On donuts, fasting and the myth of willpower

Yesterday was Donut Day at the convent. Also known as Shrove Tuesday.

Not being Catholic, there are many things I missed out on as far as pre-Lenten traditions go, donuts being one of them. I’m told some people have pancakes. Reason being, it helps them get rid of oil and sugar for their Lenten fast.

My family was Lutheran. We did Lent, special services and all that, but we didn’t fast. Except the neighborhood where we lived was predominately Catholic and as all my friends were Catholic, they gave things up. Usually soda or candy bars. And beings how I was in high school and desperately wanted to fit in, I sometimes joined them.

Of course, I could never do things halfway. It wasn’t enough for me to give up soda or candy bars. One year I gave up sugar.

Keep in mind, this was late 70s. There was sugar in everything. Plus, March is a major birthday month in my family.

As I recall, I cheated more than a few times. Yet once Easter arrived, my taste for jelly beans and chocolate eggs was greatly diminished and strangely enough, the affect has stayed with me. To this day sweets just aren’t my thing.

This is a long way to explain why, despite all the free donuts at work yesterday, I had an orange instead.

Yeah, I know. Weird.

I’m not saying this to brag… okay, maybe I’m bragging a little. But only a little.

Recently I read an article about willpower and how it’s pretty much a myth. Studies have proven that the only reason some people appear to have more willpower than others is that they face fewer temptations.

In other words, the only reason I have “willpower” over donuts is that I’m not tempted by them. But put a bowl of smoked almonds in front of me and…

Look, just don’t put a bowl of smoked almonds in front of me, okay? Everyone will be safer that way.

And should you be trying to give something up for Lent this year, I wish you well. If you haven’t thought about it until now, here’s something I posted last year that might inspire you:

Lent image

I think any one of these would be more difficult than giving up sugar, but way more beneficial.

Before I go, I want to share a video with you that has absolutely nothing to do with the subject at hand. It’s just that I’m majorly obsessed with this music group, Man Overboard, right now.

Here they are playing in a London bar (those of you who read a previous post of mine might recognize the clarinet player):

Reasons you need to devote nearly seven minutes of your life to watching this video:

  • The sheer joy of hearing a group playing together and having fun;
  • At the 2:25 mark, Ewan Bleach (clarinetist) plays just his mouthpiece;
  • At around 3:05, Leonie Evans (singer) responds by vocalizing;
  • At about 4:57, the upright bass gets in the act;
  • At 5:30, they really let loose;
  • And… oh, come on! Do you really need a reason? Just listen!

Until next week (or thereabouts), stay sweet. 😉

23 thoughts on “On donuts, fasting and the myth of willpower

  1. Lovely post as usual. I sent it to two of my friends and saved the Lenten fasts in my laptop- will be sending that to a lot of people- we give up non-vegetarian food in our part of the world( and we are not catholics)
    I agree self control over our tongue and thoughts is the most difficult. The best thing is we can just shut our mouths.

    1. Hi Susie! Good to hear from you!
      We’re doing the no-meat route also, and the plan is to donate the money we save to a special offering (One Great Hour of Sharing).
      Speaking of sharing, thanks for sharing! The more people acting on those thoughts the better. 👍

      1. I want to share your post on my blog but in a few days- on my blog there is an overdose of my own posts( irrelevant but already there,), so people pay attention to this very relevant matter and come up with innovative things to do that can support our environment in every little way. My daughters are both vegetarian since age 3, when they got to know how animals are killed for human food.
        Now with this craze about red meat and animal products as being better than carbs and more filling, there is more demand from around the world for meat and animal products- God knows how this is all going to end.

  2. Did you know that donuts made by Nuns, have no calories, fat or sugar after effects? Nuns live in a special state of grace so God removes all the bad effects from all baked goods made a convent. Effectively a Nun made donut is as healthy as eating an orange.

    You can take my word for it, I’m Methodist …

    1. Yeah, I heard of the nun-non-caloric food studies done in the late 80s. Thing is, our nutrition department is staffed completely by lay people and none of them Methodist. So….

  3. I like the list, especially since those are things that benefit others. Giving up some kind of food doesn’t help anyone else, except maybe the classmate you give your doughnut to. 😉 It might actually be counterproductive, if it makes the person fasting grumpy. 😉
    One year Ash Wednesday fell on my birthday. I decided to give up chocolate, then came to school to find out three of my friends had baked me birthday cakes. There was a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, chocolate cake with white frosting, and chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. I didn’t get to taste them, but I enjoyed the warm wishes and the popularity I had with all that cake to give away. 😉

  4. I have never heard of donuts on Shrove Tuesday. I was raised French/English Catholic and we always had pancakes. 🙂
    Interesting how wanting to fit in made you not fit in – that is, not be tempted by something that tempts so many others. 🙂

    1. These Sisters are mostly German and Polish. I wonder if that accounts for it?

      And yeah, you’ve uncovered my tragic secret. Despite my deepest desires to fit in, I was a square peg all the way. 😉

  5. Oh, how I love donuts! No way on earth I’d be able to eat an orange instead if I had been there. My sweet tooth is unfortunately relentless. Watched the video and loved it! Just lovely.

  6. Two Things: One, the religious experiences in my formative years involved bouncing back and forth between Catholic (dad) and Baptist (mom) influences. Thing is, I don’t remember any of the Catholic family members giving up anything for Lent, ever. I don’t know if I somehow missed it, they didn’t follow that angle, or they were just lazy. I do remember seeing them with ashes on the forehead, which kind of threw me, wondering if there had been a fire at a very-specific level. (Not poking fun, just being honest.)

    Two: The video is great fun, reminding me of college days and my friends in the music department. They could sit around for hours and just improvise with their instruments and vocals. They would let me join in on the vocals now and then, but mostly I watched in wonder, enraptured…

    Okay, one more thing. Three: I also don’t remember the pancakes/donuts cleansing. I’m starting to wonder if I completely misunderstood the whole situation. It wouldn’t be the first time…

    1. One: Bouncing between Baptists and Catholics? Seriously?!
      How many years of therapy did THAT require? 😉

      Two: I was a late blossom when it came to finding friends like these. Yet another reason we should have met sooner.

      Three: Truthfully speaking, I’ve never quite seen the point of fasting, religiously speaking. If it’s something you should give up, shouldn’t it be for always?
      Yeah, I know. Logic has no place in the discussion.
      Pass the pancakes, please. 🥞

  7. Hey Christi, I know I have been a stranger, but I saw donuts and had to stop and say “hi”. With Blow Pops, Everlasting Gobstoppers, and my all-time favorite Abba-Zaba bars, I don’t know how anyone could give up sugar in the 1970s.

    1. Good Lord, Joe – did you Google 70s candy or did you actually remember all those?!
      I didn’t say it was an easy fast and as I recall, some cheating was involved. But failure is key to humility, right? 😉

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