5 Reasons You Should Eat Treats
While eating kale, quinoa and salmon is certainly healthy, indulging in the occasional treat is also important and should be included in a healthy diet. Not only is indulgence an important part of health, but a balanced diet does not exist without treats and indulgence is a way to feed your body, mind, and soul. Although trying to avoid treats completely might seem like an ideal short-term solution, it can lead to problematic eating behaviors and do more harm than good in the long term. Instead, it is best to learn to incorporate treats occasionally, eat them mindfully, and enjoy every last bite. Here are 5 reasons why you should eat treats.
For many people, the idea of eating “healthy” is tightly correlated with the idea of eating “perfectly” with a strict set of rules, rights, and wrongs and “good” or “bad” foods. Although, in theory, it might seem ideal to avoid treats altogether for optimal health, that is not realistic. In fact, treats can and should be part of a healthy diet, even when you are trying to cut back. The key to eating healthy is not to eat “perfectly”, it is to eat in a way that supports your physical, mental, and emotional health, and that includes treats. In my opinion, the goal should be to enjoy whole foods and treats as part of a healthy diet and learn to do it all consciously.
Reasons You Should Treat Yourself
1. Indulgence is an Important Part of Health
The first and most important thing to understand is that indulgence is an important part of health. Of course, when you eat you are primarily feeding your body and your cells and the objective is to give it the tools it needs to perform and function optimally so that you can be healthy, however, there are times when you are also feeding your soul. Most of the time you will eat because you need fuel, but there will be moments when you will eat to support your health through emotion, celebration, and joy. Food is both fuel and pleasure, not one or the other.
2. Treats are Part of a Balanced Diet
You can’t eat a balanced diet without treats, they are built right in. Think about it, if you were only eating healthy meals or “clean” meals all of the time you would not have any balance at all, it would actually be quite restrictive. Instead, it’s important to understand that treats, indulgences, “junk” food, and desserts are actually part of a balanced diet! I often use the 80/20 rule as an example with my clients and in my nutrition program to help remind people that is it important to enjoy treats from time to time because they are built right into a balanced diet. If you are eating real food most of the time (say 80%) and enjoying treats some of the time (say 20%) it’s nothing to be concerned about. Instead, you should enjoy every last bite, feel good about it and recognize that you are eating in a balanced way.
3. Too Much Restriction Can Lead to Binging
This may not be the case for everyone, but it certainly is for some. Feeling restricted is not pleasant in any context and food is no different. Although it might seem like a good idea to label foods as “good” or “bad” or “healthy” or “unhealthy”, health is not that black and white. In fact, labeling foods strictly as “bad” can cause a spiral for some people once they start eating them. If you’ve labeled a food a “bad”, you may begin to think that you’ve done a bad thing and are a bad person for eating that “bad” food. When this happens you open yourself up to a “f*ck it‘” moment and can begin to sabotage yourself by thinking; “I’ve already started, so I might as well just go for it”. This negative thought pattern can force you into a situation when you are no longer feeding your body, mind, or you soul, you are punished eating and by the last bite, you likely aren’t even enjoying it anymore. Instead, if you remind yourself that indulging in treats is built into a healthy eating plan you can allow yourself to enjoy that moment of indulgence, savor every bite, and move on.
4. It Helps You Let Go of the Guilt
Do you know what the worst part of having a treat is? It’s not your health, your body’s response, or the scale, it’s the guilt and shame we allow ourselves to feel after we’ve consumed something we’ve deemed as bad or wrong. The truth is, no individual treat will make you unhealthy, the same way no individual salad will make you healthy, everything is about context. In fact, an argument can be made that treats, dessert, alcohol, and sugar are not problematic in the slightest – our bodies can handle a little bit of anything – but it’s the guilt, shame, and self-loathing that lead us to a case of the “f*ck its” where we go from zero to hero and let go of any mindful eating patterns whatsoever. Instead, if we recognize that our bodies are built with systems to handle the occasional indulgence and that they help to nourish more than just our physical body, we can allow ourselves to let go of the guilt, shame, and self-loathing after we eat that cookie, ice cream or wine, and simply enjoy the process of eating them instead.
5. You’ll Stop Obsessing and Feel Better
Constantly stressing over what you eat, dreaming about treats, and thinking about food is not natural, nor is it healthy. Imposing rigid rules around food is not good for our mental or emotional health, and therefore won’t support our physical health either. Telling yourself “I’m never eating that again“, “I’m only eating healthy starting tomorrow“, or “I’m cutting out sugar” is simply not realistic and sets you up for failure. You need to realize that you are going to indulge again, you are going to eat treats again and you are going to eat sugar again. Life is not going to pause to make healthy eating convenient for you. You are going to go to parties and celebrations and on vacation and have birthdays and you’re just going to want to eat treats again. So instead of convincing yourself you can or will avoid treats altogether, work them into your lifestyle and diet. Allowing for pleasurable treats, indulgence, “junk” food, desserts, and moments in your healthy eating plan will help to take away the guilt and simply allow you to enjoy those moments instead.
The Bottom Line
Indulgence is an important part of health and enjoying treats is important for nourishing our body, mind, and spirit. There is nothing wrong with showing love through food to yourself or someone else, it’s a way of nurturing ourselves and it’s intensely personal, but it’s also important that we do it as consciously and mindfully as possible. How often should you eat treats? That’s completely dependent on yourself, your health, and your goals, and it’s important that you choose what works best for you.