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 Lent: “Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy.” – Pope Francis

Is it mere coincidence that fasting, that traditional display of denial common among Christians during Lent, also coincides with winter’s growing layer of midsection insulation?

This winter’s long and unusually frigid spell has contributed to a bear-like hibernation on my part. Were it not for the nearly daily snow shoveling, I would be nearing an all-time scale-busting high for poundage.

It’s distressing.

Admittedly, a large part of the problem is my sedentary lifestyle. When I’m not shoveling, I’m often relegated to watching television, with an abundance of advertisements promoting Jenny Craig, the South Beach Diet, or Nutrisystem. I actually find that these commercials stimulate my appetite. Maybe it is that I take my cue from the middle-aged man who says, “It’s not that hard. You eat the food and lose the weight.”

I have nothing in common with the svelte Marie Osmond, whose biography says she is 59. The TV cameraman must be using a special age filter, sort of like the one Robert Redford used in “The Natural,” to make her look 20 years younger.

The other issue this winter is that the extended cold stimulates the appetite. We all know that eating food helps us keep warm. I figure the more I eat, the warmer I’ll feel. Which generally works out while I’m eating, but the fix is temporary. When I stop eating, I feel cold around the edges again. And I find myself heading for the cupboard or refrigerator. Clearly, it’s a vicious cycle.

And then there is the problem with the thermostat. For some odd reason, 68 in summer feels grand. Just right. In winter, it’s cold. It’s the same house, the same setting, but it feels uncomfortably colder in winter. Why is that?

Over different Lenten seasons, I’ve given up chocolate and even the broader category of sweets in an effort to make my sacrifice more meaningful.

Recently, however, my Lenten motive was challenged by someone who suggested that I was using this spiritual time as a sneaky way to diet.

On reflection, I feel the question is valid: Am I using Lent as a weight loss plan? And if so, will that reduce my chances of making it to heaven?

These are the questions that keep me up at night, and contribute to my late-night snacking.

It may seem as though I’m making light of Lent. I am not. Not really. I’m just struggling with winter.

March 6, 2019