Mardi Gras is finally here. But we should keep in mind that the Gras of Mardi Gras refers to fat not as obese , but fat as in grease. According to the older tradition no meat or meat products could be eaten during the entirety of Lent, so cooking with fat was forbidden. Mardi Gras was your last chance to eat those foods fried in lard. (Good bye Grandma Utz!)
Today we have what could be called the two extremes in the East and in the West.
For us in the Latin Rite fast is only required on two days, tomorrow and Good Friday, and only for people 18-59. Again, if you are into minimalism, fasting is defined as one meal, and then the sum total of everything else you eat should not equal another meal. That is the minimum required. Plus we abstain from meat on Fridays.
At the other end of the spectrum you have the eastern practice of the Great Lent which would include our Orthodox brothers and sisters. The great Lent is 6 weeks long, preceded by four weeks of preparation.
Two weeks before the First Sunday of Lent is Meat Fare (мясопуст-in Russian), your last chance to eat meat. One Week before the First Sunday of Lent is Cheese Fare (сыропуст), the last chance to eat cheese and other dairy products including eggs, because they come from animals—Imagine, no meat no dairy for the rest of Lent. Lent officially begins the next day, "clean Monday" as it is sometimes called.
Perhaps somewhere between the Great Lent and the minimalist Lent is the place that we should each find for ourselves. The Latin Rite Catholic Church after Vatican II put the responsibility squarely in our hands. The law establishes only a bare minimum and then leaves it to us as adults to decide the level of fasting that is appropriate and healthy for us. Not everyone can do the Great Lent. And the Church exempts from fasting those who for health reasons must eat on a determined schedule.
What is the purpose anyway? We are not merely souls but also bodies. We should cleanse our bodies as well as our souls. We are told our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. It's time to clean the temple.