There I was, standing in the dark with the glow of the refrigerator light in my face. I scanned quickly to find the carton of chocolate ice cream. With every scoop into my bowl, I felt a mix of desire and depression. Still, I scooped on. My nightly ritual of unwinding from a busy day of parenting my sons, working from home, and running our household had reached an all-time low. My unhealthy pattern of turning to food for comfort was not serving me well, and I knew it. Each day, I felt more and more sluggish, overwhelmed by my to-do list, and uncomfortable in my body. As I sank on the couch to lose myself in the moment, I began to berate myself. “Amber, what is wrong with you?” I lamented. “You have no self-control and are failing once again!”
I have said some pretty terrible things about myself, to myself, in my lifetime. The subject was often about my body or my failed attempts to get healthy. Every one of them was an affront to not only me, but to God. In my heart, I knew that He wouldn’t want me saying those things, but my insecurities, shame, and fear crowded out both logic and truth. Sometimes, we can be our own worst enemies. And make no mistake, our true enemy, the Devil, loves to whisper triggers in our ears, especially when we engage in negative self-talk.
As believers, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1, ESV) No condemnation. Not for our sin; not for our health journey. If God does not condemn us, why then should we condemn ourselves? God made us in His image, so to degrade ourselves is to suggest that God didn’t do a good work when He made us. Those are dangerous thoughts. Psalm 139 counters that kind of thinking. The Psalmist writes, “Your works are wonderful, I know that full well” to describe the way God formed our bodies in our mothers’ wombs.
The struggle is real, however. You know how it is. We start a sugar fast and by day 12 we make scones with lemon curd and whipped cream. We tell ourselves we are failures. Worthless. Unable to succeed. Weak. “She’s better than me,” or “I’ll never be able to overcome my sugar addiction,” or “My family culture won’t let me eat healthy.” We sink in shame or steam with anger toward ourselves when we do things we don’t want to do.
The chatter in our minds is often unfriendly. I like to call it “Stanley chatter.” He’s a bad dude. His MO is fear, lies, and discouragement. The chatter makes statements like, “My friends have faster metabolisms, and I am stuck with what I’ve got,” “I’m just big boned,” or “Everyone in my family looks like this. It’s just my genes.” We listen to Stanley and tell ourselves things like, “I can’t give up tortillas,” or “It’s too hard to exercise in cold weather,” or “Tomorrow I will begin a diet, but today I may as well indulge.” But tomorrow never comes. The things we think today are the same things we will think tomorrow if we don’t disrupt our unhealthy pattern of thinking. Stanley’s got to go!
Philippians 4:8 (NIV) gives us a holy filter for our thought life:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Whenever we talk about habit formation, it begins with identifying the unhealthy pattern and then exchanging it for a God-honoring habit. But take it a step further. When it’s negative self-talk, don’t just exchange it. Demolish it. When the lie, excuse, or fear comes to mind, that’s the moment of truth. Evaluate whether that thought is true. Ask yourself if it is lovely. Consider whether it is admirable. Is it right? Is it noble? If not, then it’s time to chuck the chatter.
“I’m just big boned” is replaced with, “I’ve never actually measured my bones. These rolls of fat have nothing to do with bone structure. This is excess fat and it’s not good for me. It is possible to change that.”
“I’m just weaker than her. There is something wrong with me that makes me fail every time” is replaced with “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me—even choosing the salad instead of the pasta.”
Learning to challenge our thoughts and take them captive and obedient unto Christ isn’t just a good tool for getting physically healthy. The renewing of our minds is also critical for every aspect of our lives. Your health journey is not just about burning fat but burning down every thought that blazes a wrong trail on your path to success.
Jesus is our Friend.
Do the words you speak to yourself sound like something a friend would say? Or an enemy? The answer to that question, and these practical ways of combating negative self-talk will help you face your food triggers and embrace the truth that you are valuable and loved beyond measure. You are not stuck, paralyzed by your thoughts. Yes, your enemy is going to speak lies and accusations to you. But 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” Let those comforting words echo through the chambers of your heart and no other voice will be able to speak lounger than that truth.
Dear Lord, please silence the chatter in my head that tries to discourage me and lie to me. I don’t want to listen to my own negative self-talk anymore. I invite Your goodness and grace to rule my mind as I silence anything that is not true, or good, or praiseworthy. Thank You, Lord for speaking truth to my heart and for loving me and accepting me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!
Amber Lia is an independent certified health coach who has been on her own transformative health journey. She is the author of the new book, Food Triggers: Exchanging Unhealthy Patterns for God-Honoring Habits. Amber and her husband co-run the faith-friendly production company Storehouse Media Group, and they live in Southern California with their four boys. To learn more, visit AmberLia.com.