To Indulge or Not to Indulge?


Have you ever worked really hard towards a fitness goal and felt afterwards that you deserved to celebrate with a treat? Over the years of taking people through consultations I generally find there are two vastly different philosophies when it comes eating and exercise:

  • People who believe they have earned a treat (or two, or three) because of all their hard work
  • People that wouldn’t dare ruin all their hard work with even a small indulgence

For those of you who fall into the former category, I understand your logic, but only to a certain extent. Depending on your fitness and weight management goals this might actually be your biggest barrier to seeing results. Sure, you’re training for a marathon or going to Kosama 6 days a week and you’re sweating bullets every time you workout. Does that mean you should have dessert every night after dinner? If you’re trying to see any kind of weight changes I’m going to have to say no. Does your hard work mean you can have ice cream and cake at a birthday party or that you can order pizza once or twice a month with friends while you’re watching football? Yes, you probably can. As long as you’re not going to birthday parties every day and ordering pizza every night you’ll probably not notice the effects of those foods because you’re saving them for special occasions. The hardest work at the gym should not be rewarded or negated by daily treats.

Let’s take the person who falls into the latter category. You know who you are. You’re afraid that one chocolate chip cookie will mean your workout is a total loss and you’re back to square one. It’s ok to celebrate the fact that you’re working out by having a glass of wine or a couple beers at the end of the week. It’s also ok to try dessert every now and then. Balancing workouts with an occasional guilty indulgence is what makes working out worth it, right? I know from personal experience that deprivation of treats only leads to over-indulgence when I do have them. Celebrate your big accomplishments with little treats every now and then!

Author Brian Wansink reports that the first bite tastes the best. So regardless of which “categoy” you fall into, consider taking just a bite or getting a bite-sized treat (and limiting it to one) the next time you feel the need to indulge. Most likely it will satisfy any craving you might have and your hard work won’t take a hit!

Do you fall into either of these categories? It’s ok if you don’t! I actually would prefer if more people were middle of the road when it came to deciding to indulge or abstain from treats. A personal mantra of mine is “special treats on special occasions.” I’ve been saying this for so long I don’t remember if I came up with it or if Michael Pollan did or if I heard a friend or colleague say it. All I know is that’s my philosophy and I’m sticking to it!

P.S. The photo for this post is of an apple cider doughnut. I ate it because it was a special occasion and I haven’t had a good doughnut in months. No regrets. Nada. Zip. Zero.


  • Forrest Determann

    I definitely fall into the the second category. When I fall into a trend of inactivity, I also tend to eat more poorly. But, when I’ve been active I (enthusiastically) eat better, not wanting to “undo” all the work I’ve done.

    • HelloWellness

      Good to know, Mr. D! I’ll keep that in mind when planning our meals 🙂