Why Bad Habits Are Actually Good For Your Relationship with God

Let’s chit-chat about bad habits, shall we? For starters, the plastic shopping bag. “But I need those bags!” say the plastic bag lovers, but what we really mean is we love those bags to carry groceries, pick up pet poop, discard vegetable peels, or line the bathroom trash can. Plastic bags are not a need. They are a habit. A routine. A convenience. And it’s one I want to break. Basic needs include food, water, exercise, sleep, shelter, clothing, education, and for some of us, Diet Coke (I’d say coffee but I’m trying to encourage the Word of Wisdom). Nowhere is there mention of plastic bags. Anyway, habits come in various flavors; good, bad, and in-between. I consider my plastic bag habit bad because they suffocate my kitchen drawers and the more I collect them, the more I depend on them and confuse it with necessity. Other bad habits I have are staring at bright screens before I go to sleep, cracking my knuckles, and tossing my socks on the floor. Sometimes we get comfortable with these habits/routines/conveniences that it’s hard to imagine life without them.

Another bad habit that people, mostly women, have is tying their self-esteem to their weight. Yes, hang on to your rotten tomatoes please because this may sound like those other thousands of lectures around the internet but I’m going there because I feel it’s extremely important. Some women weigh themselves every day — or even twice a day! Others do it, like, never. I weigh myself first thing in the morning, usually before I even say my prayers. (Sorry, Jesus. I seriously have to repent for that every. single. day.) I weigh myself after I exercise, after I brush my teeth, after I shower, before I leave the house, before a meal, and after a meal.  It’s a digital beast that is very useful for weight management but also a burden. A habit. A routine. It’s one we need to break; it’s becoming something we depend on for our happiness and we are confusing it with necessity!

Hundreds of women each year tell a similar story: weighing ourselves is a reassuring reinforcement that everything is on track (or close enough), but for many of us the scale is a tyrant, an adversary, and it never has anything nice to say. Some days, she delivers good news: “You’re down a pound!” Others, she destroys you: “You should’ve stayed away from that calorie-loaded lasagna.” Most days I’ll eat well and be feeling good, expecting to be rewarded for skipping my ultimate favorite foods, yet I’ll still be shocked to learn that I’m up half a pound. And I am devastated. I’m cranky, constantly checking myself in the mirror to see if I look fat, and sadly, I even feel worthless. Basically, I spend tons of energy and stress on the scale when chances are extremely small that my weight is actually going to change much. I depend on the scale to tell me what I’m allowed to eat for the day but stepping away from the scale can be permission to let go of the emotional roller coaster. It will be a kind of relief that can help us focus on the good things we’re doing in our lives, but what’s a compulsive weigher to do? I’ve tried for several years to find the answer but failed every time until I found the right one: RELY ON THE LORD. Uh, duh! That’s the best answer there could ever be, and let me tell you why.

I mentioned earlier the Word of Wisdom. Well, the Lord gave us this law because he wants us to be free to exercise our agency and He knows addiction can drag us down and destroy us but He also gave us the atonement to build us back up. While many have become addicted to pornography, video games, their cell phones, and even debt, physical addictions such as alcohol, drugs, and eating disorders are as much important as the others. All of us, no matter what our bad habit, we have the power rely on the Lord and we do that through the atonement and the power of prayer. There are numerous teachings about the importance of prayer found throughout the scriptures, but one specifically ties prayer to power, especially the power to resist temptation: “Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work” (D&C 10:5). This is a promise that we can conquer Satan and escape the addictions that carry out his work. There is an incredible protective power that comes into our lives through earnest, humble, consistent yearning prayer, and I promised myself today that the first moment I feel the need to know how much I weigh that day, I will distract myself with prayer. I will find a place where I can be alone with the Lord and pour out my heard to him in honesty and humility. He will “break the bonds” of my habit(s) and bless me with a greater trust in Him.

With all that said, I am ready to say a big fat sayonara to the scale but like any habit (er, obsession?) this one will be hard to break so I am looking forward to breaking it with the Lord.

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