Woman #1: Cookies like Oreos and stuff, like those are amazing, and they’re just really good to like if you’re having a bad day, just to sit and have milk and cookies, like a couple of them.
Woman #2: Popcorn at the movie theater, this stuff is totally covered with butter.
Man #1: I can always go for like the chip stuff, yeah, chips are amazing. (laughs)
End of Preview
John Fuller: Well, if you’re like most people, most of us during the holidays, you ate a lot more cookies, popcorn and other junk food than normal. And today on Focus on the Family, we’re going to revisit a Best of 2021 program that has some great ideas for a fresh start related to food as we begin this new year. Your host is Focus president and health advocate, Jim Daly (laughing) and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: Hey you slipped that one in. Health advocate.
Jim: Wait a second here. Hey, a survey found that two of the most common New Year’s resolutions are to eat healthier and lose weight. Have you made your… (laughing)?
John: I don’t make resolutions.
Jim: (Laughing) okay. I think I’ve done that a few times, but, uh, I don’t know that I stuck with it, but we’ll talk about that later.
John: That’s another program.
Jim: You know, they are great goals. Uh, and as Christians I think it’s important to consider that relationship that we have with God, and what we have with food and what we need to do to commit to become closer to Him. And maybe not as close to the Oreos, that’s the way to go. There’s a reminder in the Old Testament that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. And that’s the goal of our discussion today. Uh, we often focus on marriage and parenting John, but today it is gonna be about food and diet and those things. I’m always uncomfortable, so I’ll hand it over to you John, go ahead.
John: Well here is a spiritual thread-
Jim: See you guys later.
John: Throughout the conversation today (laughing). Uh, we have a very popular guest, uh, uh, coming back to us today, Wendy Speake, who is an author and speaker, and a wife and mom of three boys. And we’ll be talking about her great book, The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation. And we have copies of that book here at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 800-A-FAMILY. And Jim we’re always happy to have your wife Jean with us as well and here she is.
Jim: Here she is. And I wanna say welcome to both of you.
Wendy Speake: Thank you, thank you so much. I’m happy to be here.
Jean Daly: Always a pleasure being here.
Jim: Now I wanna make sure people understand Jean, I did not invite you to this broadcast (laughing). Catherine, our producer-
Jean: Oh, sure.
Wendy: Oh, I thought you gonna say she invited herself. Catherine, the producer.
Jim: Catherine, the producer set me up a little bit here. Cause Jean will think what did you say that I needed to come to this program? (Laughing).
Jean: Right I need, I need a sugar fast.
John: It’s an intervention for Jean yeah.
Jim: So I just want every, everybody listening that it was not my direction that Jean should join today, but I’m, I’m really glad you’re here. And Catherine I’m glad you thought of that as the producer. But uh, you know, let’s get into it. Uh, you had the revelation Wendy one day that you were a bonafide sugar addict. Now, everybody except the drivers put your hand up if you can (laughing) identify with the sugar addiction that compels and grabs this culture? I mean it’s amazing. How, how’d you come to that realization and what happened when you posted about it online Wendy?
Wendy: Right. Great question and I think it’s a great place to start. I love that you said usually that we are here talking about parenting, and today we’re talking about really more a health topic. But I have to tell you that when I posted that my name is Wendy and I’m a sugar addict, I wrote it to the moms.
Wendy: And they all responded in mass, uh, me too. My name is Jenny, my name is Susan, my name is dot, dot, dot, you fill in the blank, I’m a sugar addict too. And I’ve been here with you guys before and we’ve talked about angry reactionary parenting. And it was in a group like that where I said what would happen if we set down sugar for 40 days? Physiologically what would happen? Would it make us calmer, kinder, more consistent with our kids, maybe even more Christlike? But instead of it just being a sugar detox, could it be a spiritual fast? And that’s where it started. And hundreds of people, and then thousands of people started doing it. By the second year we had thousands of people. By, I think the fifth year we had 15, 20,000 people fasting with us. And uh, now we have a resource, The 40-day Sugar Fast and that’s what we’re here talking about. That you can choose any time of the year. You don’t have to wait for me leading an online group to fast from sugar in order to feast on Christ, to stop turning to sugar highs to get us through our hard days but start turning to the Most High.
Jim: Well that’s I mean that’s a fair point. And, you know, some people might think this is a little silly talking about sugar, you know. Of course, I have sugar in my coffee, or I have sugar this way or that way. But our culture, our, our dietary culture is just dripping with sugar, isn’t it?
Wendy: Yes, it is.
Jim: I mean they put sugar in everything.
Wendy: They put sugar in everything. And people always wanna know yeah, but what exactly am I fasting from? And because it is a fast and it’s not a diet, you take it to the Lord and say God, I know there’s a stronghold in my life. And that’s, I love that word stronghold. God said so clearly to us throughout the scriptures I’m a stronghold. Run into Me when you’re having a hard day with your kids. Run into Me when there are struggles in your life and I will keep you safe and I will get you through this battle. And when we turn to anything to get us through our days that isn’t Christ, and we turn to it repeatedly, that thing often ends up as a stronghold. So I hear people say yes, I have got a sugar addiction it’s a stronghold in my life.
Jim: And we’re gonna get to that. And Jean you have a couple of stories and I think that’s why Catherine thought it’d be great to have you here, so we’ll get to those stories in a second. But Wendy, uh, you advocate for a complete fast from sugar really, really?
Wendy: Well, I don’t know if I would say-
Jim: What about that donut?
Jim: Just one donut.
Wendy: It is a complete fast from sugar, but there are people that have been ingesting sugar as their, think about that, that pyramid that we all saw in history class, I mean not in history class, nutrition class science class, when we were in, what was it? Sixth grade. And you’ve got the fruits and vegetables and the meat and cheeses, and then at the very top of the pyramid you have the, the fats and the sugars, right?
Wendy: And then we flipped our pyramid and we’ve got some of us really-
Jim: Well that’s true.
Wendy: We wake up and we have a leftover brownie with our highly sugared latte. And then we miss lunch, but we have some leftovers again, of the whatever treats our kids had for, um, you know, their snack. And then for dinner, well we have something sort of healthy, but we put the kids down for the night and then we have a bowl of ice cream. Just, you know, we need a reward for making it through another hard day.
Jim: Hey, have you been talking to Jean? (Laughing). What are you doing here? It’s terrible. You giving her intel.
Wendy: I know.
John: Now you’re not saying sugar is the problem.
John: But you’re saying it’s a very common thing that we can start to use to kind of reset.
Wendy: Yes. You know, God never asked us for a sugar sacrifice, He asked us for a living sacrifice. And so I think sugar’s one of those things getting in the way of living life for Christ. We’re so bound up either how the sugar is affecting us physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Or we’re distracted about living our life for Christ because all we can think about is that next thing that we want to get us through. Our, our appetite is our God, rather than God being our God.
Jim: Yeah. And I so appreciate it, I mean I have been reading quite a bit about the impact sugar has on your body. It’s really a poison to your body. I don’t know why that is something that tastes so good ends up being like the worst thing you could ingest, but it’s true. And, uh, the component about that emotional eating, and Jean I’m gonna come to you in just a second, because I want your perspective on that. But, uh, Wendy, how did that start for you that emotional connection to sweets?
Wendy: Oh, well I think it started way back when I was a kiddo. And I would get my two-dollar allowance on a Friday, and I’d hop on my little pink bicycle with a, you know, wicker basket in the front. And I’d, I’d ride to my friend Carrie’s house and pick her up and, and she’d hop on her scooter, and we’d go down to the corner liquor store. And we’d go in and you know how some of those doors they ring like a bell announces when someone like I can hear it in my memory so clearly. And I’d go and I’d, I’d grab all the candies, all the gobstoppers, and the now and laters, and the lemon drops. I mean all of it, whatever two dollars could buy, and we’d go back to Carrie’s house, and we’d just binge right (laughing). And, um, and I was also a, um, a latchkey kid. My parents divorced when I was very young, and I would come home as I was growing up to an empty house. And I was very well loved, I’m not blaming my parents’ divorce I’m just telling a story.
Wendy: And, uh, my mom sometimes had in the back of the fridge, one of those Betty Crocker, um, vanilla icing-
Jean: Oh yes.
Wendy: Tubs you know. And she’d sometimes for dessert spread it on a gram cracker or something like that. Well, I would eat it straight out of the can when I was by myself. I would just find whatever was there and I would eat it. And it filled the emptiness. Even before I knew there was sadness, it just filled the space and I felt happy. And you must know there’s a dopamine release right, when we have some sugar. And we’re adults and we see how it affects our kids, but is it possible moms and dads that it’s affecting us negatively as well?
Jim: Yeah, that dopamine, that points to addiction.
Jim: Uh, Jean how are you relating to this when it comes to the emotional connection to eating?
Jean: Oh, I definitely relate to this. And I can think of an example when our boys were younger, and Jim was traveling-
Jean: I would put them to bed.
Jean: Grab some chocolate and sit down in front of the computer and do email. And this was happening so consistently I finally recognized this was an unhealthy pattern, you know, and really started asking myself why, why am I doing this? And why do I need the chocolate every time? And was able to process it and find some healthier alternatives to that. Which is, I mean that’s what your book addresses. That’s exactly what your book is talking about.
Wendy: Except we’re not looking for alternatives that are healthy food options. We’re talking about crowding out the sugar by ingesting, consuming, gobbling up more of enjoying God’s presence in our lives, turning to His sweet and satisfying word. And, um, it’s just been so cool because a diet it’ll change your body, it’ll change your eating, it’ll change your health. It’ll even change some of your behaviors and your emotions, but a fast will change your whole life. And it’s really powerful. When you diet you say I’m gonna crowd out that sugar with more healthy food options. But when you fast you say I’m gonna crowd out what I’m running to, what I’m turning to by turning to Christ.
Jim: Yeah. Wendy, you explain in the book you use the analogy of a candy cane and how that connects to sweets and a dependence in the wrong direction. I think you’re getting there right now, but what was the candy cane analogy?
Wendy: Candy canes, who doesn’t love candy cane? We just made it through Christmas, I love candy canes (laughing). Um, and I know-
Jim: I actually don’t like them that much (laughing).
Wendy: Okay. But I know a lot of people that love the candy cane creamer for their coffee.
Jean: Oh yes.
Wendy: Okay now we’re-
Jim: That sounds like pure sugar.
Wendy: That’s just pure sugar, liquid sugar to sweeten your coffee. Um, so now that we’ve broadened the, you know, temptation of the candy cane. You know, candy cane we, a lot of us will teach it to our children, you know, it’s shaped like a, a shepherd’s staff, right?
Wendy: It’s also shaped like a, a cane. And if you lean on the cane of sugar to get you through your days, it’s not gonna be able to sustain you. But God invites us, He says you come to Me when you’re heavy, uh, laden.
Jean: That’s right.
Wendy: You lean on Me, and I will get you through. I will give you rest, I will get you across the finish line, not only into the eternal glory, but through your days. He also said come to Me, cast your cares and your anxiety upon Me, and I’ll get you through. And when we turn to something else to get us through our days, it just doesn’t work.
John: Today on Focus on the Family our guests are Wendy Speake and Jean Daly. And, uh, we’re talking about Wendy’s book, The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation. And we’ll encourage you to get your copy when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY, or at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: Let me ask both of you, I’ll start with you Wendy. But in our society, you know, it’s very accepted, even encouraged for women to become obsessed with healthy eating and weight loss.
Jim: And of course if anything’s taken to an extreme it becomes unhealthy even healthiness.
Jim: And, uh, I really want to, uh, touch on that. Jean you, you had kind of that experience in college, where eating correctly and it kind of became the thing for you. Describe what happened?
Jean: Oh, absolutely. Uh, there was a time during college where I was at least borderline anorexic. And then a little after that struggled for a short time with bulimia. And two things that really stand out to me even today about that, was one how affirming society is to our rail thin bodies.
Jean: I mean it is-
Jim: What did that sound like? What did people say?
Jean: Oh, you know, have you lost weight?
Wendy: You look so great (laughing).
Jean: You look great. And I, I knew it. I, I, at that time I was younger I, I knew I looked good and that’s very affirming. But also the what’s really frightening is the amount of control I felt and how powerful that was.
Jean: I mean that’s a bizarre and frightening aspect of it, that I could control my body so much that I could control even hunger.
Jean: And, uh, and that’s so unhealthy that’s-
Wendy: No, but when life feels out of control and you need to experience some control, it’s a very, very typical, um, struggle. For women especially, but even for young men in this generation.
Wendy: I’m seeing that anorexia is a response to feeling out of control and the need to be in control.
Jean: And even though I would say for at least a decade after that, even though my body was getting healthier, that I realized whether I was rail thin or, or healthy looking, I was still obsessing about food.
Jean: What I was eating, what I was going to eat, what I wasn’t eating. And coming to the realization that is not God’s best for us to be obsessing and worried about what we look like, what we’re eating.
Wendy: It took me a few years of leading this online 40-day sugar fast to stop feeling stressed about this one thing. I never talk about food. During the 40 days we don’t talk about food, I don’t give them a to-do or to don’t list. I don’t tell them what to eat, what not to eat. We don’t go from a food fixation, a sugar fixation to a sugar-free fixation. We fix our eyes on Christ because He’s the only one that’s gonna fix things. And so that really is what is the difference between a diet and a fast, is we are fixing our eyes on Him and not healthy eating habits.
John: I appreciate that. And you know, uh, Wendy Jim mentioned, uh, about this obsession with healthy, and I had a daughter who for a season was she was fixated on healthy.
John: And the doctor finally said you’re gonna have to hit a program because you are really underweight. And she was startled because she’s like but I’m healthy, I’m eating well. And in fact, she just starved her mind.
John: And was making bad decisions. How do we avoid that, uh, with regard to any food, sugar or otherwise?
Wendy: You know, I feel like we’re doing a little role reversal here John. Because I would love to take a moment to pitch (laughing) calling in right now if you have a loved one that you can tell that they are struggling with an eating disorder. Um, or if you yourself know that you’re struggling with an eating disorder and you need some wise biblical counsel, take a moment. John’s gonna drop all the info here (laughing), this is what we pay him for. And he’s gonna tell you what that number is later. Um, however, I actually just had a conversation with a friend of mine who has been on the admin team. And she said, “Wendy, um, my daughter is, uh, has been diagnosed with anorexia, and, um, she’s back home with us as she’s getting healthy. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do the sugar fast this year.” Meaning lead it with me. And I said, “I actually suggest that you don’t.” Because people who have struggled with taking things in a very strong way out of their diet for a season to practice control-
Wendy: Might not need that example in front of, even if you’re doing it for the right reasons. So, you know, there’s a lot of psychology there.
John: It, it was a really interesting season for us, and I did not know that there’s an orthorexia, uh, this obsession with being super healthy that, that can become quite dangerous.
Jim: Yeah. Let me go back to that snacking and feasting on God’s word. You’ve mentioned this a couple times now, but I wanna, you know, really put an emphasis I guess on it. Um, when you have that craving, you’re suggesting turn to God, maybe read His word.
Jim: Um, I wanna be really clear so people that are hearing that as a behavioral pattern, that when I wanna sit down like Jean was doing, put the boys to bed, Jim’s on the road I can do my emails. Oh, but you know having that chocolate with doing the emails is kind of a treat and it’s a reward, I’ve worked hard today. I mean you go through all that justification. Take that example. I mean what’s a Christ-centered way to meet that craving?
Wendy: I think once you recognize that you’re turning to sugar for comfort or reward or companionship, or to heal a, you know, a decades-old wound. I feel neglected today, I don’t feel affirmed today, I feel ugly today. And so I’m gonna make myself feel good and ugly at the same time. I mean it’s really a deep, deep hurting place that a lot of people eat from. But when you start recognizing it and you start saying Lord, in those moments, I want to turn to You. Then I’ve heard people say that during times of fasting their hunger pangs become like church bells, calling them to prayer.
Wendy: And so I say to people when we’re fasting, you know, this isn’t just taking out sugar and replacing it with healthy food. Let yourself get hungry. Because food issues really is a hunger problem, but it’s not a hunger like I’m hungry and I’m eating the wrong thing. It’s we have misplaced hunger. We are turning to food to meet our deepest needs. Whether it’s companionship with a husband traveling or loneliness or heartbreak. So let us turn to Him with all of those emotions. What are your triggers for why you’re turning to food? Uh, you can answer that better than I can. And when you recognize those times, I oftentimes my biggest triggers are happiness. Oh, my kids are all home. Oh, we it’s someone’s birthday. Oh, we did well. Oh, you know, it’s-
Jim: Let’s bake a cake.
Wendy: Let’s bake a cake. I want to love on you, let’s make cookies. And, and we celebrate with sugar. Okay how can I do that in a way that will help us to remain physically, emotionally, even relationally healthy? And let’s make some different changes. And during the sugar fast is a great time to pinpoint huh, why am I havi- feeling that strong urge to turn to that age old thing that I’ve always turned to since I was, you know, seven years old on my little pink bike? What am I metaphorically running to sugar for right now, peddling to sugar for? And then making some different habits. I, in the sugar fast, there’s a story I tell where one day I put my Bible on my cake platter-
Jim: Oh, this is where I wanted to go.
Jean: I love that.
Wendy: Oh good.
Jim: I was gonna ask you about this.
Wendy: And it’s a reminder for me there that I don’t need to turn to food as much as I need to turn to my sweet savior. And for the moms listening, cause I know that’s really the lion’s share of this audience. What I found is that sugar doesn’t make me sweet, but Christ does.
Jim: That’s good.
Jean: That’s good.
Wendy: And so what am I gonna do? If I really say I wanna stop yelling at my kids, I wanna stop acting emotionally when they act emotionally. I wanna stop melting down when they melt down. Okay, well what are some practical things you can do? And really one of those practical things is more time in God’s word, less time in your pantry.
Jean: Oh, that’s good. That’s, that’s great advice.
Jim: You have, you have, uh, said these things a few times cause it’s rolling off your tongue.
Jim: Let me ask you this, you’re talking about those crutches, those things that you lean into sugar for. I’m sitting here going maybe I’m missing the mark; I just like the way it tastes.
Wendy: I know.
Jim: I mean there’s nothing, I’m not seeing anything underlying the fact that a Snickers bar is pretty good.
Jim: But I mean, am I missing it? Is-
Wendy: No, I think you’re also a man. And uh, (laughing) I, so and, and I’m not making a comment about men miss things (laughing). I’m talking about I think that men turn to food for a couple of reasons. One it’s just a fun part of their day.
Wendy: Right? It’s oh, I love a good meal. But also there is that dopamine release and it do- you do feel good at the end of the day. I know that my husband tends to when he’s struggling with work or relationships, he’ll even say to me, “I just need a win.”
Jim: Oh, that’s interesting.
Wendy: And sometimes that means that he’s in his, um, garage working on a car. That to him is a win. Or buying a car (laughing) for goodness sakes right.
Jim: Well getting sugar because you couldn’t get the nut in the screw (laughing).
Wendy: And for him it often is food.
John: There you go.
Jim: I got the bolt on there right.
Wendy: Right. And he’ll come in and just start looking for, for something to eat. And I’m like you’re just looking for a win. So aware or unaware it’s part of us.
Jim: No, I like that. Wendy, as we’re wrapping up here, um, speak to that person who maybe has tried to connect with God around this area, but, you know, struggles to feel like God’s even listening. It’s not connecting for them for whatever reason. What would you say to that person that feels that distance? They’d love to turn to Christ, but they’re not getting that dopamine hit let’s just put it that way. There’s something missing there and they’re continually beating themselves up cause they’re going back to, you know-
Wendy: Oh yes.
Jim: Something they shouldn’t eat to get that comfort rather than the word.
Wendy: I would say if you are convicted, whether in this conversation or you have been for years and years, you’re turning to sugar too often and for the wrong reasons. Matthew chapter six, God invites us, Jesus invites us. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things that are concerning you today, I’m there with you, I’m gonna take care of those too. I’m in the midst of those struggles. But if you go to meet those needs first, just like seeking Me first will crowd out those struggles, going to those struggles first will crowd out Me. We know that God’s word says with Christ these things are possible. So if you have said, eh, it’s not possible. That’s a diet. If you say I lack self-control, I’m saying you don’t need self-control you need God control. And that’s the difference between a diet and a fast. If diets have not worked for you… You guys were joking at the beginning about have you made your New Year’s resolutions? I wanna encourage you don’t make a resolution, make a revolution. Invite God to do something revolutionary, new in your life. During these 40 days say I can’t do it God. So you asked me speak to the person who can’t do it, who’s tried and failed. You can’t do it, let God do it. And that’s the difference between the, the diet that you fail and the fast that is all about spending time, putting your full attention, leaning your full weight not on the sugar cane, not on the candy cane, but on the shepherd’s staff and on the shepherd. Throw your anxiety, throw your full weight upon me.
Jim: That is good. And it helps to put your Bible in your cake pan (laughing).
Wendy: Not your cake pan, your cake stand.
Jim: I love it. Your cake stand right. I just see that glass-
Wendy: You don’t have a cake pan if you don’t have a cake stand.
John: Bibles everywhere.
Wendy: Bibles everywhere.
Jim: But this has been so good. Thank you for what the Lord has shown you and putting it into this format of a 40-day sugar fast, and the book that, uh, goes along with it. And I, uh, really wanna encourage you to get a copy of the book. And you can get that through Focus on the Family, make a donation of any amount and we’ll say thank you by sending it along. If you can’t afford it, we’ll find a way to cover it, uh, the cost of that on our end. So just get in touch with us and we’ll get it to you. And Jean thank you. Thanks for being here, thanks for that vulnerability about those college years and what you went through. And Wendy the same for you in terms of, you know, for women that this is a very tender area.
Wendy: It is, yes.
Jim: Because it’s so wrapped up in image and what I look like.
Wendy: And the affirmation of the world I mean-
Wendy: We get it.
Jean: But there’s hope.
Jean: There’s hope.
Jim: Yeah. Well one, you don’t have to rely on that, our identity is in Christ.
Jim: And let me turn to the listener. I think and I hope what you’ve heard here is that’s the ground floor. And we talk about that a lot. We can certainly make, uh, your family perform better. You can be a better parent; we’ll give you lots of tools to do that. But if you don’t know the author of the family, we kind of have we’ve missed the mark. And we always wanna start right there. About 800 people a day accept Christ through Focus on the Family. Over 300,000 people last year said Focus on the Family was the instrument God used to bring them to Christ. That’s pretty amazing.
Jean: That’s wonderful.
Jim: And uh, you know, we never really, we never give it that much thought, it’s kind of a byproduct. We wanna be more intentional in this year to say start there, start with your relationship with Christ.
Jim: And in doing so, so many things that you’re talking about Wendy will begin to line up, you know, that’s the beauty of it. And I wanna encourage you to call us, get ahold of us. Let’s talk about that first, where you’re at with God. And then in addition to that, how you can improve your situation emotionally, spiritually in every way with Wendy’s great book, The 40-Day Sugar Fast. And if you can give a gift of any amount to Focus today, I wanna send you a copy of the 40-Day Sugar Fast as our way of saying thank you.
John: You can donate and get the book and learn how to join Wendy’s annual sugar fast that starts today. Uh, just stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Wendy and Jean thanks so much for being with us, and Jean thank you so much for sharing your, um, stories and Wendy you too, that vulnerability I so appreciate it. And you’re doing the fast, right?
Jean: I am. I am really excited to be doing this fast so thank you Wendy to you.
Wendy: I’m excited I hope others will join us yes.
Jim: And Wendy I’m not so excited (laughing). No I’m teasing. This is great, and I’ll do the best job I can do in supporting Jean.
Wendy: Yeah, my husband calls it the 14-day sugar fast because he makes about 14 days with me and then all of a sudden, I start finding rappers (laughing).
Jim: I gotta give him a call (laughing). That’s great. Perfect.
John: Well, on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, thanks joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.