I practice what I preach. Let me soften that a bit--I try really hard to live a healthy lifestyle. And, hopefully my patients think I encourage them much more than I preach at them. Anyway, I often refuse unhealthy food offers, exercise almost daily and try to eat my fruits and vegetables. Eating healthy and staying physically active are important to me and make my life better. Besides, nobody likes a hypocrite.
Several weeks ago, I drove 30 minutes to my parents’ house to help with a bathroom remodel. I took the kids. My 6-year old daughter and 7-year old son love spending time with their grandparents and I thought this would be a nice opportunity for them to hang out together while I put some finishing touches on a stellar tile job.
We had barely finished our usual welcoming embrace when my dad suggested he take the kids to the small-town doughnut shop. My kids began dancing with wild anticipation and then Dad asked for my permission to take them. He also asked me what kind of doughnuts I wanted. In my best dietitian voice I told him I didn’t care for any. My happy children loaded into Dad’s big red Dodge truck and off they went. When they returned, we gathered around the table with the made-to-order box of fried dough balls. My dad bought me a couple of powdered-sugar doughnuts, the least unhealthy of the selections I had ordered once before. But I had told him not to get me any, right?
For just a moment I thought of my clients—those folks who often struggle with cravings or give in to cues to eat unhealthy. I tried to put myself in their shoes as I decided what I was going to do. I could still say “no,” and my dad wouldn’t remove me from the will. I could take the doughnuts home and get rid of them, or I could eat just one. Or, I could eat two doughnuts like everyone else at the table. I chose the latter. The still-warm doughnuts were quite tasty, and everyone was laughing and having a good time. I’m glad I ate them. It was an intimate indulgence with 4 people I love dearly. When I got home later in the evening I didn’t have my usual evening snack and the next day I was back to eating a balanced diet from the 5 food groups. I didn’t feel guilty because I was truly practicing what I often suggest to others.
Doughnuts are very much a “sometimes” food, not an “everyday” food. These types of occasional indulgences can fit into my diet or the healthy diets of those I counsel. A healthy lifestyle usually requires planning and intentional structure, but there is no need to be rigid. Practicing self-denial and flexibility are equally important. We should never let not-so-healthy food become the center of our pleasure but we don’t need to always exclude it from a good time either.