Are These 10 Habits Hindering Your Health?

How you take your coffee says a lot about you. I drink my creamer with coffee…err…my coffee with creamer…and am impressed by those who drink theirs black. If I don’t like black coffee, chances are I don’t like the coffee itself. So why do I continue to try and drink it? It’s a habit. One that I need to reevaluate, along with plenty of other harmless habits I’ve picked up over the year that are no longer beneficial to my body.

Prepare Your Minds For Action

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13 ESV

The word “preparing” above in Greek means to “gird up,” or to “secure a flowing tunic to prevent its hampering one in active work.” I can compare the little customs I’ve tacked on to my routine as unnecessary cloth that slows me down from actively pursuing the Lord in present moment. These habits hamper my ability to set my hope fully on the grace of Christ. They get in the way. They distract me from following Jesus and attract me to the immediate satisfaction of passing pick-me-ups. They keep me comfortable and crowd out my deepest desires for an eternal purpose. If I want to set my hope fully on Christ, I need to be willing to let go of a few creature comforts.

What Needs to Go? 

    This isn’t another fear-mongering post about the toxins in the air and water, but a gentle suggestion to take stock of your habits and decide what you want to stay and what needs to go. God loves you and gave you authority over your own body. 

    I found out the hard way that I use caffeine as a crutch to cover-up my need for sleep because I was too stubborn to give up screen time at night. Let’s discover which health habits serve as a band aid to a deeper health issue and consider ditching them for good. I have listed the top ten for me, in the order of most obvious to least, along with a few questions to help you identify your own cover-ups. I only speak from personal experience, and recommend that you see a trusted health professional if you wish to address the following in your life:

  1. Antacids: I used to pop Tums like candy to counteract my fiery heartburn that plagued me throughout the day and mostly at night. It was worst during my pregnancy, then decreased when I cut out dairy (an autoimmune trigger for me) during my breastfeeding days. If you’re suffering from heartburn, is there something in your diet that may be causing the heartburn? Have you tried an elimination diet or requested labs from your doctor to figure out if a particular food or other stressor is the root cause? 
  2. Sleep aids: When I’m having trouble falling asleep, I’ll take a dose of melatonin. This is usually after a day of no exercise, snacking before bed, or staying up too late scrolling through my Instagram feed. Are you making sleep a priority? If you struggle with sleep, have you tried all of the natural ways of falling asleep first? (Parents: I know you don’t get sleep. Just get what you can ;)
  3. Tylenol: I use Tylenol or Ibuprofen when I get headaches. I try to wait until I can’t bear the tension any longer before taking it since too much can adversely affect liver and kidney function. The following cause headaches for me: seasonal allergies, dehydration, lack of sleep, stress, hair pulled back too tightly, and even from certain chemical additives in food and drink. If you find yourself taking pain medication on a regular basis, is there a preventable reason (ex: too much caffeine, stress, or sugar)? 
  4. Alcohol: I rebelled against the thought of giving up alcohol for the autoimmune protocol I was on because alcohol helps me chill out. But if I can’t physiologically relax without the help of a controlled substance, I need to change a few things. I have turned to foam rolling, massages, candles, warm Epsom salt baths, and hot herbal tea to relax the natural way. Are you relying on alcohol to help you relax, have fun, or other reasons? Is there something better you could replace it with? 
  5. Caffeine: When I stopped drinking coffee, I no longer had that jolt of caffeine to get me going in the morning and was forced to get some more sleep. The caffeine was covering up my sleep deprivation, and I found that I needed 8.5-9 hours of sleep each night to feel refreshed. Now when I get tired midday, that’s when I’ll do a few sets of bodyweight exercises and yoga poses to get the blood flowing. Are you depending on caffeine to power your day? Do you need to get more sleep at night, or is there another reason your body is craving the caffeine?
  6. Deodorant: I heard that the aluminum in antiperspirant deodorants is not good for me, so I tried switching to a natural deodorant. I haven’t found one that I like yet (check out this post for some recommendations), and I haven’t found any conclusive evidence that deodorants cause cancer. But since sweating releases toxins in the body, I can naturally decrease the stinky smells by going to the source. The smell could be attributed to environmental toxins or as this article lists, “digesting dietary fats (causing a rancid odor), or a magnesium deficiency (producing a locker-room smell). In some people, the odor may be related to a yeast or bacterial infection of the skin (causing a yeasty or sickeningly sweet smell).”  It’s fine to cover-up body odors, but certain smells can be an indicator of an underlying health issue. Read this article for more body odor cues. 
  7. Gum: I chewed about three pieces of gum a day until I realized the sugar alcohols were one major source of bloating. I reached for gum after meals so I would stop eating, and in between meals to keep my mouth busy. In reality, I needed to eat less addictive foods (like sweet and salty artificially flavored ones) and drink more water instead of chew gum. Now, I only chew it when necessary, like after Indian food before sitting next to a stranger on a plane. Do you chew too much gum? What are your triggers, and does it cause any negative side effects for you?
  8. Sugar: When I took sugar out of my diet, I grieved the loss of having emotional highs and lows during the day. Sugar not only overloads the metabolic system, but is addictive, increases bad cholesterol, stresses the liver, and contributes to leptin resistance (weight gain, cravings, trouble sleeping, etc). I’m sticking with a smaller amount of natural sugars like fruit, honey, and maple syrup, but try to avoid other types of sugar as much as possible. Can you cut out any extra sugar in your diet or replace it with more nutrient-dense options?
  9. Natural flavors: Did you know there is nothing “natural” about natural flavors? In the book Dorito Effect, author Mark Schatzker talks about how much our food has been diluted that most of the packaged foods in grocery stores have been injected with some sort of synthetic flavor. This overload of artificial flavors not only gives me headaches, but covers up the real taste of foods. I started using fresh herbs and juices for flavoring, and it has made a world of difference! Food tastes more fresh, and I’m learning how to combine herbs and spices which makes me a better cook. Check the labels on your favorite foods, even packaged chicken. How many of them list “artificial flavors”? Try buying some herbs on sale at the store, zest lemons and limes, or grow your own herb garden to start flavoring food the natural way!
  10. Workouts: I use workouts to heal stress, lethargy, foul moods, and to generally make me feel better about myself, but exercise isn’t always the answer to my health issues. Movement is a gift from God and as a personal trainer, I absolutely encourage it, but it is not a substitute for sleep when I stay up too late watching Netflix, nor is it a match for prayer when I need to spend some time raising up requests to God instead of lifting weights. Do you use exercise as a cure-all? Before you run out the door for a jog, do a quick inventory of your mind and body to see if there’s something else you need.

Stripping down to the bare necessities is freeing, but it can be a scary, vulnerable place to put yourself in. When I abstained from my usual creamer and caffeine, I not only became grouchy due to the physiological withdrawal symptoms, but started to direct my anger towards the elimination protocol I was on, the autoimmune disease that put me there, and when I really got down to it, questioned the goodness of God who created my body. I mourned for my broken condition. 

But 1 Peter 1:13 points to the fullness of time of the revelation of Christ, where all things (and bodies) will be healed. This verse gives me comfort more than any cup of coffee can, but it also tells me to prepare for action by being sober-minded. How do we get sober? We take away the influences. This is not deprivation, but fortification. We can allow ourselves to live raw, real lives, trusting that our gentle, just Jesus is faithful to cover us and fill us until the time has come for Him to restore all things. Give up your useless habits. Give in to the glory of God. He is for you and your health!