Doctors interviewed by RIA-Novosti recommend that Orthodox Russians should include vegetables, vegetarian soups, as well as cereals and beans in their Lenten diet. It is advisable to stick to a five-meal schedule to avoid stress to the body. Great Lent on the Orthodox calendar began on 18 March, seven weeks before Easter Sunday. Of the four major Lenten periods, it’s the most important, longest in duration, and the strictest. It lasts for six weeks, so, it’s also called the Holy Forty Days (святой Четыредесятницей)
Medical Aspects of the Fast
Leonid Lazebnik, President of the Russian Scientific Society of Gastroenterologists, assured us that there’s no harm to health from normal Lenten abstinence, saying, “Abstinence isn’t harmful to anyone, except for the chronically-ill, diabetics, those with kidney disease, and cancer patients”. According to Candidate of Medicine Alfred Bogdanov, the head of the clinic at the Institute of Nutrition (NII) of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences (RAMN), stomach ulcer, gastric and duodenal ulcers, gallstones, and severe cardiac disease are also contraindications to abstinence.
Dr Lazebnik also noted that the Lenten diet isn’t so much a restriction on the amount of food as it is a restriction on eating foods containing animal products. According to Dr Bogdanov, during Lent, many make the mistake of thinking that it’s necessary to limit one’s food intake. In such a case, it could worsen problems with bile or erosive processes in the stomach and duodenum. Vladimir Ivashkin, the chief gastroenterologist at the RF Ministry of Health, believes that no medical condition can forbid someone following the Lenten abstinence, if they have a desire to carry it through, but he said, “However, you must take as a general rule that you must consume at least 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day”. In Dr Bogdanov’s view, the main physical problem in following the Lenten abstinence is a lack of protein intake, so, he said, “Therefore, you should replace animal protein with plant protein sources such as beans, soy products, and cereals”.
Culinary Rules of the Fast
Dr Ivashkin reminded us that the Lenten abstinence only restricts animal products, and that there’s no restriction on any other sort of food. Dr Bogdanov thought that plant foods in the diet shouldn’t be limited to raw vegetables and fruits, and salads, noting, “It’s important for those following the fast to eat hot vegetarian dishes. Hot cereal and fruit are best in the morning; in the evening, one should have a hot vegetarian meal. In addition, the body requires simple carbohydrates in the form of juices and fruit throughout the day to avoid hypoglycaemia… a pathological condition that results in reduced blood glucose levels. Besides this, one must drink at least 1.5-2 litres of fluid a day. You shouldn’t even exclude appetisers and first courses from your dinner. Be sure that you eat some soup… vegetable, with no meat, vegetarian, to ensure normal function of the gastrointestinal tract”.
Slimming and Activity
Dr Ivashkin doubted that you’d lose weight if you follow Lenten abstinence, but he said that if a person has strong will and desire, nothing is impossible, saying, “To lose weight, you must have the will to restrict your meals to three times a day, with at least six hours in between each one”. On the other hand, Dr Bogdanov said that one should adhere to a five-meal schedule… three main meals and two snacks. He said that there’s no point in changing one’s level of physical activity during Lent, saying, “Only limit excessive exertion or carrying heavy loads. If someone swims or goes to the gym, there shouldn’t be any problem at all”.
18 March 2013
I prefer to get my “religious” news from secular, rather than religious, sources. One reason is that I want to show you how thoroughly Orthodoxy permeates the home countries. It’s why we should send all priestly graduate students and all church secular workers following higher studies to the homelands… they’d have the experience of living in an Orthodox milieu… they’d find out that the Orthosphere is like everywhere else. It’s full of saints and decent folks (yes, the monasteries are full)… it’s full of stinkers and slinkers (yes, the prisons are full, too)… it has high culture (the Tretyakov and the Bolshoi, anyone?)… it has low-brow entertainment (some of which is quite good, indeed. Don’t knock it; Comedy Club isn’t all bad). It has good beer (Baltika’s good shit, kids… have it with a plate of raki)… it has rotgut samogon vodka and Portvein 777 (“Three Axes”) which can embalm the dead (I guarantee that any student would down it at least once… chalk it up to education in real life). In short, they’d find out that Orthodoxy wasn’t a ghetto enterprise. It’d open their eyes and, perhaps, chase out some of the notional idiocies that are floating about at present.
In short, the Lent was made for us… not us for the Lent. Keep a sane and balanced POV, kids… remember, Patriarch Pimen Izvekov positively blessed the eating of fish during the Lents by layfolk. By all accounts, Pimen did time in the camps and was a VOV vet, so, he had the moral cred to speak. Don’t let idiots advocating monastic disciplines sway you… such rules are for monks and nuns living under obedience and in community, they aren’t for us. Keep it focused and keep it sane. Remember the point… to be able to celebrate Christ’s Holy Resurrection in the proper spirit. Now, that’s a GOOD place to stop…