There are a lot of diets and eating plans and programs that can be very difficult. I’m not here to pull or pick apart any of them. I do want to encourage you to seek advice from a medical professional such as a registered dietician if you are feeling unsure or confused about what you should be eating.
I think about how I eat today and past self would have been horrified. Seriously. I eat dessert about once a week, avoid dairy, and adore a meal that is at least half fruits and vegetables. And this is just normal for me. In my mind I am not on a restrictive diet. I’m eating food that I love in a way that makes my body feel energetic and supported.
There is a huge difference between eating a healthy diet and eating a restrictive diet. Want to know what that difference is? It’s all in your head. Let me show you.
1. Understand Your Reasons
When I talk to women on a health journey, it feels like 9 out of 10 will say they are doing it to lose weight. That's it. In their minds it is all about a number on the scale. They are trying to squeeze some macros or calories out of their diet so that the numbers will fall. However, guess who wins? You guessed it, the women who change their diets based on how it makes them feel and how it fits into their lifestyle not only see the weight come off, they also don’t feel like they are in diet prison. They feel liberated and loved AND they can keep doing it indefinitely because even when the weight is off, they will still enjoy the way their body feels and be able to sustain those habits since they fit with their lifestyle and family.
2. Be Reasonable
I just mentioned diets that work with your lifestyle but what does that really mean? Well, consider your life right now: Do you love making home-cooked meals or do you spend a few evenings a week at your kids’ basketball games? Do you like to eat out with friends or do you find cozy meals with your loved ones at home the way you roll? Do you pack meals to work? Etc.
These are important questions. Sometimes women can pick up a diet plan and then place blinders on their head. Everything becomes black and white. The diet said to cook these recipes, eat these foods, eat at these times and on and on. Then, you blame it on lack of willpower when you fall off that precarious wagon.
I love to consider my day and be honest about what fits into my life. Now that I’m back to teaching, I don’t bother to do anything but heat up leftovers for the girls and I after school. I try to cook more on the weekend to compensate and have a list of go-to meals I can make in just few minutes (Yes to quesadillas & chicken nuggets). I keep things in my freezer like steamable rice cauliflower and other veggies to support our healthy eating on those days. Another way I keep things reasonable is planning that weekly desert. I mean, I love it. It is often a cooking project for the girls and I or something my husband loves. I know from experience that planning for these things helps me stick to healthy choices.
2. What You Say to Yourself Matters
The way you talk to yourself about what you are eating is important. The more you say things like, “We can’t eat that.” “Oh, I wish I could have that.” “I would die to eat that.” Etc. You get the drift, the more you reinforce the idea that this diet is difficult and even painful. However, if you tell yourself things like, “I don’t need that.” “That makes me feel awful when I eat it. Why would I have that?” “We can have that tomorrow when we plan for it. No problem.” Then your eating choices no longer feel restrictive but supportive.
I distinctly remember eating food items that I didn’t even actually like, but ate them because I was having a “cheat day” and wanted to get in all the off-plan food as possible. Now I don’t have cheat days. I love the food I eat everyday. I love the way my body feels and have begun to firmly believe that there are many foods that just aren’t worth it. They have no power over me.
3. Listen to Your Body
Your body is so ready to talk to you about what you are eating. It isn’t quiet or submissive about it, either. If you want honesty about your food choices then start to tune into the discomfort your body feels whenever you eat certain food choices. Some ways your body lets you know is through gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, water retention, and lethargy. On the flip side, your body will congratulate supportive food choices with an increase in energy and a lightness.
For example, more than two days of deserts and my body becomes easily exhausted and way more prone to bloating and inflammation. On the flip side, when my meals have been heavy on the veggies and light on the processed foods, I have an increase in energy. It’s so cool. God designed our bodies in such an amazing way, right?
Okay, my dear. I’m not sure what journey you are on right now, but I hope you can take these four pointers and make some changes that not only have you going in the right direction, but keep you there for many years to come. Just as a reminder, the four tips are:
Now, before we part ways today, take a moment and pick one person you would love to encourage today in their weight loss journey and share this episode with them. It can really make the difference and turn the tide in their permanent weight loss.
During Lent I’ve often given up sugar and/or alcohol. I remember one year I decided to do the Daniel fast during the 46 days between Lent and Easter Sunday. I lost about 7 pounds and felt better physically than I ever imagined. It was during that Lent that I discovered I love black coffee and that my body felt a 100% better without refined sugars, grains, or dairy products. However, on the spiritual side of things I’m not sure how much I learned about my Savior or felt drawn closer to Him. To top it off, as soon as the fast ended, I went back to my old eating patterns except that I continued to drink black coffee and ate a little less dairy than I had before.
Lent isn’t supposed to be another diet plan, but we also can’t deny that there can be significant effects physically when you take a break from foods you suspect are somewhat toxic to your system. However, Lent is traditionally supposed to be a period where you change up your routines so that your heart and mind will be more fixed on God. Listen to the summary from Vox.com: “The concept behind Lent is that each year, Christians will mimic Jesus’s actions in the wilderness. Lent is sometimes called the “Great Fast.” It’s a period of time in which Christians are meant to give up some comfort or adopt some spiritual practice that leads to self-examination, repentance from sin, and, ultimately, renewal of the soul, all in anticipation of greater dedication to serving others and God in the coming year.”
I think Christians are often drawn to the concept of taking a break from certain foods or beverages because they know that it is affecting their life on a deep level. However, whatever you change during Lent is supposed to lend itself to a spiritual change as well. That being said, there is no reason why Lent can have both physical and physical benefits. In fact, whenever I coach women on weight loss, it is the ones that learn how to change their eating while also creating healthy habits such as Bible Study and Praying as part of their self-care regime that not only gain momentum, but keep their weight loss journey going long-term.
Today I will give you three steps to creating a Lent change that benefits both your body and your soul.
1. Identify what you want to fast from and why
In a quiet space and time I encourage you to take a step back and consider how you are coping with life and stress these days. I also want you to consider areas of your life that might be causing more pain.
Here is a funny personal example. Last year I started to notice a trend. I wasn’t getting enough sleep and I was on-edge more than usual. I wanted to blame it on too much caffeine or the stage my girls were in, but when I got really honest I had to confess that I was staying up later than I wanted to watching a TV show that left me anxious and upset because of its well-written drama. Funny, right? Apparently I empathize a little deeper than I should for fictional content. Either way, letting this go almost instantly uplifted my health physically, and emotionally, mentally. What’s even more interesting was that I had a huge inner resistance at first to giving this up. Why? Well, I was using it as a way to distract myself from other problems. I was escaping for a few hours a day.
What are you distracting yourself with? Food and beverages are super-common go-to’s for coping mechanisms. Afterall, everyone needs to eat, right? Other areas are entertainment, social media, and shopping. If you feel like your coping mechanism is food, then identify the kinds of food you are gravitating toward that are also compromising your health. If you aren’t sure, this is a great question to ask a registered dietician.
2. Set up a deliberate practice to fill that space with God
So, you find an area you would like to give up and give to God. I love this, you are bringing something to God that is difficult for you but also that you know is something that probably keeps you away from God. Remember my example about the TV drama I was watching? Well, I leaned on that activity to help me deal with other areas of my life. When I took it away I began to spend some minutes in the evening listening to sermons and journaling. I drew closer to Him. If you give up something for Lent, let me just guarantee that there will be a void that nature will rush to fill. You can purposefully fill that void with something that draws you closer to God such as prayer, devotionals, Bible Study, or volunteer activities.
3. Reap Lasting benefits.
46 days is a lengthy period of time and definitely more than enough time to either establish a new habit or have some significant changes that will affect you for the long term. This will especially happen if you approach Lent with the mindset of drawing closer to God and staying closer to Him even after the last church hymn is sung on Easter Sunday. When Lent ends, it will benefit you greatly to decide what or how much you want of the item you gave up back in your life.
I think about my Lent spent on the Daniel Plan. I never took the time to consider permanent changes nor did I consider bringing God into the spaces left behind by my inability to emotionally eat sweets. As soon as Easter Sunday came I dove into all the treats I had fasted from even though I knew that having a break from them had been a beautiful gift to my body.
I love Lent. I love the opportunity to draw closer to God, to my perfect Savior and understand better the love He showers on us. I have my own private practices I’ll be doing this season.
Remember, as you consider Lent this year it might help for you to follow the three steps I shared today on this episode.
This might be just the episode to share with a friend who has questions about Lent practices too. And, if there are some new routines or habit you want to establish this season, head over to my website and the Freebie, Routine Toolkit from my Free Resources page at loraarmendariz.com/freeresources
In 2021 I went back to teaching and there was a moment of panic when I looked in my closet. I had been a stay at home mom for almost a decade and really didn’t have much besides church clothes, leggings, and a collection of baggy t-shirts. I didn't even know where to begin. Plus, I had never been good at fashion stuff. I have pretty much lived off of hand-me-downs and presents and hadn’t shopped for anything besides underwear for way too long.
So, I asked all my close friends where to start and I got the best advice ever. Now, when I coach women who are losing weight, the issue of what to wear actually comes up and I have something to say (God truly works in mysterious ways). I love getting ready for work as a teacher or to go to town (remember, I’m a farm-girl). I feel confident in what I should put over my body. Let me share with you the beautiful lessons I learned to get me here and how they can help you from your dresser drawers to your closet.
1. Less is more
Did you know that most women really only utilize a tenth of what is in their closet? Seriously. And, I know this was definitely me in my younger years. I had plenty of clothes but there were always the go-to outfits that I wore over and over. In fact, to be honest, if you leave the house five times a week you really only probably wear about fifteen outfits a month or less because you're cycling through your favorites over and over.
Having too many clothes in your closet is expensive. First, with so many outfits we often lose track of what we own and buy things we didn’t actually need. Second, there is a cost of time when we look through so many options and just can’t make a choice. It is just like when you get on your favorite streaming service to watch something but can’t figure out what to put on. The last thing you need is analysis paralysis. A limited number of tasteful and in-season items that fit well is really all that most people use or need. Lastly, it is expensive when it comes to space. Our houses don’t have unlimited areas to store and keep all out worldly possessions.
I have found that weeding through my closet and my daughters’ closets twice a year is essential. When the weather changes in March and September I will weed out what doesn’t fit or isn’t being worn due to style choice or comfort, and I’ll store anything that is out of season.
By the way, if you are losing weight and need to buy new outfits, get on Google or Pinterest and search “Capsule Wardrobes”. There are some really smart savvy people out there who can make like 50 different outfits from just a handful of clothes items that look beautiful and amazing. This is a great option for the women I work with who are hoping to only be in a size briefly as they continue to lose weight.
2. Texture Matters
Why in the world would we willingly put something on our bodies so that we can scratch for the next ten hours or go home with a welt down our side from a pinching seam? Texture really matters. Discomfort is distracting, stressful, and just plain unkind. I have a one-time toss rule. If I wear something that makes me uncomfortable then I take it off at the end of the day and immediately place it in my donation box in my closet. I have other things I can wear.
I’ve noticed that the discomfort from clothes that don’t fit us right or have an unpleasant texture, also can make us feel less confident in ourselves. It is a subconscious reaction, that something isn’t right. We already have too much going on in our busy lives to deal with this, too. When I shop, I take into account the way things feel. If I even get one icky reaction to a clothing item after having it on my body for a minute, I’m done. I’ve never worn anything that felt better the more I wore it.
And, while we are on the subject of textures it is so important to mention underwear. Our bras, underwear, and socks play a huge role in how we feel and how our shoes and clothes fit. It is definitely worth investing in items that fit you correctly and can be worn all day. After all, those are the items on clothes we keep right next to our skin.
The next advice I’ve heard on podcasts and from watching influencers on Instagram and Pinterest: Accent your outfits and your body but do not go overboard. Accents are the part you can have fun with. For example, a simple belt around the waist on a flowy dress accents your shape without requiring the rest of the outfit to be glued to your body. Some fun earrings will bring the eyes of others to your smiling face. And, this might sound counter-intuitive, you actually appear smaller when you are not wearing tight clothing from your neck to your ankles. You might choose one item that is shape fitting, but not the whole thing. As my mom always said, “Lora, it helps to leave some things to the imagination.”
Those are the three tips: Less is more, texture matters, and Use Accents. Your body is a beautiful gift, made to be honored. After all, God designed it to get us through this time here on earth, housing our beautiful soul and God’s spirit.
So, are you ready to get dressed? One last hack that works for me: I pick out all my outfits for the week on Sunday morning. I pick them out and hang them in the front section of my closet. I even look forward to it, as if I am making art. Then, I promise to stick to it unless I spill coffee on my outfit before leaving the house. It takes all the drama out of it and saves me tons of time each morning during the week.
At-home date night with my husband is one of my favorite activities. And, yes, it usually includes certain foods and beverages that we both enjoy. But, I also know it isn’t necessary. To break this down for you I need you to first understand how food helps us connect and then I can give you some great strategies for helping you stick to your diet even as you draw close to the ones you love.
1. Shared Experience: Food and beverages provide a shared experience. You feel connected because you are both enjoying the same flavors, textures, and sensations. It is like for one point in time you are brought together for the same memory and it can feel like the anchor is the food or drink. One strategy you can use is to provide a different anchor, a different shared experience such as watching a movie, playing a game, doing something physical, or meeting with friends. Make that the anchor. Make that the shared memory and not the food. It will still come with a plethora of sensations and bring you together for that same moment.
I’ve learned this better as my kids have become older that I build relationships and memories with them better when we DO something together or have great conversations. Guess what, that still holds true for my husband even though we’ve been married for 16 years this month.
2. Enhanced Pleasure: Food and beverages often trigger dopamine to be released in our brain making an experience feel more pleasurable. This also can feel like a let down if we are used to getting a big dopamine hit from the bowl of icecream and then feel like your date is boring when the icecream is not part of the plan for the night. This is where you have to be crafty and find other ways to enhance pleasure. Think about textures of the clothes you wear or the atmosphere of the place you go. Wear special scents and really notice the amazing things that go on around you. Use all your senses. I tell you what, when I stopped using food to make social events, or even dates, fun for me, it is like the enjoyment level got higher, deeper, and more real because I was forced to really find my pleasure in the moment and the people.
3. Masks discomfort. This is hard. Food and beverages as they bring us pleasure they also mask awkward moments or downright discomfort. This is where grace comes in. Accepting that the people around us and the experiences that we meet them in aren’t perfect, that is where we really arrive in the present and become someone others can trust. I love the concept of holding space for others. Sometimes the people I love might be too tired to talk and do more than cuddle on the couch, but when I accept that, those same people feel more loved and accepted than if I’d tried to mask it with food and alcohol in order to force a merry mood.
I think this is one reason I absolutely love spending time with my special needs daughter, Micaela. She is entirely accepting of who I am and also entirely living in the moment. So, whatever I do with her, it feels like my stress levels drop and I know I am entirely loved by her.
Okay, my dears, I hope that helps and solves the mystery of why Valentines and food seem to go hand in hand. I hope you remember that you are epically loved today.
If you found this episode helpful, think of one other person you would love to share it with, then do! There is a share button in any platform you are listening from and I know others would love to know you thought about them.
by Lora Armendariz
You Can Do It!
Do you want to fall out of love with a destructive habit? The first 42 episodes of this podcast are a resource for anyone who wants encouragement and information as they take a six week break from a habit in order to fall out of love with it.