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The Perfect Diet: Joyful Indulgence

[ Dec 23, 2011 ] [ by Wendy Dolber ]

What’s your favorite holiday food? Love a cup of rum-laced eggnog? Can’t wait to dig into that baked ham with pineapple slices? That perfectly cooked prime rib or luscious roast duck? Looking for a little alone time with the pastry cart or late night refrigerator raids of homemade apple pie or bread pudding?  My personal favorite is panettone, that delightfully fluffy Italian sweet bread sold around the holidays.  At close to 250 calories per slice, I could get into real trouble. So what to do?  So far, I’ve been banning it from my shopping cart knowing that if it gets into the house, I will be eating it.  I could certainly continue to think that way, but I’d much rather free myself of the fear of panettone and practice a little joyful indulgence.

The Most Fattening Belief

I’d like to create a refrigerator magnet that says: Beliefs are more fattening than food. Here’s what I mean by that. The way we think about food is a setup for what we eat, how we eat it, when we eat it, how much we eat of it. I’m not talking about the basic information we all need to make healthy choices about what to eat.  I’m talking about beliefs about ourselves and our relationship to food, particularly beliefs that result in eating habits that don’t serve us well. Eating habits that take us outside the boundaries of what feels good and is good for our bodies. 

Of course, beliefs are very personal and there are many many beliefs related to food. In my experience, when it comes to food cravings, many are based on the belief that food has power over us. Not the other way around. Food can make us want it. Sounds like a scary movie, no?   Invasion of the Pigs-in-blankets.  Attack of the 50 Foot Gingerbread Cookie.  Rosemary’s Lasagna. But typically, we don’t think about what we believe until it becomes an issue. And, it is often the case with beliefs, they do sound silly, or unnecessary or even a little wacky when we bring them to the surface. That’s a good thing. It makes it all that much easier to dispel them.

What is your “irresistible” treat? 

Irresistible, by definition, means impossible to resist.  Is there really any such thing as something that is impossible to resist?  Or does it just seem that way?  Is that just what we believe?   Notice how very few people say, “I had the irresistible urge to pay my taxes.”  Or “I had the irresistible urge to go to work. “ Now, there’s absolutely no problem at all with believing things are irresistible, if we like thinking that.  But often, we reserve the term irresistible to mean, things that we want that we believe we should not want, i.e., my panettone.  In other words, forbidden pleasures, or guilty pleasures.   Things that we believe are bad for us in some way, but we want them anyway.   A wonderful question to ask is, if you really believe something is bad for you, would you really want it?  What if we are incapable of doing things that we actually believe are bad for us? 

I remember years ago when I quit smoking.  While I was smoking I would always be thinking that maybe this was bad for me, but I never resolved the question.  I had heard the news and seen the surgeon general warning just like everyone else.  I just wasn’t sure it was really true for me.  And boy did I love my cigarettes.  Then one day, I sat down with my pack of cigarettes and I said to myself, “Wendy, you know that you don’t want to do anything that you believe is bad for you.  So, if you can say that you know that smoking isn’t bad, go ahead and light up.  If you can’t say that, stop smoking.”  And that resolved it for me.  The key thing is that I took the dialogue out of the realm of supposition and I made it personal.  Because when we get right down to it, the only thing that matters is what we believe, not what we are told.   We can always question our beliefs, but this was one I didn’t want to question.  It was good enough for me.  I took the cigarettes one by one and destroyed them.  And I never smoked again. Have I felt like it from time to time?  Yes, on occasion, but that little Marlboro moment I had with myself meant something.  I can never really look at smoking the same way again. 

So what is your irresistible treat?   What do you mean by irresistible?  Do you like thinking that?  If not, why do you believe it?  What if you didn’t believe it? 

Can we have our treats and eat them too?

Of course, we can.  Isn’t it in the Declaration of Independence?  Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, meaning all the ice cream we can eat.  The truth is we are free to go after what we want.   But wouldn’t we love to do it in a way that we like?  When it comes to treats, isn’t it nice to joyfully indulge, rather than to feel overwhelmed by cravings?

Cravings, aka irresistible urges, can be tricky.   We get to have the treat, but we often pay for it by overindulgence and regret.  Because we’re not really allowed to have it, we may feel like we better make the most of it (overindulgence).  Afterward, we may very well feel bad (regret) that we went for it.  And what is the regret for?  You guessed it.  Control.  We need to regret it to make sure it doesn’t happen again.   So here we’ve had our treat, overeaten it too, with a healthy side dish of regret.  Sound good?   

So hold the regret and try joyful indulgence instead.   Joyful indulgence could possibly be the only diet we would ever need to stay trim and healthy.  How would that work?  To joyfully indulge, imagine going forward without judgment, without regrets, without guilt, with full power over and responsibility for your own choices.   What you will find is that you will be satisfied with much less than you thought, or you might even pass until something better comes along.   For me, if I do go after that panettone, I’m going to enjoy the heck out of it by savoring every bite, sharing it with others and then joyfully tossing the leftovers into the garbage.

Care to join me?

People become unhappy by choice, belief, or judgment. They make a choice of what they’re going…

People become unhappy by choice, belief, or judgment. They make a choice of what they’re going to believe. If they choose to believe it is good, they will feel good. If they choose to believe it is bad, they feel bad. Why am I using the word “choice”? It’s the only thing in life that you can absolutely be sure is not happening to you.

[ Bruce Di Marsico ]