Thursday, July 28, 2005

What is the "Planned Splurge" Anyway?

It isn't often that I find myself concerned with the ideas promoted by other low-carb and controlled-carb advocates. We run the spectrum of ideas from very low-carb approaches like Atkins to moderate levels of carbohydrate recommended by the Zone (40% of calories) to even Paleo approaches that eliminate the most recent additions to our diet, namely grains, dairy and other agricultural additions not found in the wild. Each approach has merit and supporting evidence is within the available literature.

Most even agree that occassionally enjoying something considered "decadent" (something typically not eaten) is within reason - often dubbed the "planned splurge" done now and then as a "treat." It's a little gift your give yourself now and then.

This concept though has been taken to a whole new level by my fellow blogger, Jimmy Moore, who writes the blog Livin' La Vida Low-Carb. He's written a number of articles that highlight how the "planned splurge" has helped him stay on track and maintain his 180-pound weight loss - which to be fair, not only his weight-loss but his ability to maintain his weight-loss deserves accolades and heartfelt congratulations.

That said, however, he recently, included the details of his vacation which included a "planned splurge" - a meal that, are you ready - consisted of 30-slices of pizza, 6-glasses of diet soda and 15-cinnamon sticks at Pizza Hut. I kid you not. While planned splurges have helped a lot of people maintain a controlled-carb approach, but the question begs, is the concept of the splurge really an all-out-anything-goes-eat-yourself-silly meal?

As I posted in the comments on his blog, the meal he ate as his "splurg" totaled:
  • Calories 7450
  • Total Fat 265g
  • Saturated Fat 140g
  • Cholesterol 750mg
  • Sodium 17620mg
  • Carbohydrates 945g
  • Dietary Fiber 60g
  • Sugars 200g (more than 1-cup of sugar)
  • Protein 350g

I can't even begin to imagine the strain on his pancreas, liver, kidneys and entire system to digest that meal. My entry today really isn't to rail on Jimmy, but is to ask, what is a "planned splurge" anyway?

From my perspective and what I generally recommend is taking an approach that provides something that you really like, and while it may not really be all that "healthy" you still make an effort to ensure it's as healthy as possible.

Afterall, it is still your body and what you choose can have consequences if you're careless.

For example, if you choose to eat something loaded with man-made trans-fats, you're going to have systemic consequences not only in the short-term of the hours following the splurge, but for months - yes months - after as your body rids its cells of the trans-fatty acids it has incorporated into your tissues. When you eat trans-fats the body requires 51 days to metabolize half of them. This means that half of the trans fats you eat today will still be inhibiting essential enzyme systems in your body 51 days from now. (Schmitt, Walter H., Jr. Compiled notes on clinical nutritional products. Mahopac, NY: David Barmore Productions, 1990) Trans fats interfere with important, normal functions by inhibiting enzymes which are necessary for the body's normal metabolism of fats and they keep doing it for a long time.

So how do you really enjoy a splurge and still take care of your body?

Quite simply, you go for quality.

I've previously written about my fondness for brownies. Now I could easily hop over to the grocery store and pick up some decent tasting brownies and be done with it. But, as I've previously written, cheap food now costs later in terms of health and healthcare costs. So, rather than risk my health for a short-term indulgence with a cheap commercial brownie, I'll take the time to make brownies that taste a heck-of-a-lot-better and have some redeeming value for nutrient-density too!

I'll have one good size serving and no more. I'll do this perhaps once every couple of months and no more. It's not only satisfying but does have the appeal of "getting away with something" that may not be all that healthy. One important thing I keep in mind though - my long-term health is more important that short-term satisfaction. With that in mind, here's my guide to planned splurges:

  • If at all possible, make whatever it is you plan to eat yourself, using real, whole ingredients
  • Limit the whole idea of the "planned spluge" to very special occassions or the occassional treat once every couple of months
  • If any particular food triggers cravings or over-eating following the splurge - well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, that food can't be a splurge in the future. Your long-term well-being, both physical and emotional, is more important than that food
  • Go for quality - nothing less than the absolute best ingredients - if you're going to have an indulgence make it worth it for goodness sakes
  • Take care to still avoid trans-fats, refined grains, highly processed foods or damaged fats - there is nothing redeeming in any of these and nothing you cannot make on your own with better ingredients
  • A splurge isn't a license to gorge but rather to enjoy a simple pleasure in life - an occassional treat you don't normally eat day in day out
  • Lastly, enjoy your spluge without guilt knowing you'll be back to your normal eating pattern again - an indulgence really is just an occassional pleasure you give yourself - a gift of taste, quality and enjoyment meant to be savored in the moment; not something to regret later!


  1. 7500 calorie splurge ? I ingest 7500 calories in the month of June, grand total. Now I take in 7500 every 12 days. Gotta love us fatties...Advocating a high fat diet to lose weight ? Risky stuff.

  2. Regina,
    Well said.
    Eh, first of all, let me just say, thank God our bodies can actually get rid of the trans-fats it ingests--until I just read your blog, I didn't think our bodies could even process those partially hydrogenated monsters, let alone remove them from our tissues. (I stopped eating them years ago, whew)
    I also agree that if you're going to splurge, use the best ingredients you can find--the building blocks are key to the whole sum of what you're ingesting. For instance, when I choose some day in the future to treat myself to a cheeseburger, I'll make sure the buns are made of unprocessed, whole wheat (Whole Foods market, here we come) and that the meat is of higher quality (hopefully organic, grass-fed, etc.) and the cheese--organic as well. Sure, going to White Castle is a hell of a lot easier (sometimes those burgers beckon me in the middle of the night) but I know it's a slippery slope.

    And thirdly, come on, Regina, how about that brownie recipe? ;-)


  3. OUCH! I think I'll be rethinking my "planned splurge" to the pizza parlor from now on. Leave it to Regina to run the numbers! LOL! THANK YOU! You've given me perspective and convinced me that my choice for splurging probably wasn't the best.

  4. Just like that, you think you made a mistake. It took all of the info to convince you that 30 slices of pizza was a bad idea. You didnt just know before you ateit all that it was a killer ? Are you from Kansas ?

  5. i always splurge when I go on vacation, but instead of jimmy's one meal pig out, I just eat whatever I want for the duration of the vacation... ice cream, cookies, buns with the burger, fries, pizza, even pasta and rice (I find them boring now, ha haaa...)

    I always gain 7 or 8 pounds, and I always lose it within 2 - 3 weeks after my return to reality....