Can I Trade Unhealthy Patterns for God-honoring Habits? With Amber Lia [Episode 202]

Trade Unhealthy Patterns God-honoring Habits Amber Lia

Do you ever feel trapped in unhealthy thinking and eating patterns? I know, me too!

The spiritual tug-of-war between bad patterns and good habits is the ultimate food fight. But the good news is that, with God’s grace, you can win! God can help you achieve a new, healthier way to live.

Today on the 4:13 Podcast, author Amber Lia will give you the practical strategies you need to leave behind feelings of defeat, overcome food triggers, and embrace healthy habits.

Amber used to be a college athlete and recreational bodybuilder, but after 10 years of marriage and five pregnancies, she realized she was among the 74% of people who are considered overweight, according to the CDC. Well, Amber went on a journey to reclaim her health, one unhealthy pattern at a time. And today, she’ll help us do the same.

Amber is now a certified health coach who inspires others through her own transformative health journey. She has written and co-authored several books including Marriage Triggers and the best-selling parenting book, Triggers. A former high-school English teacher, Amber is a sought-after mentor for women and a regular contributing writer for The Better Mom. Amber and her husband run the Storehouse Media Group, and they live in Southern California with their four boys.

I know I’m not the only one who has felt like I’ve let my body, my health, and my weight get out of control. Am I right?

So, today we talk about her book, Food Triggers: Exchanging Unhealthy Patterns for God-honoring Habits. She’s so practical about how she approached her health journey, and I love how she viewed it through the spiritual lens, seeking God for the transformation of both her mind and body. You’ll hear the Scriptures that helped guide her through the process, and you’ll also get answers to questions like…

  • Does my struggle with food indicate that I’m not spiritual enough?
  • Is it possible to not crave sugar anymore?
  • What’s the root of my desire to eat?
  • What are internal and external food triggers, and how do I fight them?
  • Is my battle with unhealthy eating actually a spiritual battle?

Amber’s journey wasn’t easy, but she didn’t give up. She recognized that she didn’t have to dissolve into defeat, but instead, she viewed her weakness as an opportunity for growth. She gave herself grace first, because of the grace she has received from God, and that grace is what fueled her ability to respond.

And today, Amber’s words will inspire you too! We’re about to exchange our unhealthy patterns for God-honoring habits, so let’s get to it.

But remember … don’t quit! It’s a process—a journey. And even if you blow it, that doesn’t erase everything you’ve done and are working toward. You can be like those trees in Psalm 92, bearing fruit at a ripe old age, fresh and green. You can do it, sister, because you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.

[Listen to the podcast using the player above, or read the transcript below. Then check out the links below for more helpful resources.]

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Episode Transcript

4:13 Podcast: Can I Trade Unhealthy Patterns for God-honoring Habits? With Amber Lia [Episode 202]

Amber Lia: And that was the image of what I wanted. I wanted to be that righteous person who was stewarding her body well, obeying the Lord in every area of my life, and bearing fruit in old age and flourishing. And so that became my shift. Instead of just looking cute, I didn't want to just look cute, I want to flourish in every aspect of my life.

Jennifer Rothschild: Do you ever feel trapped in unhealthy thinking and eating patterns? I know. Me too. The spiritual tug of war between bad patterns and good habits is the ultimate food fight. But the good news is that with God's grace, you can win. God can help you with a new, healthier way to live. Author Amber Lia is here today, and she's going to give you the practical strategies that you need to leave behind feelings of defeat, overcome food triggers, and embrace healthy habits. So let's dive into this life-giving conversation. Here we go, K.C.

K.C. Wright: Welcome to the 4:13 Podcast, where practical encouragement and biblical wisdom set you up to live the "I Can" life, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

Now, welcome your host, Jennifer Rothschild.

Jennifer Rothschild: Hello, our people. And that's my buddy, my seeing eye guy, K.C. Wright.

K.C. Wright: Hey, hey.

Jennifer Rothschild: We're just two friends sitting here in the podcast closet talking about one topic, and there is zero stress.

K.C. Wright: Zero stress.

Jennifer Rothschild: And this topic we're talking about today sometimes can feel stressful, because as I mentioned at the top, it's like a food fight. It's the ultimate food fight, this tension we feel. And I'm not surprised, because according to the CDC, about 74% of us are overweight.

K.C. Wright: Oh, wow.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. Hello?

K.C. Wright: Yeah, hello.

Jennifer Rothschild: We all can identify. And Amber had been married about ten years. She had had five pregnancies.

K.C. Wright: Wow.

Jennifer Rothschild: She used to be a college athlete and bodybuilder, and then she realized, wait a minute, I'm one of that. 74%. You know, just snuck up on her. Which is what happens, right, K.C.?

K.C. Wright: Yes, yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: I mean, one donut at a time, it sneaks up on us. And we know that frustration of feeling like, oh, we let our bodies, you know, or our weight or our health just get out of our control, and we don't like that feeling. So that's why we're going to talk about this today. Because Amber went on this journey to reclaim her health one unhealthy pattern at a time. She just got rid of one at a time. So it's super doable. And she's going to help us do that too. So we're going to exchange some unhealthy patterns for some God-honoring habits. You're going to love this. So grab your water, put on your tennis shoes. You're going to want to go for a walk while you listen to Amber.

And let's introduce her, K.C.

K.C. Wright: Let's do it. Amber Lia is a certified health coach who's been on her own health journey, and she's going to take us along with her this morning -- or -- this morning. Like I'm doing a morning show.

Jennifer Rothschild: It might be morning where they are. You never know, K.C. Just keep it going. It's morning somewhere. Just like it's 5 o'clock somewhere. But we're not talking about that today.

K.C. Wright: You know, I'm serious, this is going to be one of the most important podcasts, because we have one body that keeps us on the planet. We have one earth suit. And so it's important, very important, on how we treat this temple that God has given us.

Anyway, Amber has written and coauthored several books, including "Marriage Triggers" and the best-selling parenting book "Triggers." A former high school English teacher, Amber is a sought-after mentor for women and a contributing writer for "The Better Mom." Amber and her husband run the Storehouse Media Group, and they live in Southern California with their four boys.

Jennifer Rothschild: All right, Amber. I remember reading that you were a college athlete, a bodybuilder, I think a recreational bodybuilder, and then ten years into marriage, five pregnancies later, you began to experience maybe some different -- a different relationship with your body, some weight gain, that kind of thing. So I would love for you to kind of take us to that before, the after, all the feelings in between. We want to know your story, because I think it might sound a lot like ours. Well, not the bodybuilding part, but at least the rest.

Amber Lia: Yes. Thank you, Jennifer. You know, I really loved competition when I was in college, and I enjoyed being with people, and so I naturally gravitated toward a lot of the sports-oriented things, whether it was intramurals or running on the college cross-country team. It was a really meaningful time in my life, but I didn't have a healthy mindset at the time. I knew there were health benefits to doing those things, to being physically active, but that really wasn't my motivation at the time in my youth, right?

As I went on and began to adult -- right? -- we go into different seasons of our lives. And with the different responsibilities that I had, and then eventually starting a family, I had less and less time to commit to that level of athleticism. I did do recreational bodybuilding, before I had kids, for a number of years. And I basically would teach all day -- I was a high school teacher -- and then I didn't have much of a life, so I just went to the gym, and at the gym is where I spent just a lot of my time. And I did develop some good, healthy habits during that season, but it wasn't, again, something where I was doing it to steward my body well really from a very pure place, admittedly.

And eventually when I started having children and even more responsibilities, the time frame that I had to take care of myself began to slip away. And I think a lot of people feel that way, that we're --

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

Amber Lia: -- you know, many of us are nurturing, especially if we love the Lord and we want to serve and we're active in our communities and in our churches, in the lives of our families, we tend to put ourselves on the back burner and last. And that's what happened with me. And eventually also just a lot of emotional mismanagement. Went through some loss, some trials, difficult times. I loved the Lord, but I was not handling a lot of my emotions well and I started to just -- you know, really at the end of the day, feeling tired and empty and really would just love to sink into the couch and eat ice cream. And that's where I found just some momentary reliefs and pleasure then followed by a lot of guilt. So it wasn't a good cycle, but that was my story.

And I just came to a turning point a few years ago where I said, okay, enough of that. I got to get my act together and steward this body well because I've got these sweet, precious four boys in my life now and I want to be my best for them and I want to live life to the full as God designed.

Jennifer Rothschild: And you need the energy to take care of four boys.

But, you know, I love that you said, Amber, that you shifted into this idea of stewardship of your body, not, oh, I just need to lose weight. Because then it would be another form of competition against yourself, I got to achieve this. And I love that you were talking about a stewardship of your body so that your body can serve you so that you can serve the Lord, which is what I'm hearing you say, which is very liberating. But I know there's some people listening who are like -- especially Christians, right? They think, well, gosh, if I were Christian enough, spiritual enough, or had my act together even emotionally -- right? -- then I wouldn't struggle with food, this wouldn't be an issue. So I'm curious if that was you at all and what you would say to somebody who might feel that way.

Amber Lia: It's very much how I felt, Jennifer. I'm so glad you brought that up, because this is a sticky topic. It's one that I really hope comes across very kindly, because we can be very hard on ourselves. And especially when we love the Lord and we start saying, well, if I was not struggling with this, then I would be a better Christian. I must have something wrong with me, I must not be close enough to the Lord. What's going on? And I hope that we understand that it's possible to be in a good place spiritually but not to be perfect. Right? We're going to still have our struggles.

2 Corinthians 12:9 says, "But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ's power may rest on me." So if we can get to a place where we say, okay, this is an area of weakness for me, but I don't have to dissolve into defeat, what I can do is recognize this is an opportunity. And really every trigger in our lives is an opportunity for growth.

And so I looked at my own situation, my weakness in this area of food, and said, okay, Lord, this is my weakness, I'm going to be honest. I know that we're good in a lot of ways, you and I, Lord Jesus, but I do need help in this area and so I'm going to count on your strength to help me through. But then I also had to get really practical and live it out, yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, and I love that your book does get practical, because -- well, we need the practical, yet you put it in the right order because you get the grace first. You know that this is grace from the Lord that's going to fuel your ability to respond to these practical tips.

And I want us to get to the what -- right? -- the what of your book, because I know that's going to be some of the practical. But before we get there, I want us to deal with the why, because we need a why. So tell us why we need a why, why we should keep the why in mind, and why that matters for our journey, health journey.

Amber Lia: Absolutely. So your why is that thing, that reason, that motivation of why am I making a change in the first place? Why do I need to maybe examine my behaviors, my patterns, and make some changes? And so everybody's why will probably be a little bit different, though having worked with thousands of people in this area of their lives, I do see some pretty common themes and threads and why a lot of us want to get healthy. But most of us, especially those of us that are believers, we definitely feel a measure of conviction that we do want to steward this temple well, this body that we have.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

Amber Lia: For me personally, I was also starting to have some medical issues that began to flare up that I was concerned about. And I had just celebrated my son's second birthday three years ago when I decided I needed to make a change. And I recognized -- he had been this happy surprise baby in my early forties, which was lovely, but I knew when he turned two, that that wasn't baby weight anymore, that I couldn't really claim that, that there were patterns I needed to look at, and that I needed to make some change. And I looked to my future, and I said, okay, I see myself in 5 years, in 10 years, in 20 years, in 30 years, Lord willing if I'm still here, and what's my life going to look like if I keep going with this same trajectory? And it actually scared me a little bit. And it also made me a bit sad because I thought, I think what I'm doing is I'm setting myself up for the nursing home, not the cruise ship. And I want to be living life to the fullest, I want to be on that cruise ship with my family. I want to get my hands dirty doing ministry when I'm old, not just now. I want to be able to be free to do all the things that God wants me to do.

And really, for me personally, my why was Psalm 92:12-14. It says, "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green." And that was the image of what I wanted. I wanted to be that righteous person who was stewarding her body well, obeying the Lord in every area of my life, and bearing fruit in old age and flourishing.

And so that became my shift. Instead of just looking cute --

Jennifer Rothschild: Right.

Amber Lia: -- I didn't want to just look cute, I want to flourish in every aspect of my life, and I knew that getting healthy was an important part of that. So your why, it's going to motivate you, it's going to clarify your choices, and it's going to keep you going when the going gets tough, because the tough and the challenges, they will come.

Jennifer Rothschild: Good night, they will come every 10 seconds, yeah.

Amber Lia: That's right, mm-hmm.

Jennifer Rothschild: I appreciate what you're saying. Because I made a shift like you're speaking of a few years ago. I've had this on-and-off relationship with my food and my eating for years, and I fluctuate. In fact, I do Bible studies on video, and women will always say, "Oh, you're so much smaller than I thought you were." And I'm like, "Well, you must have watched such and such video, because, yes, right now I am. But wait till the next one, I'll be bigger again."

Amber Lia: Right?

Jennifer Rothschild: So that was my history. But about a year and a half ago, physical things were showing up. And it really was this thing I realized during the pandemic. I just was like live and let live, dude, and I ate and ate. And sugar was my thing. And I realized -- the Lord just showed me, you don't -- that it's messing with you. It's messing with your body, it's messing with your emotions. And he really did help me. It was a hard transition, but he helped me. And I have not had sugar and I feel a million times better. And so I'm saying that to you and to our listeners, because what happened is God turned something that was a shackle in my life into a non-issue. And there's such freedom in non-issues.

And for me, the why was -- for me, I feel like I'm addicted, and that's -- I don't want to be a slave to anything. I want to be your servant. And so that was my why. And so every time when I felt the temptation, I was like, no, the white devil, the sugar, is not my boss. I am not a slave to him. And so I appreciate --because I would have failed without the why. I failed a million times without the why. So I'm glad you're starting with the why.

But I know in your book, then, you get to your what. Okay? So we're going to get to the what now here for a second.

Amber Lia: Sounds good.

Jennifer Rothschild: Because your book, I think it's 30 or 31 chapters -- which I noted was like every day of the month.

Amber Lia: Right.

Jennifer Rothschild: Each addresses a trigger, and with each trigger you put a truth with it that counteracts it, and then you end with a prayer. I'd love for you to give us an example. Like, what's an example of a truth trigger?

Amber Lia: Yeah. So, for example, let's just piggyback off of what you just shared. A lot of us are addicted to sugar, and that's a big one. And unfortunately, sugar is in just about everything, right?

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes. Yes.

Amber Lia: Yeah. And we don't realize it. And so I think being mindful is a really foundational step toward making any changes in our health journey, because a lot of us are simply unaware of what's in our food. And so one of the things we talk about is learning to read labels. We don't want to become obsessed with that, but when we start to become more aware of what's in our food, now we have the freedom to make different choices.

And there's a verse in Romans 13:14 that says, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires." So there will come a time and a place, if we've detoxed from sugar, where we're not even craving it anymore. But initially I needed to make sure that I wasn't even making provision for that desire. To try to satisfy in a temporary way really what was a deeper longing within me that was really only going to be filled by my trust in the Lord.

And so I had to clean out my pantry. I mean, honestly, if we open up our freezer -- if ice cream every night was such a struggle for me, why was I continuing to put it in my freezer in the first place? Until I could get to a place where that was no longer a draw for me, that was really important. So just practically to make that step, but to understand that spiritually, even -- you know, the Lord reminds us, let's not make provision for the flesh. Let's not even lean toward gratifying those desires.

And what's really the root of that desire anyway? What's really going on? Oh, Amber, you haven't really fully processed the grief from that miscarriage several years ago. You've got this little empty thing inside of you that you don't want to think about at night when your kids go to sleep, and you're turning to ice cream. And so you need to get with the Lord for a minute and really work through that and recognize that this is really the root issue. And so that takes some time and some doing, but it is so worth it, because we cannot gratify the flesh and live life to the full.

Jennifer Rothschild: Amen. That's so good, Amber. And you're right, the provision, making provision. I never thought about that, but that is kind of what I did a year and a half ago when I just cleaned out every single thing. We read every label and pulled out everything with sugar.

Amber Lia: Awesome.

Jennifer Rothschild: But that's -- I didn't think that's what we were doing, but that is what we were doing, and I'm grateful for the grace. I highly recommend that.

But then you just touched on something that leads me to this next thought. Because I know in your book you talk about the difference between internal and external triggers. So when you said you need to go a little bit deeper and see which hole the ice cream was trying to fill, is that what you're talking about as an internal trigger? So give us an idea of what is an internal, what's an external trigger, and how do we fight them.

Amber Lia: So those external triggers are the things that really are not coming necessarily from within us that trip us up, but they're things in our environment, so on and so forth. So, for example, you know the holidays, right? The holidays are always going to happen, and so often we put off our health journey or making changes because we say, well, Christmas is coming, or the 4th of July is coming, or whatever, and we have to learn to manage life and all the different things that are going to come at us, the holidays, the birthday parties, the church gatherings, the potlucks, the in-laws who have certain expectations of us, you know, whatever it may be. It could even just be simply things like travel. You know, you're going on a vacation and you've made some progress, and now you've got this trip coming up and how do you handle it? So those are just different external things, triggers that can trip us up. The internal triggers are the things that tend to be, again, coming from within us: emotional mismanagement when we are bored; the sugar addiction, that chemical response within our body; negative self-talk -- right? -- that shaming language; those kinds of things. Even stress is another one. So I'm betting that as people are listening, they're nodding their head like, yeah, I'm a stress eater; yeah, you know, I always have trouble when the holidays come. And so we try to just really pinpoint these are the things -- after thousands of conversations with people, these are the 31 most common things that tend to trip people up.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay, that's really good. Because what's interesting to me too, as you were even naming some of them, in some ways -- like, we can all relate to all of them in different days, you know. I mean, some of us relate to stress by not eating. Which is just as dysfunctional. You know, let's just be honest, it is. You just don't gain as much weight from it, but it's just as dysfunctional.

Amber Lia: It's not healthy, yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: It's not healthy. It's not healthy.

But what I have appreciated -- and I know that our listeners have noticed this -- every answer you've given, for the most part you've given a Scripture to support it, which to me shows that this -- like everything else, this is a spiritual endeavor. And the weapons of our warfare, they are not flimsy and fleshly, no. They are mighty unto God. And so through his grace we can respond to this as stewards of the body that God has given us.

So I'm highly recommending your book, because I know how practical it is. But we're going to get to our last question here, sister. Okay?

Amber Lia: Sure.

Jennifer Rothschild: Because I know, just like me, there are some people listening, thinking, okay, yeah, I want to tighten up a little bit in this area and I want to get healthy or I want to get healthier -- right? -- but they're not exactly sure where to start because it can feel so overwhelming, as you know.

Amber Lia: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: All right. So give us some very simple, practical tips, like, that they can just add into their -- when they wake up tomorrow, what can they add into their routine?

Amber Lia: Yeah. Okay, so even better than tomorrow, here's a couple of things they can do today.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay, good.

Amber Lia: Okay. So -- yeah. So first of all, we way underestimate the value of hydration. It's one of the simple healthy habits that we advocate for, is getting at least eight 8-ounce glasses a day of water in your system. Your body is not going to store water. And it's so critical for organ function, for your skin, for weight loss, all manner of health benefits for proper hydration. So that's one that we can start on. And I was nowhere close to that when I started three years ago, and I've released 85 pounds from my body, believe it or not. So this was a big weight loss journey for me. But that water was hard for me at first. It wasn't even just cutting out the sugar, it was just trying to get the water in. But it does make a big difference. So that's one thing that we can do right away.

The second thing we can do even today is protect our sleep. And we want to try to get at least seven hours every night. That does affect weight loss, but all other manner of health benefits too, your cognitive thinking. There's study upon study that shows the benefits of healthy sleep.

And so, you know, as a mom, I realized that I was really good at tucking my kids into bed and honoring their bedtime, but then I was not doing that for myself. And I thought, Amber, there's nobody that's going to come over and tuck you in, you got to do that for yourself. So I made a commitment. I just made a decision. And a lot of these healthy habits really are going to be coming down to making a decision that I was going to go to bed a little bit earlier and protect that sleep. And so that's super important.

And then another third super practical and very simple thing that we can do is to really be more mindful of portion sizes. And if we start again looking at the labels -- like, if you were to come to my house and I handed my kids a bag of some kind of a food item, they would just wait patiently until they either got up and got themselves a bowl or I handed them one, because they know to not just eat right out of the bag. They know to put a portion of something inside a vessel and then to eat it. And so that helps us recognize how much should we be eating, what's a normal portion size. And that alone can minimize a lot of overeating and just that mindless eating. And so those are just a few practical things that people can do right from the beginning.

But lastly, Jennifer, the thing that is, I think, critical is that whatever plan people choose, whatever option they take on to try to get healthier, the key is to recognize that -- if you backslide a little bit, if you make a mistake, the key is to not quit. The key is to keep going and to know that one meal, one choice to eat off plan doesn't erase a healthy lifestyle. And that's what we're after. We're not focusing on the scale, we're not rigid in our mindset. We're making progress day by day, yielding to the Lord perfecting us day by day. That is a process. And so we don't want to quit on ourselves. We don't want to abandon the future that we want. We want to simply recognize that we're human, there's lots of grace, but let's keep going in the right direction. If your child's learning to walk and they stumble and they fall, they don't sit down and say, "I'm never going to walk again, that was not worth it," right?

Jennifer Rothschild: Right.

Amber Lia: They get up and they keep going, even if it takes a while, but they keep making progress. And that's what we're going to do on our health journey too.

K.C. Wright: There you heard it. Drink water, sleep seven hours, and pay attention to portion sizes.

Jennifer Rothschild: Doable, right?

K.C. Wright: Oh, man.

Jennifer Rothschild: Very doable. And do not quit.

K.C. Wright: Don't quit.

Jennifer Rothschild: It's a process. It's a journey. And just because you blow it doesn't erase everything that you've done in the past and that you're working toward. Okay? Amber is super right about this. And this was really rich.

K.C. Wright: Yes. And you want her book. I want her book. It really, really is --

Jennifer Rothschild: Practical.

K.C. Wright: -- practical and feels like a grace-filled friend walking with you. We will have a link to her book on the show notes at And there will also be a transcript just for you of this incredible conversation right there as well.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yep. All right, our people. We are lifting our 8 ounces of water to you right now, cheering you on. And let's be like those trees Amber mentioned in Psalm, bearing fruit at a ripe old age, fresh and green to the very end. We can because we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. I can.

K.C. Wright: I can.

Jennifer and K.C.: And you can.

K.C. Wright: You really can. Don't quit.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.

K.C. Wright: You know, the Bible talks about there's a season of joy, there's a season to weep, a season to cry, a season to dance, but there's never a season to quit.

Jennifer Rothschild: There's never a season to quit.

K.C. Wright: And even if I halfway motivate myself to get out to my garage gym and I -- sometimes I'll throw it down for a couple of hours and I'm like, oh, something happened there. But then there are times where I'm like, oh, I sandbagged and that was a lame workout. But you know what? You're still making laps around the people sitting on the couch.

Jennifer Rothschild: Good word.

K.C. Wright: Some exercise is better than no exercise.

Jennifer Rothschild: That is the good word for the day.


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