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. Texasnative

    Of course you can live on beer alone! Just ask the Monks over in medieval Germany who brewed their beer extra strong during the time of Lent. Paulaner Salvator dopplebock anyone? Sounds like a good call to me, I should be come Catholic. Beer in the name of religion. Wow, can't get any better than that!

    April 13, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  2. Steve Roller

    Good article, but it's hunger "pangs" not "pains".

    April 13, 2011 at 12:06 am |
  3. albeast

    Include brats & you can count me in!

    April 12, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  4. stonemason89

    If Homer Simpson were Catholic, he'd be on board for sure?

    April 12, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  5. midnightrambler444

    it's called being an alcoholic. I don't get any positive attention for this, but if anyone wants to watch me drink 365 days a year, stop by anytime!

    April 12, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • midnightrambler444

      uh, I forgot to mention, please BYOB.

      April 12, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Chumley

      An alcoholic that only drinks 4 to 5 beers a day? Does that mean if I skip breakfast most days I'm an anorexic?

      April 12, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Seneca

      Let's put it this way, Chumley: The CDC - the Center for Disease Control and Prevention - defines *moderate* drinking as no more than one drink per day for a woman, no more than two for a man.

      By nearly any medical standard, a six-pack a day or better is going to qualify as alcoholism. You want to know whether you have a drinking problem or not? Trying going 90 days without a drink of any kind of alcohol at all, including beer and wine. (And no subbing in Valium or weed or anything else like that to get you through.)

      If you can do that comfortably, you're not likely to have a problem. If you can't, you almost certainly do.

      April 12, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  6. HowardB

    He'll be fine...good beer is also good food despite what the new wave of neo-prohibitionists are trying to feed us.

    Really though, the most sensible thing to do is just _give up Lent_.

    April 12, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  7. mike p.

    smoke weed dude its healthier beer makes you fat you could be replacing those empty calories with some good veggies, not only will you feel better but you'll look better for the ladies my man.

    April 12, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • oneSTARman

      Nobody appreciates the Herb more than Me; but as a Franciscan Friar said on his TV program – BEER is just liquid Bread. GOOD Beer, not the swill they advertise on Superbowl commercials – is a lot healthier than McDonalds.

      April 12, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  8. sam

    Keep advertising for ALCOHOL

    April 12, 2011 at 9:18 am |
  9. zef

    It truly amazes me how ignorant some Americans are, ever heard of the Franciscan monks who's order was started way back in 1232, and guess what they did all those centuries ago, they fasted on a brew that they themselves made from wheat, "hefeweizen" they were happy, healthy, and got closer to God, and the guy is doing this for Lent, he can go back to eating burgers after Easter, for all of you who are so worried about his health.

    April 12, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • oneSTARman

      wow – what a wave-link: I posted my comment before I read yours – btw good reply

      April 12, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  10. Reality


    Many contemporary historic Jesus scholars (e.g. Professors Crossan, Ludemann, Borg and Fredriksen) after exhaustive review of the Matt 4: 2-11 and Luke 4: 2-13 passages have concluded that these passages are not historic but are simply more embellishment by the NT authors.

    e.g. http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?t-itle=139_Jesus_Tempted_Thrice

    We should therefore lable Lent as simply a Catholic/Christian weight loss program similar to Jenny Craig's!!!

    April 11, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • Pulease

      I'm sure these scholars know better than the early Christians who heard the stories first hand and passed on the Tradition by word of mouth. When studying Scripture, we can't throw aside the Tradition it came from.

      April 13, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  11. Christian

    It still annoys me when Lent is called a Christian tradition when it is not. It's a Catholic ritual, which not all Christian denominations observe.

    April 11, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • Catholic

      Its also not a ritual. Its a season, where we are called to fast or sacrifice, in order to remember jesus' time in the desert. And to be fair to the author, not even all catholics observe it

      April 11, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • Catholic Convert

      It still annoys me when people ignorant of history make baseless assertions. Lent is one of the original Christian practices going back to the time of the Apostles (the guys who wrote the New Testament), and written about by the early Church Fathers, such as St. Irenaeus in the 2nd century. Yes, not all Christians observe Lent, because many later Christians, ignorant of the early history, abandoned the practice. But members of original Christianity, being the Catholic and Orthodox Christians, have continued to observe Lent, faithfully handing on the practice of the early Christians. Never mind our beer-drinking friend; Lent is a time of fasting and purification, in imitation of Christ in the desert, in preparation for His death and Resurrection at Easter. Hard to see why any Protestant would have an issue with that.

      April 12, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Tanizaki

      It is also worth noting that a beer fast is not lenten in the eastern churches because alcohol is abstained from during the weekdays of Great Lent.

      April 12, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • James

      Well last time i checked , Catholics are Christians so lets go back to MSDS is there one of those to deal with non Christian Catholics. guess not

      April 15, 2011 at 3:12 am |
  12. Brian

    So, I'm confused... how does one celebrate the accomplishment?

    April 11, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Marlana

      Hmmmm... Possibly a bottle of wine?

      April 11, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • Kim

      steak, baked potato, deep fried green beans, and a chocolate bunny

      April 16, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  13. andybud

    The word is "pangs."

    Hunger pangs.

    April 11, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Cowpoke

      I'm glad someone else noticed that, too.

      April 11, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • stonemason89

      As opposed to the birth kind.

      April 12, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  14. The_Mick

    If you go on a beer-only diet, how much of your weight loss is "water weight"?

    Since a pound of fat is 453.6 grams and each gram of fat represents 9 Calories, 9 x 453.6 = 4082 calories means you have to burn about 4000 calories per day – usually 2 day's worth to lose a pound of fat. Actually, you're body burns mostly fat as well as some muscle protein (4 grams/Calorie), so the number is a little less than 4000 calories/pound.

    So, after 31 days, if he's reasonably active, he should lose about 15.5 lbs with no food – BUT, alcohol and sugar in beer has calories. We're not told which beer he's drinking, but 4 beers/day is 400-700 calories (lite or regular beer averages) so in a week that would put somewhere around a pound back on. That means he probably should have lost 15.5 – 4.5 = 11 lbs and the other 7 is water weight he'll quickly regain when going back to a normal diet.

    April 11, 2011 at 7:05 am |
    • Homer

      His beer is Doppelbock. Historically, the monks would be drinking a similar beer, which is brewed at a higher temperature, which increases the amount of residual sugars, and decreases the amount of alcohol. So it's a fairly malty, nourishing, lower alcohol drink than many think.

      April 11, 2011 at 8:03 am |
  15. Danny

    Only in Iowa.....

    April 11, 2011 at 1:44 am |
    • stonemason89

      Or Wisconsin.

      April 12, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  16. Alex in NJ

    Four beers a day during the week and 5 on weekends??? Lightweight.

    April 10, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
  17. Reality

    From the Material Safety Data Sheet for ethanol: (typically 6% of the content of beer)

    "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 11:37 pm |
    • Alex in NJ

      screen name should be buzz killington

      April 10, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
    • WarhammerTwo

      Key word there being "potential."

      April 11, 2011 at 2:31 am |
    • ohiodummy

      the material safety data sheet or MSDS, as most of us know it, for ethanol is for a 100% solution. most beers are around 4%. nothing that you wrote applies to beer. thanks for trying to scare people

      April 11, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Donkey Kong

      Thank you C Everett Coop. Go drink some iodine radiated milk instead.

      April 12, 2011 at 8:01 am |
    • With a grain of salt

      Ah yes, the MSDS. It is a useful tool for harmful chemicals when dealing with a spill, or in knowing proper safety precautions before using something. But it can be very misleading when used improperly or for someone's agenda.

      For instance, here are some of the warnings for WATER:

      Potential Health Effects

      Inhalation: May be harmful if inhaled. May cause respiratory tract irritation.
      Skin: May be harmful if absorbed through skin. May cause skin irritation.
      Eyes: May cause eye irritation.
      Ingestion: May be harmful if swallowed.

      And guess what the MSDS tells you to do if accidentally exposed to water:

      If inhaled: If breathed in, move person into fresh air. If not breathing, give artificial respiration.
      In case of skin contact: Wash off with soap and plenty of water.
      In case of eye contact: Flush eyes with water as a precaution.
      If swallowed: Never give anything by mouth to an unconscious person. Rinse mouth with water.

      April 12, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • zef

      you must work for the CDC, thanks for caring.....NOT

      April 12, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • Persuter

      grain of salt, absolutely none of that is true. The MSDS for water is easily found on the Internet, and of course does not suggest flushing with water in the event of skin contact, or that water may be harmful if ingested.

      April 12, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  18. Becca

    ok, thats just weird.

    April 10, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
  19. Horsesrunwild

    Older people use to say....A porkchop in every bottle.....

    April 10, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • JG

      Ahh beer. It's like liquid bread.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  20. Steve

    How come when this guy does it he gets attention, and when I did it I got sent to AA....

    April 10, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
    • Marlana

      HA HA HA HA HA!!!! I wonder if he's drinking high octane microbrews or a lite beer?

      April 11, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • jamesMarshamelski


      April 12, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Nancy

      so true steve!

      April 16, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • Chugger

      "Hi, my name is J. Wilson and I'm an alcoho....never mind...."

      April 23, 2011 at 12:59 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.