With Lent coming in just two (2) days I've decided to post some guidelines for Lent observance from the USCCB. I'll continue to do throughout the season and into the Easter season.
Let's start with Ash Wednesday. Fasting is part of the observance of Ash Wednesday. All the faithful who are older than 18 tears and have not yet reached the age of 59 are required to fast on Ash Wednesday (and Good Friday.)
What does fasting entail? On a day of fasting one full meal may be eaten. Two other meals "sufficient to maintain strength" may also be eaten. Together those meals should not equal a full meal. Eating between meals in not permitted. You can still drink liquids between meals.
Abstinence is also practiced on Ash Wednesday (as well as on all Fridays in lent, including Good Friday.) Abstinence should be observed by all the faithful over 14 years of age. On days of abstinence no meat is allowed.
Now the law does not require that those in ill health, or whose health would by aversely effected, observe fasting. Diabetics come to mind. Someone who can not fast should practice some other suitable form of self-denial. Skip your favorite TV show or drink water instead of soda. Most importantly offer the act to God.
If you do very strenuous physical work and require protein and a regular meal to allow you to safely perform your work then the law does not oblige. If in doubt condult your parish priest.
Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation in the United States. Should you desire to attend Mass that day you will see the Priest, or in some diocese, the deacon bless the ashes. Ashes are made by (previously to the Mass) burning the blessed palms from the previous Palm Sunday. Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, in the United States diocese, are allowed to assist with the distribution of ashes. The ashes should be distributed after the homily.