian Willenborg, who works at the Oberberg clinics in Bonn and Essen.

And there should always be a little lightness. If we not only deny ourselves chocolate cream pancakes, but also try to dissuade others from eating a treat full of sugar and palm fat, “then starvation begins to put a strain on personal relationships,” Willenborg says.

And even if there is a lot going on in life right now and the thought of Lent simply causes stress, this is enough to stop. Who should also avoid fasting, at least in forms that involve abstaining from food, according to Willenborg: people with eating disorders.

When Lent ends: what happens next?

What will happen next when Lent ends? Bastian Willenborg advises to think in advance about what exactly you want to return to. What many people experience after Lent is that they can celebrate and enjoy certain foods again.

And that’s why it’s worth treating yourself to something special at the end of Lent. “If you’ve given up meat, you can buy a good piece of organic meat. Or, if you’ve given up alcohol, visit a liquor store and buy a great bottle of red wine, suggests Willenborg.

Maybe you’re also afraid of losing control if you suddenly allow yourself to do something again, like seeing yourself lying on the couch with a bucket of popcorn and three bars of chocolate? Bastian Willenborg can reassure you.

Lent ultimately lasts about six and a half weeks. This is a period of time during which new habits can take hold and thus displace old ones. It is quite possible that during this time you have become better aware of your own body and its signals – and it no longer requires as much chocolate and gummy bears as before. “I know people who have tried intermittent fasting and, thanks to this more mindful diet, suddenly feel much more inclined to eat healthier foods, like vegetables or salad.”
© dpa

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