I am pretty sure that if you added up all the days of my adult life, about ninety percent of them I labeled “rough”. I was either studying for a college, or tackling a lot at work, or dealing with drama from a friend, or caring for my babies, or … well… you get the idea. Pretty much, unless all my plans went exactly like I expected or I was on vacation, then my day was “rough”.
I never thought about how damaging that was. I have even learned all the psychology about self-fulfilling prophecies and etc, but I still went around telling everyone that it was “rough”.
There are other versions of this. How does it feel when you tell your spouse with a sigh that your day was “busy” or “long”? What if you say that it was “crazy” or “a lot.” Now, those are completely subjective titles and they make us feel awful. I totally know people whose idea of playing with a toddler all day sounds like Heaven or cooking for a dinner party is a completely exciting joy.
Instead of using those negative titles for your day, I want you to try one of these: “I got a lot done today.” “Today was productive.” “God was with me all day.” “I learned a lot about myself today.”
I’m not asking you to go all Tony Tiger and say, “It was GRRRRRREAT!” However, the moment you jump from a negative designation to a neutral one, you will find that your mind actually opens up and sees the day clearly without that lens of pain you had fixed to it. A neutral designation forces you to really look at what happened and can even get you to see things you had overlooked--blessings, surprises, love.
God truly is with us, in every kind of day. As David, the psalmist wrote, The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters. Psalm 23:1-2, NIV.
Today, I want to help you relieve some stress as you reconsider the labels you place on your life.
Journal Prompt: If someone asked you how your day was, how do you typically respond? How does that make you feel? If you were to give a more neutral response, how would that make you feel?
Please, raise your hand, if you have ever yelled at a child “Because I said so!” and had that child straightened up, look you straight in the eyes, and tell you, “That makes perfect sense, Mom. Thanks for explaining that.” Yeah, me neither. We’re not children and yet often with habit change we never have that deep conversation with ourselves about why.
It took me a very long time to feel in control around sugar and processed food. Honestly, I couldn’t get there or even take the steps toward healing, until I had a “why” that made sense. I don’t mean it made sense to scientists, but it made sense to my mind and my life. My “why” is all about my body and my mind. I got curious. Sure, documentaries and articles will tell me a thousand things about sugar and processed food, but I won’t believe it until I really examine the evidence in my life. When I got curious and paid attention, I noticed that I am very sensitive to these foods. They make me gain weight quickly, I have less energy when they are the main part of my diet, my skin breaks out, and my brain starts to chatter like a monkey about when we will get our next “fix”. It isn’t pretty. My “why” about limiting sugar and processed food makes it easy to turn down my brain's suggestion for constant treats. I don’t want to feel exhausted, distracted, or have a breakout. My “why” statement is that I don’t eat things that mess with my mind and body.
Finding your why is vital. It is the difference between just trying to get yourself to comply, and truly fueling your efforts with knowledge about what is best for you and your life. In the Bible Proverbs 18:15, ESV, says An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
Today, I want you to level-up your habit change by becoming curious and finding the real “why” behind your habit change. Pay attention. How do you feel without this habit as part of your daily life? Does the change fit your lifestyle and family? How is your healthy emotionally, mentally, and physically these days? Pack it into a single powerful phrase that you can remind yourself when you are trying to remember why you are taking this break.
Journal Prompt: Why do you want to break this habit? How will this benefit your body, mind, heart, and soul? The next time you are tempted, what “why” will you tell yourself about not delving into this habit?
For me, it is and has always been a double blow. Right around four o’clock my mind starts to offer all the things that don’t serve me. Sweets, a glass of wine, a few chips…the list goes on. I found out years ago that if I powered through and stayed busy that I could escape. However, after the girls were in bed, the cravings would come back with vengeance and it was all I could do to white knuckle it until I fell asleep.
This is very common. It is as if the Devil completely stopped being creative. He knows where we have always caved in before so he makes sure that we have some pressure applied at a key time to make us fall. I love the term “witching hour” for these moments because it does feel sometimes like something close and sinister shows up.
These are often also the times we feel the most tired and vulnerable. For me, by about 4pm I’m exhausted and needing a break. After the girls go to bed, if I haven’t done anything to care for myself that day, my body, heart and mind are screaming for anything to make me feel human again.
Guys, the solution is simple and oh, so, precious. Stop. Slow down. Be honest about what you need and give yourself the rest you need. Don’t live in fear of this witching hour, trying to power through. Instead, thank God for the reminder that you are worthy of love and that we are not all-powerful. We get to lean on God, we don’t have to do this by ourselves.
In Isaiah 46:6, NIV, God says,
Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
So, today I want you to flip the cycle around and use the witching hour to bring you running back to refuge. For what our enemy meant to hurt us, God can use it for a blessing.
Journal Prompt: Identify a time of day or a day of the week that you notice you are extra vulnerable to temptation. Now, flip it. How will you use that reminder to run back to God for some true love and care?
I think it starts when we are young. I literally rewarded Adela for her semester of good grades and responsible behavior by promising a weekend full of fun food and activity. High on her list was pizza, slushies, and black licorice. Thankfully, she also valued spending quality time with me and Jovani but in retrospect I wonder how our self-reward habits start. For me, food and alcohol were pretty much the only thing on my list beside a good book. It made trying to diet and not drink simply feel like restrictive deprivation.
So, how do we reward ourselves? Here is a hack: Make a list of rewards you know are pleasurable and a list of things you would like to try. To do this, follow these three steps.
On the podcast I read my personal rewards list. I am also including a picture here. I’m an introvert whose love language is acts of service. I have noticed that these items are always in flux. They change with the season I am in. I also need to be open to things that might be fun and I need to try.
Your brain is still going to offer food, alcohol, or your unhealthy habit as a reward for a job well done or for making it through a difficult day. However, over time, you will find your brain looking forward to these new, healthy habits as you find yourself less attracted to the pantry or binging a TV series. You just have to teach yourself that these activities are fun and pleasurable too. We have to learn to trust God that in our healthy changes we will find more joy and peace than ever.
In the words of the Apostle Paul from Romans 15:13, NIV, May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Journal prompt: What is on your list of things you can reward yourself with? What is your plan for including them in your self reward habits?
I think we’ve all done it, stared at someone who is slender and wondered how they do it. We have watched them wave away the appetizer or pass up on dessert while we just die inside. We think they have such great self-control and willpower. But, more than likely, there is NO will-power involved. Do you want to hear something crazy? The truth is, they really don’t want those things.
Maybe they aren’t hungry or it just doesn’t “do it” for them. Seriously. To help you understand this, I need to give you a look inside my brain about sleep.
I coach women all the time about getting enough rest and sleep and how sleep-deprivation will mess with our hormones making it very hard to follow through with healthy goals. (More on this on day 27). However, for me, getting enough sleep is easy. I am so excited when my bedtime rolls around and I rarely stay up late. The reason this is easy for me is something I like to call “Magic Thoughts''. These are thoughts I have about sleep that make self-control and will power unnecessary. My thoughts are, “I love sleep.” “I am so thankful it is time for bed.” “Thank God I get to start tomorrow well-rested.” “I am so successful and pleasant when I get my eight hours of sleep.” “I hate how I feel when I’m tired. Nothing is worth that.” With those thoughts, turning off the TV, brushing my teeth, and getting off Pinterest take no self-control. In my mind, it is a done deal.
The same is true for naturally thin people or those who are considered active and healthy. They have “magic” thoughts about food such as, “I don’t like to feel full.” “I feel so great when I eat just enough.” “Sweets make me feel tired. I don’t like too many of them.” “I love working out. I love having all that energy.”
You can have magic thoughts, too. Pretty much, you just think of a belief that is true and resonates with your goals. When the urge for that habit comes along, purposefully think that “Magic Thought” until the belief becomes ingrained in your brain. The Devil wants us to believe that we need that habit or that we are missing out when we don't’ have it. John 8:44, NIV, says: You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Journal Prompt: What thought would make your habit seem undesirable? What thoughts do you believe about it now that make it difficult to follow through with your goal to take a break from this habit? Do you know someone who seems to avoid this habit naturally? What do you think they believe?
I have a sweet friend that suffered a severe injury several years ago. She is still on the road to healing and recovery. She is also one of those people with a humongous heart who works hard to make sure her relationships stay strong. However, when her healing required lots of time away from public places and normal social situations, she had to find a new way to connect. That amazing lady did it, too. She became the queen of cards, encouraging letters, and remembering important dates. She just had to figure it out. When I have ladies who fear giving up a habit because it links them to someone they love, I always think of my friend.
Food and alcohol are often a social link we have with friends and family. And there might even be activities you want to take a break from that are the way you have enjoyed time with your loved ones. In the face of this habit change, I want to encourage you that these habits are not necessary for you to have a friendship or relationship. In the absence of these habits, you might even find you grow closer with these loved ones as you work to find new and deeper ways to connect.
But how? Well, the answer is love. Isn’t it always? After all, love never fails” (See 1 Corinthians 13:8). However, I love using the Five Love Languages developed by Gary Chapman to really help myself and my clients understand themselves and the people they are in a relationship with. In simple terms, we each love using one of these methods: physical affection, gift giving, quality time, acts of service, or words of affirmation. When we understand how we love others and then also understand how our friends and family express love, we can be more specific and strategic in our relationship with them.
For example, my dad loves hugs and acts of service. A hug and a home cooked meal might be his favorite things in the world. However, if I were to show up at his house and offer to take him to the movies, he wouldn’t be very excited at all. It just isn’t his thing. Knowing that, I can make sure I connect with my dad in ways that are relevant to him.
I would encourage you to take the free online quiz https://5lovelanguages.com/quizzes and also read a little about the different love languages. You might even ask your friend or loved one if they know their love language so that you can connect with them better in the absence of this habit that you are taking a break from.
Journal Prompt: What is your love language? Name one person who’s relationship with you might be in danger as you take a break from this habit. Can you think of another way to connect with them that is in line with your love language? What about their love language?
When I was twenty-one I found out that I had dangerously high cholesterol and triglyceride levels. I was at a healthy weight and was so young that the levels were surprising to both me and doctors. I felt so responsible. So, for the next decade or so I tried extra hard to be “good” and eat “right”. I had a big long list of bad food that I needed to stay away from. One of my favorite people in the world is a dietician who kept trying to get me to focus on adding things to my diet such as more fruits and vegetables, fiber, healthy fats, etc. I would do my best, but my focus remained on what I shouldn’t be eating more than what I should be eating.
It wasn’t until I realized that my motivation was mostly fueled by trying to punish and restrict myself that I really started to look at doing things for myself and adding things to my diet. The advice, once I finally took it, was like magic. When I added all the good stuff in, the void I had habitually created in my restrictive cycles was filled with healthy habits I could sustain.
Nature hates a void. The Devil loves to take advantage of it too. There is a passage in the Bible that always gives me the creeps. Jesus says in Luke 11:24-26, “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” It is a good reminder to me to fill my life with good healthy things, especially in a season when I am bent on getting rid of habits that don’t serve me.
So, today, I want you to consider that natural void that is created by the absence of this habit. I want you to purposefully decide what you want to fill that space with. This does two great things: One, it makes sure that the emptiness is filled with something healthy and not just a different unhealthy habit. And, two, it gives you a positive focus. Instead of concentrating on something to get rid of, you are looking at something to add to your life.
Journal prompt: What void has been created by the absence of the habit you are trying to break? What positive habit will you insert into that space?
It was always the morning after that I felt it. I recommitted to some crazy diet believing that I had to do it because I was so out of control with my eating and drinking. The shame of my binging patterns fueled a dive into eating that was not reasonable for my life. It would be something incredibly strict such as, “No more processed food ever. I am giving it up for the rest of my life.” or “I am only eating one meal a day until I reign this in and am at my goal weight.” Or I would get on Pinterest and pull up one of those 30-day clean eating plans and say that this was the time I would figure out how to do it perfectly.
Then I wouldn’t. I would mess up and then decide that if I was going to make a mistake I might as well make it worth it.
However, the solution was hard for me. The solution was that I had to start making eating plans that were healthy, truly healthy, then commit to it, even planning for treats. That was hard for me. I was used to being punitive and demanding, not nurturing and loving. However, eating and planning this way made me turn a complete corner in my self-esteem. As I planned reasonably and followed through, I started to see that I had my own back. I also felt so good not living a life that was restrictive and centered around deprivation. Instead my mindset became how I could care for myself better. How does my body need me to take care of it instead of punishing it? What food makes me feel good? What kind of movement do I enjoy? What kind of self-care fuels healthy habits?
God has asked us to treat ourselves this way. After all, His Spirit dwells in us. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 it says, Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
When we begin to teach ourselves that we can be counted on to care for our health then you will start to see your confidence and self-esteem rising. You will begin to believe again that you have your own back.
Journal prompt: Are you caring for yourself or punishing yourself? The same action can come from a different place in your heart. Where can you begin to regain your own trust as you care for yourself more?
In 2 Corinthians 9:6, the apostle wrote, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” NIV. He was speaking of preparing in advance a gift to send to the Macedonians who were in need. He was encouraging us to be generous.
I often am surprised when people are so opposed to taking the time to schedule or plan. They say they like spontaneity or believe that things just don’t work out whenever they plan and so the time and effort is wasted. However, research shows that planning can provide relief from worry, add confidence to a difficult situation, and provide for circumstances that are troublesome.
When it comes to this habit work we are doing, I want to encourage you to take the time to plan. If you are trying to eat healthier, plan your food for the day when you are not stressed or hungry. If you are trying to break a destructive habit, plan deliberate self-care in order to nurture yourself well and avoid a situation where you are craving release because you were unkind to yourself all day.
What I’m asking, is that you consider generously donating your time and energy to plan for yourself and your family as you make this habit change. Your body needs nurturing food, water, and rest. Your mind needs mental breaks. Your heart needs time with your savior, family, and friends. Plan for it. Schedule it the way you would schedule a dentist appointment. Seriously. It is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself and those around you while you go through this process. When we plan, we are sowing seeds for success.
Journal prompt: What could you plan and/or schedule that would set you up for success? When would be a time for you to do that daily or weekly? What do you need to believe in order to follow through with that goal?
What, exactly, do I need those chocolates to do for me? I was staring inquinsically at the jar of teacher-appreciation chocolates a sweet family had given to me last month. I wanted to eat them all. The urge felt intense and consuming. After I sat with it for a while the feeling shrank away and then I asked the real question.
What do I need these chocolates to do for me?
It was late at night. My husband was still out working. Potty training had not gone well and it felt like we had lost ground. I also was dreading another day like that and was worried that Micaela, even at the age of eight, was not developmentally ready to take on this skill. I realized, that I wanted the chocolates to make it better. Literally. I wanted them to fix it. I wanted them to provide solutions and an escape.
I almost laughed out loud. I closed the door and walked away from the jar. I curled up on the couch and journaled, writing all my frustration down and then asking God to help me. I really needed His help just to stay in the moment with love and patience. I needed Him also to help me trust His plan and guidance. The time would pass anyways, potty training or no, and it really didn’t matter if it was a bust, what mattered was all the love I was showing my daughter and how I was serving my family. God is using all of this to grow me into a stronger, more loving woman.
In Isaiah 55: 1-2, God says, Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” God wants to be the one that satisfies us in ways that those foods or habits never could. He provides for our needs to be cared for in a way that sustains our souls. We just need to turn to Him.
Journal Prompt: When it comes up today, your brain offering you the option of delving into that habit, ask yourself, “What do I need this food or this activity to do for me?” How could I find that same comfort in a healthy place or activity?
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.