Posted on December 18, 2014 at 6:00 am
Well, the holidays are upon us. I don’t know about you but a part of me dreads this time of year. It’s an endless stream of decadent treats that I can’t seem to resist. It has been a tradition in my family to bake loads of cookies and treats in the weeks before the holiday. In fact, the Christmas I had my first baby, I remember getting up for the nightly feedings and eating three or four cookies before I went back to bed.
Now, even with omitting gluten from my diet, I still can’t resist cake if it’s put in front of me. In fact it has become a bit of a joke within my office about how gaga I am over cake. I can identify a piece of Costco’s chocolate layer cake from down the hall. Donuts in the break room are another weakness. If there is an old-fashioned in the box, say goodbye to my willpower.
My husband and I often joke about getting a “food hug.” This is when we reward ourselves with a “guilty pleasure” after a particularly stressful day. For my husband his hug consists of boneless hot wings drenched in blue cheese dressing. For me, it is sweets of almost any form, but as you may have guessed my go-to is chocolate cake.
Of course we’ve been told that rewarding ourselves with food is a bad habit, wrought with pitfalls that will erode our health. I do agree that eating mindlessly should be avoided. However, I can’t help but wonder if it is really that awful for an otherwise healthy individual to allow a food experience to boost their spirits on occasion?
I am tired of feeling guilty for taking pleasure in food experiences that I love. Don’t we already have enough to feel guilty about these days?
We cannot stop ourselves from creating associations with food. Over the course of our lives food and experience become so intertwined that if pried apart they no longer retain their original meaning to us. That’s why we look forward to mom’s spaghetti sauce, or grandma’s chocolate chip cookies, or pepperoni pizza from down the street. When we eat the food, we can relive those experiences, if only for a moment. So why not embrace that? Throw away the guilt and just enjoy your particular pleasure.
So I take the following steps in order to be more purposeful and feel less guilt when I do decide to indulge.
I have learned what I really enjoy and I embrace it. I try to be as specific as possible. This allows me to make choices a little easier. Carrot cake in the break room? Na, I would rather have some dark chocolate later tonight. Decadent chocolate layer cake from Costco in the breakroom? Bye bye eggnog latte I planned for the afternoon. I have found that if I have a list of things that I really, really enjoy, it makes the next steps easier.
This is the step I take so that I don’t overindulge. It’s being mindful of what I have eaten that day and week. I mentally take stock. If I have already eaten out twice that week, then as much as I would like a food hug of pizza after my rough Thursday, I probably need to pass. Having nachos for dinner? Then cheese and crackers for a snack might not be a good plan. It’s this kind of thinking that helps me to avoid the guilt.
Now we get to the good part. After acknowledging and taking stock I am free to enjoy my pleasures to their fullest capacity. And I don’t let anyone tell me how to do it. Eating buttery popcorn while watching a movie? Yep. Enjoying an eggnog latte during my drive to work? Heck yes. Savoring dark chocolate and red wine while watching Scandal after the kids go to bed? Um, yes please!
Now there are going to be times where I eat mindlessly. I will overindulge. I will eat cake for breakfast and french fries for dinner. Nobody is perfect and I refuse to feel guilt about this imperfection. So I give myself some grace and let it go. Tomorrow is a new day.
Today I will have my cake. And eat it too.