Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Have you Engaged an Indulgence Autopilot?

It's something I hear about frequently when I meet new patients,
"....and Friday is Pizza Night",

"Every Thursday the gang at work goes out for Dim Sum at lunch",

"After the kids' hockey on Saturday mornings we do drive thru Tim Horton's and share 20 Timbits
Now I'm not knocking any of those choices directly. While certainly they're not healthy choices, and where I might even label them as nutritionally "bad" foods, the fact is they might be great indulgent choices.

What I mean is that we don't just eat food for sustenance.

Whether it's pizza, Chinese food or doughnuts, if those are part of your life's seminal guilty dietary indulgences, well then I think you probably owe it to yourself to continue to have them, because blindly cutting them out? I'm not sure taking away your favourite foods in honour of your health is a great plan because doing so will likely, over time, lead you to fully abandon whatever overly strict healthy living strategy you've adopted.

That said, you might want to take a moment to ask yourself a question like,
"Is the fact that it's Friday a good enough reason to order in pizza"
Ultimately, when it comes to dietary indulgences and hedonistic pleasure, the question isn't, "Are you allowed", but rather, "Is it worth it" and if so, "how much do I need to be satisfied?", where sometimes the answer may be, "No and none", and other times significantly more than that.  To illustrate what I mean - I'm thinking you'll be eating far more indulgent foods on your birthday than you'll be eating on my birthday.

But just because it's Friday? I'm guessing you can do better.

Disengage your indulgence autopilot and thoughtfully navigate your nutritional skies!

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  1. At one point, I noticed that every day was a reason for indulgence. That was kind of hard to train myself away from this kind of thinking. I appreciate things like pizza and fried chicken and ice cream now that I have them very infrequently. My dad quit smoking 20 years ago, is still waiting for a reason to smoke a cigar. Apparently, birth of a grandchild wasn't exciting enough, I think he'll never have one.

  2. An interesting post that's made me pause and reflect on the Autopilot moments in my life.

    It seems to be that autopilot can also be a good thing...for example, if 10:00am = time for a piece of becomes a part of your daily routine.

    As a daily reader of this blog, I've often wondered what your take is on homemade pizza, Dr. Freedhoff. A couple of times a month, my husband and I have our own Friday Night Pizza Night. We make our own dough and sauce, and top the pizza with goat cheese, fresh veggies and olives, and sometimes deli meat from La Bottega. In my mind, this is a healthier indulgence than take out and I'm wondering if I'm deluding myself. :) I'd love to hear what you and your readers think!

    Thanks for another thoughtful and through-provoking post!

    1. I adore pizza and we make homemade dough and sauce I'd say at least twice a month. We use only whole grain flour, no added salt crushed tomatoes as the sauce base (and we don't add more of our own) and roll the dough thin. On mine I use very sharp cheddar as it allows me to cut quantities and calories.

      Our pizza clocks in at 250 calories a slice and it's no doubt, a healthy meal (though to be fair, it doesn't taste nearly as good as the calorific store boughts that we'll order I'd say once every 3-4 months or so).

      Yours sounds great too, but worth crunching your own numbers to ensure you're happy with their breakdown.

    2. If I am at a stable weight, have blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar all well within the normal range, and get daily exercise, is it necessary to crunch the numbers of my homemade pizza? I don't mean this as snarky at all; I'm honestly curious.

    3. That's entirely up to you of course.

      I'm all of those things too and I've crunched our numbers.

      The thing is, if you're asking whether you're kidding yourself about your homemade vs. fast food, to truly know if yours is any healthier, it would help to know your numbers.

    4. My concern with a weekly pizza night of homemade pizza is more about the habits it creates/enforces than about the effect of pizza once a week. And some of that concern then goes to what your family make up is.

      Before having my son, weekly pizza seemed like a great idea. Now that I have a toddler (and second on the way) I am much more aware of how my daily food choices reflect and/or create habits, and what habits I am teaching my kids (and to some extent my husband, who is much less attuned to this topic than I am).

      Sure, I can make a healthy pizza my 3 year old will still eat, but if he grows up eating my "healthy" pizza every week, what happens when he starts making his own food choices? Whether it be in the lunch line in elementary school or when he goes off on his own to college, pizza will seem like a normal, even healthy, choice. But despite what the US Government has recently said about pizza sauce counting as a vegetable, the pizzas he will get when he isn't at home won't be healthful choices. So as much as I still love the idea of Sunday night pizza night (which I grew up with), it hasn't made it in to our home. Maybe once a month when the kids are older and we can discuss food choices, but I don't want to make it a ritual that informs lifelong habits quite yet.

  3. Thanks, Dr. Freedhoff!

    I really relate to your "is it worth it?" approach to indulgence. It seems so much healthier and sustainable than the "am I allowed?" approach.

  4. Anonymous3:27 pm

    We too have a Friday tradition, as by week's end, no one wants to cook. But we alternate: one week sushi, one week something from M&M, one week a roast chicken from the grocery store, and a bag of salad. We rarely eat out, but will buy semi-"healthy" food to bring home. We think it's better, because you can't wear your pyjamas in the restaurant, nor bring your dogs! :)

  5. The advice in this post is exactly what I had to internalize last year to make permanent changes to my bad eating habits. I also started running with increasing mileage, but adjusting my mindset to eat *because* I was hungry, as opposed to being bored, etc., was the final piece of the puzzle. I dropped 20+ pounds, going from BMI of 24+ to under 21. (Yes, I know BMI has limitations, but I have a relatively lean/thin frame, so it's about perfect for me.)