Kicking Unhealthy Habits for 40 Days

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles | March 14, 2017

It all starts with the Hurricane Cocktail and ends with a solid edible chocolate bunny sculpture. During that span of 40 days, some people give up chocolate, candy, alcohol or other foods that they tend to “over-consume” for Lent. It’s interesting how giving up our favorite unhealthy foods is seen as a sacrifice, but it might be the sacrifice we need to kick-start a healthy lifestyle.

When I was a child, I usually gave up ice cream. I’m not entirely sure if I ever made it through those 40 days, but I gave it a try every year. My mom would tell me that the experience of wanting something that badly for 40 days would make me appreciate the abundance of what I had in my life. I didn’t realize that then, but I certainly do now.

In more recent years, Lent became less about sacrificing specific foods, such as French fries, soda, chocolates and other sweets, and more about positive behavioral changes. It could be a positive change in your habits or a positive change in the world around you. Could it be that we changed the rules because we didn’t want to give up our favorite foods?

The truth is that our daily lives revolve around food. Changing how you eat certainly gets you thinking about your eating habits and how the foods that you eat on a day-to-day basis fuel your body. Ask yourself this: “Do I choose foods that fuel me and make me the best form of myself that I can be?” or “Do I choose foods that could harm me, decrease my energy, and take away from living my optimal life?”

Whether you take part in Lent or not, giving up an unhealthy food or picking up a healthy habit for 40 days can help you get started on your journey to good health and wellbeing. Take the time to think about something you would change for 40 days. Would you give up unhealthy and addictive foods and drinks like soda, alcohol, sweets, and fast food? Or would you change your habits by exercising more or meditating in the morning? Now think about how these changes can affect your health in the long run.

You’d be surprised by the difference those 40 days can make. When you give up foods and bad habits that harm your body, you’ll focus more on the ones that’ll nourish and fuel your body. And who knows – maybe you’ll commit to these healthy lifestyle changes for more than 40 days.

So, what would you give up or change this year?


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Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles

Jenn Giles, R.D., C.S.S.D. is all about health and wellness. She has over 15 years’ experience, including a dual master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She supplements all of this with her spin instructor certification and USATriathlon Level I Coach Certification.

Jennifer is passionate about (actually, obsessed with) the sport of triathlon. She has been personally participating in triathlons since 2000 and running road races since 1992. She is a two-time Ironman finisher and has completed countless numerous marathons. She has been a member of Power Bar Team Elite since 2006 and competed as a member of the 2006 Aquaphor/Active.com Sponsored Athlete Team. She was ranked as USAT All American Honorable mention in 2006 and 2011. Jennifer does all of this along side of her husband, Patrick, who is an equally accomplished triathlete and runner. They try as hard as they can to do all of their training and racing together.

She will tell you, however, that her most important, most rewarding and most challenging job is as a mother of four. She knows first hand the challenges of maintaining optimal fitness, overall good health and achieving goals while raising a family - of which good nutrition is the cornerstone.

Most importantly, she knows how to motivate, inspire and challenge athletes based on their own abilities, strengths and everyday lifestyles. She believes there is an athlete in everyone - no matter what their abilities are – and if those abilities are manifold, then there is an even better athlete in there!

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