Saturday, November 26, 2011

Treats and Splurges

Wow, I haven’t written on this blog in quite a while. Oh well, there’s no time like the present!

I just wanted to make an observation about Thanksgiving dinner – and eating, in general.

Before my husband’s heart surgery last year, both he and I used to eat pretty much whatever unhealthy food we wanted (except that I would make myself eat veggies every day, at least). Fried chicken with the skin on it? Sure, why not. A big, juicy, bacon cheeseburger? Hell, yes!

But then, of course, we had the BIG WAKE-UP CALL last December.

And we both got healthy. A quadruple bypass can be quite convincing.

Now, we eat very healthy – and particularly heart-healthy – diets.

Except for on splurge days. I LOVE splurge days!

You see, every two weeks, we have a full-on splurge day where we eat anything we want – cheeseburgers, barbecue ribs, chicken wings – you name it, we’ll eat it! And of course, we’ll have a splurgey dessert, too – candy bars and ice cream have definitely been consumed on splurge days.

As Iwanski’s doctor said, “It’s not what you do on occasion that matters, it’s what you do on a daily basis.”

So we invented the concept of splurge days. The rules of the splurge are as follows: 1) Splurge days can only happen every two weeks OR on holidays and birthdays, and 2) Whatever you eat, you are not allowed to feel guilty afterwards. Because splurge days actually keep us eating healthy for the rest of the time. Whenever we’re craving something unhealthy, we just think…I can eat that in ___ days…and before you know it, it’s that magical time again! And we’re eating pizza and chocolate chip cookies and enjoying the hell out of ‘em.

But of course, because splurge days are only every two weeks and on holidays, we have to carefully evaluate what we’d like to eat on the next splurge day. So during the pre-splurge two weeks, we have a lot of discussions about what would be the next good thing to eat. Pizza has been a favorite splurge of ours, as have cheeseburgers, and bacon & eggs.

So this whole “splurge” concept has really changed the way I view food, in the sense that I would never want to WASTE a splurge day on something I don’t really love to eat. And for that matter, why should I ever eat something that I don’t really care for?

And yet, I realized that during my lifetime, I have certainly done that.

Back then, before the BIG WAKE-UP CALL, my thinking would go something like this…

A coworker makes a veggie dip that I find rather repulsive? Well, I would still finish the portion that I took. I don’t want to hurt her feelings – plus I should clean my plate – after all, there are starving people in Africa right? (Childhood thinking sometimes takes a while to get rid of.) Or I am at a restaurant and just paid $15 for an asparagus salad that I’m really not enjoying? Well, I still better eat it – gotta get my money’s worth!

And then there is the traditional Thanksgiving food that everyone else seems to love – turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. Every year in the past, I would take a small portion of those items and force-feed them to myself. After all, that’s what you eat on Thanksgiving – it didn’t matter if you really like it or not.

But you know what? I really don’t like turkey, or stuffing, or mashed potatoes. (Gag!)

I’d rather eat ham, and veggies, and of course, pumpkin pie!

So this year, during our Thanksgiving “splurge meal” – and without even really thinking about it – I skipped right past the turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes and went right for the honey-baked ham. (Yum!) And continued to fill my plate with things I loved – like my sister’s cheesy hashbrowns, cranberries from a can (much better than the real thing, you know!), and pumpkin pie – not to mention my new favorite – a heavenly, decadent pumpkin pudding pecan concoction that another one of my sisters graced us with this year.

And OH MY GOSH, that was the best splurge ever!! I didn’t miss the turkey, stuffing, or mashed potatoes one bit. And I was full – but very PLEASANTLY full. I felt like I had just treated myself to my favorite Thanksgiving dinner ever.

Later, as I reflected upon the meal and the day and our lives, in general, I thought, “Shouldn’t that be the way we always treat ourselves? – with kindness?”

To me, eating healthy is being kind to myself – but so is having treats on occasion. And if I’m going to treat myself, then I’m really going to treat myself.

And the same is true of life. I will continue to work hard at my job, exercise, and do some chores around the house…but when I take time off from all of that, I will enjoy the hell out of my time off – no guilt or worrying allowed.

After all, we only have one life to live – and while we should try to preserve it as much as possible, we also should really try to ENJOY it.