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!