Just this last week I was reading an article from PN (Precision Nutrition) on the benefits of overindulgence. When I saw the title I was intrigued and had to read it! I want to share with you the 4 lessons we can learn when we do overindulge. In my own life, I have found these to be true and helpful in learning and making different decisions.
Clients come to me feeling guilty or weak after a vacation or long weekend of overeating. They feel terrible about eating too much. Many resolve to “do things better” or share how bad they were. And how ready they are to shape up once and for all. Can you relate to any of this?
PN’s response is surprising and I think very helpful in seeing the bigger picture of health, fitness, and nutrition. You see, it isn’t because you need to drink more water, eat more fiber, focus on clean eating, or consume the right amount of protein grams in a day. It might actually be you needed to overindulge! Whoa, right! So let me share the 4 lessons with you and you can see what I mean and how these lessons could be valuable tools for you.
Lesson #1 – “Slipping up” is a necessary part of change, progress, and success.
Too often we imagine progress as a linear straight graph. Every day we get better and better until eventually we are perfect. But in reality, change can look more like a roller coaster ride with ups, downs, and at a standstill. Right? We can wholeheartedly embrace better food choice for a bit and then we eat macaroni and cheese for a week. We can ace our new eating habits and meal planning and then a business trip or vacation throws us off. We cycle. Life throws us a situation and tests us. Progress pauses, or dips downward, or goes backward.
There are good reasons for this. Maybe we need to go back to re-open or visit something or reconsider an idea or address a question we have been avoiding. Maybe we need downtime to think and reflect. Or maybe we need to repeat something and practice our new skills under different conditions. And quite possibly, we may not have the skills we need to progress right now. “We need to accept that doing things badly is a necessary precursor to doing them well,” says Krista Scott-Dixon.
Lesson #2 – Indulgence offers an opportunity to ask the bigger questions and learn.
If we let them, our overindulgences – even the ones we regret – can give us amazing learning opportunities. Clients feel ashamed when they overindulge. They want to start over and hide from their mistake. Instead, see it as an impetus to self reflect and observe. What is going on in your life and in your body?
We do things for a reason. The indulgence, no matter how regrettable, is doing a job for us. It is solving a problem, even if not very well. What need is the indulgence fulfilling? And what would be more valuable to fulfill that need.
Lesson #3 – Sometimes you need to fall of the wagon to get back on again.
“Not only is falling off a part of change, but it can also make getting back on feel pretty darn good,” shares Krista Scott-Dixon. If we are honest, few things motivate healthy choices better than waking up with heartburn, a hangover, bloating, or some other form of bodily rebellion. Right! It’s the way blowing off a workout to sit at home on the couch and have a TV marathon while drinking too much coffee or snacking too much that actually gives you that “I can’t wait to hit the gym and move” feeling. Research shows that we naturally adapt to pleasure in such a way (assuming we have some interest in our own health and fitness) that we will self correct. No one wants to intentionally feel miserable too long!
Lesson #4 – Healthy indulgence might actually support “deep health”.
Krista says, “Deep health means thriving in all domains of life: physical, mental, emotional, social, etc.” Deep health means we are physically robust, our minds are wise and kind, our emotions are available and used for good, we enjoy healthy affirming relationships, and we are always growing and developing.
To help us understand this, let’s take a look at a healthy indulgence. It is somehow meaningful, truly enjoyable, self-fulfilling, and life affirming. We are fully present in this indulgence. Non-food examples are: playing hooky from work to go hiking with your kids, getting a massage, going to see a great movie you have been dying to see. When we do these types of things, we often feel satisfied and content.
And unhealthy indulgence doesn’t resolve and may even be actively unsatisfying. It might be meaningless, an empty distraction, self-destroying, and life distracting. We might get a “hit” from it over and over with no results. For example pulling the slot machines at a casino and getting no payout and yet you feel driven to pull the lever even if you aren’t enjoying it.
This lesson spoke to me personally. With food, a healthy indulgence for me might be sharing an appetizer with my husband on a night out to try something new. It is pleasurable and enjoyable. An unhealthy indulgence is driving thru a fast food place and eating it in the car because I want to eat in a hurry and not think about it. This leaves me feeling empty, guilty and unsatisfied.
“What if we treated “back” or “down” or “off the wagon” periods as a natural and normal part of the entire experience of change and growth,” says Krista. Look at how commonly people experience these periods in their life. With that level of frequency, isn’t it time we asked whether they are important instead of something to get through on our way to something else? I think it is time we examine them, maybe respect and appreciate them. What if these periods became fuel for growth? What if we ended up eventually healthier, happier, and even fitter for them?
A tip to help you learn from your indulgences in a health supporting way is to consider the following: What does a healthy indulgence look like for you? Why? And what does an unhealthy indulgence look like for you? Why?
To supporting all aspects of your health,
Beth Dean CPT, CES, pn1