April 8th, 2011
01:19 PM ET

Man hits 31st day of beer-only Lenten fast

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

The story of Iowa newspaper editor and beer blogger J. Wilson,  who is drinking only beer and water for Lent, has gained a lot of attention this week.

On Friday morning he checked in with CNN Newsroom and explained his fast to Carol Costello.

Read Wilson's story here: For Lent, can man live on brew alone?

Wilson is 31 days into his fast, with 16 more to go.  He drinks four beers a day during the week and five beers a day on the weekend.  He told Costello he was enjoying his breakfast brew during the interview, which was conducted by phone.

The tradition of a beer fast dates back hundreds of years to German monks.  That's where Wilson got the idea for his fast.

In researching extended fasts, he learned the first three days are typically the most brutal.

He told CNN Friday that the first day he felt a lot of hunger pains.  But by day two the pains had largely disappeared.  He said he thought the fast would be much harder than it has been so far.

To date, Wilson has dropped about 18 pounds. He plans on breaking his beer only fast on Easter Sunday, in keeping with Christian tradition about Lent.

Watch an Explain it to Me video on Lent.

Watch CNN Newsroom weekdays 9am to 3pm ET and weekends. For the latest from the CNN Newsroom click here.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Content Partner • Lent • TV-CNN Newsroom

soundoff (313 Responses)
  1. CalgarySandy

    This is truly childish. I am an atheist and was raised in a Baptist Church that did not "do" Lent. Still, there is a reason for Lent and it is a fairly solemn time. From my viewpoint that the beliefs of others should not be shat on this guy is a jerk. He could do his little beer only event at any time. Why pick Lent unless the intent is to be insulting?

    And, if he is drinking American beer he is not likely to even catch a buzz from it. 4 American beers equal maybe one of any other country on the planet. How is drinking American beer like making love in a canoe? They are both f&%^ing close to water.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  2. scallyWag

    So what, I know people who've been on this 'diet for a long time. There's an official name for it. It's called alcoholism.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  3. kidney doc

    An all beer diet could lead to a potentially dangerous condition know as hyponatremia. This is when there is a very low level of sodium in the blood. We see this in the hospital in alcoholics. You can have a seizure and die from this. He needs to eat salt as well to prevent this complication. If I were him, I would make sure that I had bloodwork done to check my sodium levels.

    April 10, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Cletus

      An all beer diet could also lead to a condition known as happiness.

      April 10, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  4. this is messed up

    this is one of many reasons we have a country full of alcoholics

    April 10, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Reality

      From the Material Safety Data Sheet for ethanol:

      "Potential Health Effects

      Eye: Causes severe eye irritation. May cause painful sensitization to light. May cause chemical conjunctivitis and corneal

      Skin: Causes moderate skin irritation. May cause cyanosis of the extremities.

      Ingestion: May cause gastrointestinal irritation with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. May cause systemic toxicity with
      acidosis. May cause central nervous system depression, characterized by excitement, followed by headache, dizziness,
      drowsiness, and nausea. Advanced stages may cause collapse, unconsciousness, coma and possible death due to
      respiratory failure.

      Inhalation: Inhalation of high concentrations may cause central nervous system effects characterized by nausea,
      headache, dizziness, unconsciousness and coma.

      Causes respiratory tract irritation.

      May cause narcotic effects in highconcentration.

      Vapors may cause dizziness or suffocation.


      May cause reproductive and fetal effects. Laboratory experiments have resulted in mutagenic effects. Animal
      studies have reported the development of tumors. Prolonged exposure may cause liver, kidney, and heart damage."

      April 10, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Cletus

      You are one of many reasons we have a country full of idiots.

      April 10, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Groo

      Reality: You are essentially reading the MSDS for Moonshine here.

      April 10, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  5. Sudopinion

    My ex did something like this once. She's a pilot now.

    April 10, 2011 at 8:57 am |
  6. Mike Hooper

    My friend Ron smokes marijuana everyday of his grown life. I asked him if he's not afraid he'll get addicted. His reply " I've smoked it everyday for 30 years and I'm not addicted yet!"

    April 10, 2011 at 5:12 am |
  7. Blessed Geek

    Friends, sobermen and alcoholics,
    Lent me your beers.
    I came unto Lent not to fast,
    though that is a neat excuse,
    but to gouge myself in beer.

    The good is oft interred with their belly,
    but let me be with my beer.

    Burp ....

    April 9, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  8. Josh

    28 beers in a week = 1 College weekend at most schools. And that doesn't include shots... funny story to say the least.

    April 9, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  9. NickDrakeGirl

    This is ridiculous and dangerous. Especially when the article notes how many pounds he's lost. How many (other) idiots are going to think this is a cool diet?

    April 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Cletus

      Then I strongly recommend you try it. One less self righteous POS to deal with.

      April 10, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  10. carolae

    Just another excuse to drink.....he's either an alcoholic or one in the making. He'll be on the list for a liver transplant one of these days. Since he's doing it for Lent, this is something that he should be giving up not enjoying it. Apparently, he likes drinking more than eating.

    April 9, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • NickDrakeGirl

      I agree with you. He should be giving up something he loves. Hey, how about beer? That sounds like a good sacrifice! If a person wants to do something as stupid as this, he/she shouldn't try to disguise it as something religious. That is a slap in the face to the people who take this period of time seriously. I don't happen to be one of them, I am not religious or have any beliefs about religion, but even I have the courtesy not to sully someone else's sacred traditions.

      April 9, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  11. Methusalem

    The West is now that same godless system which has collapsed as Communism, it has collapsed as Nazism, and it will collapse as capitalism

    April 9, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Cletus

      I would much rather be godless than and idiot like you.

      April 10, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  12. Christian Adeline

    If he gets sick, he should blame only himself, no other. Christian tradition would rather make people refrain from drinking during Lent.

    April 9, 2011 at 8:11 am |
    • Thomas Paine

      What tradition is that?

      April 9, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • HAHA

      why would he blame anyone? I choose to do it... duh! and beer is yummy! Lent is dumb... mmmmm meat! crazy religion people... you make me sick! Religion is nothing but a cult!

      April 9, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • KDW31

      So how do you explain the fact that he got the idea from reading about beer fasting that monks would do? Last I checked a monk was a pretty christian individual.

      April 9, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Cletus

      I think you are mistaken. He got the idea from Monks.

      April 10, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Liutgard

      Uh, no. In fact, the law concerning Lenten observance was changed during Charlemagne's reign, to specifically *allow* for the consumption of alcohol, especially beer and wine. Beer and wine consumption was very carefully regulated during the medieval period, and the daily allotment of beer was actually quite large in several places. The idea of reducing or eliminating alcohol use is relatively modern- a Victorian abolitionist ideal that is exaggerating and expanding any scriptural reference that might possibly point to a teetotaling lifestyle as 'holy'.

      April 10, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  13. Reality


    "In Florida the legal limit for alcohol measurement is .08% BAC (blood alcohol content typically measured from BrAC aka breath alcohol content). At that measurement you are legally drunk and will be arrested and taken to jail if you are caught driving a car.

    If you weigh between 90 – 109 pounds and have 12 ounces of beer, four ounces of wine or one and a quarter ounces of 80 proof liquor (a shot glass is one and a half ounces), your BAC will been between .05 and .08%. At this measurement you are considered definitely impaired and your chance of an accident is increased up to 300 percent or more. If you have another drink your BAC goes up to .08% or over, and if you have any more alcohol, another beer, another shot or more wine, you are considered legally drunk. Your function and judgment are seriously affected.

    Consider the fact that when you have consumed two 12 ounce beers, or two shots, or two small glasses of wine you are considered legally drunk and cannot drive without taking the chance of getting arrested for DUI.

    If you weigh between 110 – 129 pounds and have 12 ounces of beer, four ounces of wine or one and a quarter ounces of 80 proof liquor your BAC will be the same as noted above, and you are legally drunk.

    If you weigh between 130 – 230 pounds and have the same amount of alcohol as mentioned above, your BAC will only be .01% to .05% and you are not considered legally drunk, but some loss of judgment and coordination occurs, and your thinking will be dulled."

    April 9, 2011 at 7:40 am |
    • Thomas Paine


      April 9, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • HAHA

      Sweet thanks... I know for sure I am drunk at work this morning...! you are wise my friend!

      April 9, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • KDW31

      You failed to point out that the time period in which you drink the amounts listed matters. Your body takes approximately an hour to metabolize a serving of alcohol. So even if you are a small person as long as you are averaging only a drink an hour you will not be over the legal limit to drive.

      April 9, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • JOregon

      All states have established .08 as the point where you're driving skills are impaired. The average male (170 lbs.) hits that point with just 3-4 drinks per hour.
      Some very conservative groups claim driving skills are affected at .04.
      That would be about 2 drinks/hr for the average male.
      I'm a little over 6'. I weigh about 240. If I drank 3 drinks in 40 minutes I would hit .05.
      Why 40 minutes?
      Blood alcohol drops .01 after 40 min.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • Cletus

      Your post just like you in person take up way too much space.

      April 10, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  14. Nick

    "He told CNN Friday that the first day he felt a lot of hunger pains"

    They used to call those hunger PANGS when we were actually educated in college

    Most collegiate morons of today have the freaking grammar skills of 4th graders

    April 9, 2011 at 4:24 am |
  15. MaryinNewMexico

    Two thoughts:

    First, as Ben Franklin said, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

    And second, "Guinness is good for you" is not just a slogan anymore. Scientists at the University of Wisconsin have discovered that it is actually good for your health. Read more at http://www.irishcentral.com/news/Guinness-is-good-for-you-say-medical-experts-113839559.html

    April 9, 2011 at 2:51 am |
  16. CaramelCreoleQueen

    Mike P. sounds like the smartest one on this panel

    April 9, 2011 at 2:43 am |
  17. Jeffincanada

    I was on a beer only diet for 4 years in university!

    April 9, 2011 at 2:12 am |
  18. mike p.

    I just finished my 3000 day cannabis fast and i feel smarter.

    April 9, 2011 at 1:55 am |
    • Jeffincanada

      Its important to get your "greens" everyday for optimal health!

      April 9, 2011 at 2:18 am |
  19. Mitch

    Four beers a day, and people think he's an alcoholic? I average 10 beers a day and I hold down a six figure a year job. And no, I don't go to work under the influence, I only drink after work and on my days off.

    April 9, 2011 at 1:52 am |
    • Everyone

      We care a lot about your success and drinking habits.

      April 9, 2011 at 1:58 am |
    • Mitch

      Obviously, by responding, you do.

      April 9, 2011 at 2:00 am |
    • A fishy smell

      Sounds like you're a diluted college freshman attempting to major in a field with which you *hope and think* you'll land a six figure salary.

      April 9, 2011 at 2:04 am |
    • yola

      sounds like an air traffic controller

      April 9, 2011 at 2:13 am |
    • Mitch

      Actually, I have been a pharmacist for 16 years. Don't really care if you believe me. Anyway, I'm not bragging, just making the point that 4 beers per day does not make someone an alcoholic. If I can drink twice that and still be a functioning member of society, then don't throw stones at this guy.

      April 9, 2011 at 2:22 am |
    • dave

      6 figures, eh? Does that mean you drink the top shelf stuff? Johnnie Walker Blue label? Mmm. Or is it just beer? Man, I wish I wasn't a recovering alcoholic. I haven't had a drink in two months and I sure do miss it.

      April 9, 2011 at 2:35 am |
    • Mr. Derp

      "...just making the point that 4 beers per day does not make someone an alcoholic. If I can drink twice that and still be a functioning member of society, then don't throw stones at this guy."

      Clearly that beer has destroyed your brain. You think how one functions in life and what kind of job someone has determines whether or not they’re an alcoholic? LOL!!! Alcoholism is a DEPENDENCY on alcohol. Someone could drink 1/2 a beer a day and still be an alcoholic, so long as they're addicted. I guarantee if you stop drinking your 10 beers a day, you will have horrible withdrawal symptoms, and then let’s see how you function in society.

      April 9, 2011 at 3:12 am |
    • Mitch

      Derp, I go visit my parents about every 3 months. And I don't drink for the whole weekend. No withrawal symptoms. I like to drink, and I may have a mental addiction, but I can go days without booze. So sit and spin.

      April 9, 2011 at 3:45 am |
    • austinwpt

      factor everything in........Mitch may be like me and have a high tolerance to alcohol.......I can put down about 8 light beers and not feel a thing.... not that is a good thing but just saying he was making a point.... on the other hand, give me 3 heavy European beers and I'm sure I'll wake up happy I didn't smoke my herb to save for another day....... hey man just being honest. Peace from Austin, Texas.

      April 9, 2011 at 6:02 am |
    • HAHA

      I had about 8 beers and 12 shots last night... weigh only 145...I drove home and am at work at 8am this morning <-- professional! Not an alocholic! 🙂

      April 9, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • dethtrain


      April 9, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • KWW


      Drinking 10 beers a day, especially in the short period between after work and sleep, is alcoholism. There are many forms of alcoholism, and you can be a "functional alcoholic." I used to drink just like you, and I had this idea that my level of drinking is fine, as long as I am able to function properly. However, now that I have hardly drank in the past two years (I've had a few drinks here and there), I realize how stupid I was. My mind is much clearer at work, I feel much better, and best of all, I don't find myself wanting a beer after work, even if I'm extremely stressed. Having a beer or two a day is fine, but when you're drinking enough to get you past the legal limit of being considered drunk on a daily basis, then you are an alcoholic, pure and simple. You can justify it however you want, and sure, as long as you're not driving under the influence, can still do your job, and aren't hurting anyone, then fine, it's your choice. However, labeling yourself as "not an alcoholic" is not true. You're an alcoholic, you just learned how to live with it, just like anyone else with a disease does. Chances are, though, you're missing out on a lot of life if you're spending that much time drinking, and I highly recommend you at least try not drinking for a few months and see what else life has to offer.

      April 9, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • Beau McKinley Boyd

      Sir, is there any chance I could get a job with you? I really like that 6 figure idea. I'm a hard worker!

      April 9, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • mitch's wife

      you are a drunk

      April 9, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • JOregon

      You are what is known as a functioning alcoholic. You drink so much that you are used to it. You are still under the influence and likely not to be aware that you are.
      Just don't drive and I don't care.

      April 10, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • Mitch

      Thank you for a thoughtful and intelligent reply. Most people just give snide remarks and think they are being clever. And to be clear, I did not say that I am not an alcoholic. I said that just because this man drinks four beers a day, it does not make HIM an alcoholic. He may be, but just by this info, there is no way to tell. And I hate the term alcoholc. It, to me, implies I'm some 12 stepper who is going to meetings 10 times a week and chain smoking and guzzling coffee. I would rather be called a drunk. I still work a full-time job, don't drive drunk, and I never, ever, go to work under the influence. And to all you religious nuts that are posting negative about this guy, it was already stated that monks in europe used to undergo beer fasts during lent. You're just upset that it doesn't fit your preconceived notions of how a "christian" should behave.

      April 10, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • Beau McKinley Boyd

      Mitch, I am a Christian with a Bachelor's Degree in Philosophy and a minor in Biblical studies as well as nearly complete with two Masters Degrees in Christian studies (Master of Divinity for purposes of ministry and, Lord willing, Navy Chaplaincy, and Masters of Theology). I actually agree with what you are saying and your statement, "You're just upset that it doesn't fit your preconceived notions of how a "christian" should behave." You are correct, Sir – often Christians (though honestly all people regardless of belief set) can come up with particular ideas and preconceived notions about things that are incorrect. Most Christians are very legalistic and "law" oriented despite the teaching of the New Testament on the role of Law and Gospel. Jesus' first miracle in the New Testament was to turn water to wine at a wedding where people were already drinking, the New Testament prohibits being drunken and stupid, not drinking, the Psalms have instances of people praising God for good drink and the feelings it provides, etc. The original Lord's Supper was bread and wine! Alas, many Christians spend more time informing others of what they oppose rather than what they propose. I believe in objectivity and call all to that standard, whether fellow Christian or not, and want you to know that not all Christians embody this kind of legalism that you've seen in certain places. If you or anyone else is interested, here are a couple of links to scholarly researched presentations of a proper biblical view of alcohol (rather than the untrained uneducated zealot going around condemning anyone who even hints at an appreciation of alcohol – those folk need to read the NT description of Christ and His role in fulfillment of God's required law and the stance Christians should have to the law today. Sadly, however, they will just repeat what Freddy Fundamentalist has bellowed from his pulpit last Sunday and never look into it for themselves nor study the issues objectively... sigh. I have my work cut out for me).



      But again, that whole "I'm a hard worker" comment.... I could certainly use work, Sir, no joke!! Got a lot of student loans to pay off, and active duty military ain't anytime soon, alas!! =)

      April 11, 2011 at 4:15 am |
    • Mitch

      Mr. Boyd,
      I would like to thank you for your intelligent response. When I here from people like you, it renews my faith in the future of this world. And just for full disclosure, I am an agnostic. I would almost consider myself a Christian, except for 2 things. First, I don't like the baggage that comes with the term. I feel like I will be categorized with the zealots that preach fire and brimstone. Second, I don't believe that Jesus was actually God, or the son of God, anymore than we all may be the children of God. In fact, I don't think Jesus ever claimed that he was divine. He usually discouraged his disciples from stating that he was the Christ. I just think that Jesus was a very good, intelligent man, far ahead of his time. He preached a simple philosophy, which basically stated that if you treat people in a way that you would want to be treated, even your enemies, that the world would be a much better place. Maybe even like heaven. So, I would say that I am a christian in the fact that I do strive to be like jesus in my daily life, I just don't believe in the divinity of jesus. If you would ever like to discuss things further, I am always open to intelligent conversation. Peace.

      April 12, 2011 at 3:43 am |
    • Mitch


      April 12, 2011 at 3:57 am |
  20. rkk

    There is a good chance he will have a Thiamin (Vitamin B1) deficiency and develop a condition called Beri Beri – which can cause heart and mental symptoms. In many cases, fasting can be extremely healthy. But's too bad he didn't pick something nourishing for him body to fast on, like freshly prepared fruit juice. That could have actually been life enhancing for him, rather than this alcohol fast which will only have detrimental effects on his liver and other organs.

    April 9, 2011 at 1:44 am |
    • Jil Wrinkle

      Maybe he is taking a vitamin pill as well, just to be safe.

      April 9, 2011 at 2:07 am |
    • Marco

      Thiamin deficiency? What? Are you retarded?

      Beer is made from sprouted barley. Brewing techniques vary, but the malting process of the Barley requires first stimulating the amylase reaction to begin production of the essential nutrients that the grain needs in order to sprout and become a plant. It depends on the type of beer your brewing, but many types of beers, especially those that fall under the 'liquid bread' category that monks use for fasting, are very nutrient rich.

      The alcohol content of beer is also marginal when properly paced throughout the day- it's the equivalent of light exercise for your liver- it would be no more busy than it would eating anything else throughout the day.

      There is certainly a WRONG way to do a beer fast. If you think you're going to survive on Belgian Trippels or Eisbocks, you WILL consume too much alcohol. But if you stick with Schwarzbiers (a very dark light beer) and Hefeweizens (unfiltered wheat beer) – you'll be consuming around the 5% mark while acquiring enough nutrients to survive. You'll still be short on calories, but that's not really a problem for a 46 day period.

      April 9, 2011 at 2:11 am |
    • Jimmy James

      Beer contains a substantial amount of thiamine.

      April 9, 2011 at 2:16 am |
    • caliconor

      !@RKK – That's about the most intelligent dumb post I've ever read on these comments. Depending on the beer, it actually has a considerable amount of nutrients and vitamins. Almost all beers have B1 in it. Some Stouts actually have more vitamins and nutrients than it does Alcohol. Take Guinness for example. Ever heard the term "Guinness is good for you"? That's why. Guinness is a meal in itself.

      April 9, 2011 at 4:12 am |
    • HAHA

      Yea so what! Lent is bull crap! BEER BEER BEER yummy!

      April 9, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • HAHA

      your an idiot! Who fasts on friut juice... get back with me with a better idea

      April 9, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Kate

      Marco: Yeah, thiamine deficiency. Are you the "retarded" one? Or a doctor? Clearly yes to the first and no to the second. You should research your answers before you start spouting stuff you know nothing about.

      April 9, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Kate

      By the way, yes beer has vitamins, but they offer negative nutritional value to you because beer inhibits the absorption. Therefore, it results in thiamine (and folate) deficiency. This is why the first thing we give in the hospital is thiamine and folate before any other medications to alcoholics, even glucose which can cause brain damage if you give it first. So, he had better be careful when he starts eating again...

      April 9, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Daryn

      Analyse the nutritional value of real beer, not the yellow fizz that American brewers call beer.

      April 9, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Marco

      The ratio of alcohol to B1 in "liquid bread," beer designed for fasting, isn't going to put him in the negative zone. Especially with the amount of alcohol being consumed. Thiamine is also something the body is capable of storing in large amounts in tissue. In spirit of lent, as with all proper forms of fasting, one undergoes a period of fattening in preparation. From a nutritional standpoint, if he entered his fast intelligently, beer has enough nutrients to sustain him through without any major health concerns. It isn't as though this hasn't been done before.

      Sorry about the rude comment- that just kind of slipped and was totally unnecessary.

      April 10, 2011 at 12:10 am |
    • chef dugan

      Why don'tyou nut case ease off and have a beer.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.