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One of the most well-known holidays among devout Christians is the 40 day period of Lent, including the days referred to as Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. But this period can also be one of the most confusing among the same devout Christians due to shifting and altered dietary guidelines. There are mulpiple interpretations of what and how to eat during this technical "fast." Yet as it has been pointed out in a recent Yahoo News article by Meaghan Ringwelski, some see that there is no single modern correct approach. Still, there are measures you can take to generally stay within dietary guidelines.
Begin fasting on Clean Monday, the day following the final Sunday before Lent begins. Although it is a common modified practice for modern Christians in the Western hemisphere to begin the fasting period on Ash Wednesday, in traditional orthodox Christianity, the fasting begins on Monday of the first week of Lent. Of course, you can begin on Ash Wednesday if you'd rather not follow orthodox protocol.
Consume as little as possible for the first day or so other than water. In traditional orthodox Christianity, those fasting typically mimic genuine water fasts as closely as possible for at least a day. However, this is not always the case. Many orthodox Christians immediately begin the modified diet for Lent without a true water fast.
Consume only vegetarian and vegan foods, including cooked vegetarian and vegan foods. According to Charles Weber, a religious researcher and practicing orthodox Greek Christian in the United States, the traditional diet for Lent contained absolutely no animal foods including all forms of dairy, seafood and other animal by-products. Not everyone would be able to handle such a strict diet for the fasting period of Lent, though. For those who can't go without animal foods for so long, following the modified modern protocol of only eating one meal with animal foods a day or only restricting animal foods during the weekdays may be more feasible.
Consider making a fish exception on a few occasions during Lent if you follow the traditional protocol. Even orthodox Christians are allowed to consume some fish on the day of the Great Feast of the Annunciation if it falls within the period of Lent. A little fish is often allowed on Palm Sunday as well.
Maintain the restricted diet until the final Saturday of Lent. For modern western Christians following modified Lent protocols, this means that your modified fast should end on Saturday of the sixth full week of Lent at what is actually 46 days long. This last week of Lent and the last week of the fast is referred to as Holy Week. If you follow the traditional orthodox protocol, then your fast should also end on the Saturday of Holy Week and the final count for you would be just shy of 50 days.
Eat plenty in the weeks prior to Lent if you follow a stricter fast. It's likely that you're going to lose weight including lean mass over the fasting period. For vegetarian and vegan foods appropriate for the traditional fasting guidelines, go to health food stores or vegan bakeries. Try to rest and be less active active during the Lent period starting Clean Monday or Ash Wednesday. Be keeping activity to a minimum, you are less likely to experience physical weakness, dehydration or other possible health complications.
Do not follow a strict fast if you are physically frail or underweight. Following a fast when you are in either of these states can result in wasting and health complications. Be careful when having your children go on a fast of any sort. It may be best to only modify their diets slightly or to not have them fast at all. Seek medical attention if you become extreme weak or develop any unusual symptoms while fasting.