One year as a young adult, I decided I was going to give up one meal a day for Lent. It seemed right and pious to me at the time, to eat a little less for the sake of the greater glory of God. I wasn't that experienced in Lenten fasting. I didn't grow up with the tradition of self-denial, although some years there was a cardboard church on our dinner table during Lent: our almsgiving. To be truthful, I'm not sure what I expected to gain by losing my one meal a day, either: I don't remember thinking that I would set aside the savings, and give to a particular cause.
I was visiting a friend in Chicago during my "fast," and mentioned to her what I was doing. Her only comment was: "I hope you are getting enough leafy greens!" She wasn't impressed at all.
I still have trouble figuring out what to give up for Lent. I figure it should not be something too easy to do without. I don't drink much soda; I like chocolate but I'm not addicted to it; Potato chips would probably be a greater temptation. One of my friends gave up gourmet coffee for Lent one year. She had a cup every morning, and I think she really missed it, so that worked for her.
One year I gave up buying books for Lent. Not reading, like Lauren Winner did one year. Just buying books. That was actually the tougher temptation to resist, tougher actually than reading. I think that has been my best idea so far.
If giving up something for Lent makes me feel as if I am making a Small Improvement in my life, then it is a mistake. If giving up something for Lent makes me feel as if I am moving along in this life of faith, then it is a misbegotten endeavor. If giving up something for Lent only makes me feel healthier, slimmer, or more in control, then it feeds an illusion.
I think that the best Lenten fasts are the ones that leave a hole, a hunger and a thirst. The best Lenten fasts are the ones that make me realize the holes in my life, that I have been trying to fill with potato chips, leafy greens, books, or blogging, even. The best Lenten fasts make me realize that only God can fill the hole, quench my thirst, give me bread. Only God.