Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
31 Jan

Entitled to Sabotage

sundaeLast week’s post on emotional eating got people talking – about the personal struggles they’ve had and the mental games they’ve learned to avoid in their quest for health. One such game, I think, is what we call treating ourselves. How many people justify bad eating habits because they tell themselves they deserve the treat? “Can’t I just enjoy a little pleasure in life?” “Aren’t I entitled?” Sometimes it takes on context. “With all I put up with…” “Why can’t I just have this one thing?” “This is the one thing I do for myself.”

Treating ourselves. When the noun morphs into the verb, there’s a subtle but significant distinction. Treating ourselves invites us to step outside our normal life for the promise of something of sweeter – and “better.” On occasion, it can be a lighthearted dalliance. For too many people, however, it becomes a continual path of self-sabotage. We all want to believe we deserve more, deserve better than what we come to feel is the mundane. Advertisers leap on this low hanging psychological fruit. Our culture as a whole promotes the immediate gratification of it. There are days when the most resolute among us might at least consider the question. Maybe it’s been one of those days…or years. We’re going through a tough time. We might feel like this momentary extravagance really is all we have to salvage the day.

We can feel like we’re justifiably soothing ourselves or we’re valiantly snubbing our noses at the world that abused us so heinously, but the truth is we’re only robbing ourselves of our own health and wellbeing. Sure, a “treat” distracts us in the moment. The taste, texture, and concept numb us for a short time to whatever emotion, issue, or task we’re hoping to escape. In and of itself as an occasional choice, it doesn’t seem like any real harm. Usually, it isn’t.

The problem is, the concept can take on a life of its own. We treat ourselves enough, and it becomes more than a momentary indulgence but an ongoing excuse to delude ourselves into living – and eating – in an alternative reality. As reader Chica put it last week, the treating/cheating concept places the possibility of making healthy choices outside ourselves and onto an invented “authority.” We give up our own authority and sell out our own intention in doing so. A treat in this context can convince us on some level we’ve “freed” ourselves from that imposition for a few minutes. It might make x, y, or z situation feel comfortably remote for a time, but sooner or later that same vexation comes back into focus again. By eating out of avoidance or entitlement, we’re not fixing the original problem. To boot, we eventually find we’ve created new issues. We put on weight. Our health markers take a downturn. Money we’d budgeted for healthy food has now been spent on junk food. The literal and figurative cost can add up quickly.

Sure, there are conscious, legitimate reasons for choosing to eat a piece of holiday pie, a friend’s birthday cupcake, or other non-Primal food. Telling yourself you “deserve” it, I’d suggest, isn’t one of those. As the 80/20 guide explains, sometimes there’s nothing wrong with pleasure for pleasure’s sake – no strangled mental justification required. An excuse, I would argue, is nothing but a game.

What do you deserve then? It’s a question I think we all need to ask ourselves at some point. What do you feel you deserve, and how does your answer genuinely serve your wellbeing? Do our indulgences (food and otherwise) mollify us or nourish us, numb us or fulfill us? Do we even regularly give ourselves those things that we feel we deserve? If not, why not? Do we accept other, lesser things in their place? What does this denial (full or partial) do to our life satisfaction, and how does it perhaps influence less healthy choices we make in a day – whether it be food or something else?

Ultimately, we decide what role pleasures and rewards will play in our lives and what they will be. The best indulgences I would argue, aren’t those that remove us from our healthy intentions but those that leave us with a broader, more expansive vision of what they could be.

Thanks for reading. Share your views on treating yourself to what you deserve. Have a good end to the week, everyone.
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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. This is a great post. So glad that it is today’s topic.

    Honeybuns wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • That picture with the whipped cream, and toppings looks sooooo good…

      And whats that? A cherry on top too!???

      Who am I kidding, I’m going to make me a big bowl of ice cream right now!

      Kevin wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • You know what? The picture barely looks like food now, it could be spray painted foam rubber from how garish it looks.

        Eating that would feel less like a treat than an imposition.

        Today I had a real treat – blew 4 days food money on a haunch of wild venison from a top quality game butcher.

        Next treat might be a big bowl of amazing organic berries. Or a too-expensive bottle of vintage French red wine.

        fifer wrote on January 31st, 2013
        • Ooh – nice on the venison.

          I like looking at pictures of baked goods (really!) because they are so darn pretty. (I’m sure the previous association with the sugar rush doesn’t hurt.) They make amazing art with cakes, etc.

          When we do have “edible” art around for celebrations, we throw away any extra cake/baked good/etc as “not food”. (We follow the 80/20 rule the kids. The adults are a bit more strict.) We’ve thrown away some large quantities on a few occasions. I also encourage the kids to do the same for anything that’s supposed to be swallowed but bad for them that they get.

          Amy wrote on January 31st, 2013
        • Those are my kind of treats. My treat today is 2 squares of 87% Taza chocolate, a spoonful of raw almond butter and a spoon of macadamia nut butter.

          Stef wrote on January 31st, 2013
        • Yes, you really nailed it. On the rare occasion where I “treat” myself to say, a pastry, it never lives up to my expectations. I end up asking myself, “why the hell did I used to think this was so good?!”

          I love when I get the chance to splurge on good meat, perfect produce and fresh, raw dairy.

          Way more satisfying, mentally and gustatorily.

          laurabailey wrote on January 31st, 2013
        • Dinner at yours!

          Mikki wrote on February 1st, 2013
        • Agreed.
          I’m starting to understand some 1st generation Asian (East and West) migrants, when they’re so fascinated with our brightly coloured “food” but won’t touch it themselves.

          Aesthetically? That cupcake is pretty.
          Food it most certainly is not. :p

          Alice wrote on February 3rd, 2013
      • Go ahead. You DESERVE it! ;-)

        Dano wrote on February 2nd, 2013
        • That was a misplaced post. Sorry.

          Dano wrote on February 2nd, 2013
      • ironically, proper ice cream is paleo

        mm wrote on February 4th, 2013
    • especially with your username :)

      bobbychuck wrote on January 31st, 2013
  2. Excellent post, and timely too. This is something I often must remind myself of.

    I’m treating myself to braised (pastured) pork belly tonight. Yes, I “deserve” it.

    BK wrote on January 31st, 2013
  3. The reason a person may not be able to reward themselves with a treat (as in my case) is firmly addiction. Treats have to at least be low carb or non-food related. Another problem is the “I’ve blown it” mindset that becomes the springboard to paleo sin.

    Groktimus Primal wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • i agree! that’s all very insightful, especially the all-or-nothing mentality. it’s always a good time to just start over with healthy eating again, even after “i’ve blown it.”

      Jenny wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • Ditto, and not just for food, but exercise and personal finances, too. Even a small failing can (and probably will) be used a springboard for apathy the rest of the day/week/month. I have to be very careful, since I am so prone to this issue.

      Emily Allred wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • I’m right there with ya! Addiction for sure

      Trixie wrote on January 31st, 2013
  4. I have learned the hard way that, for me, to “indulge” on sweets other than those in the form of fruits is self destructive. Once I get started, I start making excuses and allow more into my diet. It gets to the point where I feel tired, not as happy, and start losing quality sleep. I am no longer motivated to move. I would rather just sit. After a month or two of little “indulges” by I gain fat and then I am miserable. I read Primal Connection during such an episode of “indulgences” and what you said about make right choices that are not self destructive hit home and I just do not “indulge” on sweets anymore. It took about 3 weeks for the normal taste buds to come back and to restore my energy, happy mood, and quality sleep. That “little indulgence” is not worth it.

    Carolyn wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • I completely agree! I couldn’t have put it any better!

      Alex wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • same here

        paleozeta wrote on May 31st, 2014
    • Here, here!
      I read somewhere, I think it was Aglaee Jacob (apologies if I’m misappropriating along with my paraphrasing), that a treat is not a treat if you feel bad/sick afterwards. I have to remember that when I fall face first into a pile of brownies!

      Madeleine wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • Agreed. I was considering going to the food bank today to get “free” cookies and such (even though it’s all free, but the baked items are officially unlimited and off the record of the month’s brownie points for provisions) but I asked myself how I expected to feel after and decided it would be better to commit the lesser of two evils for sustenance and individual morale by not eating much until tomorrow: welfare day, then I’ll journey to the closest city and report to probation to find out whether or not I’ll get breached and go back to jail. In an imprisoned situation I tend to feel better and behave more beneficially if I’ve loaded my organ reserves and exercised Grokctually.

        Animanarchy wrote on January 31st, 2013
        • I was wondering where you had disappeared to; I hadn’t seen any comments from you for a while.

          Glad to see that you’re back. I find a lot of your comments refreshing and I enjoy reading what you write.

          Egglet wrote on February 3rd, 2013
    • I agree as well, it is such a vicious cycle. The more I indulge the lousier I feel and there seems no way out. I give in easily to social pressure either older folks that refuse to understand and are so hurt if you don’t accept their offerings, family that feels they are being cheated if there is no pasta, pizza or potatoes.
      I am a few days back in to the swing, no left over Christmas candies, got some coconut creamer for my coffee (no dairy). Glutamine in a big bottle of water for the sugar cravings and a little bowl of macadamia nut butter coconut and coconut oil as a “treat”.
      The “bloat” is already coming down..

      k wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • Yes, I’m there, have been for about 6 months, swinging back and forwards against a backdrop of familial (mostly) stressful episodes. Definitely an all or nothing here.

      Kelda wrote on February 3rd, 2013
  5. Great Post! Living primal style means treating myself daily with great foods and feeling good. Though the occasional homemade coconut milk ice cream with dark chocolate flakes is my favorite “indulgence”!

    Trevor wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • +1. Full fat heavy cream of course..

      Dave wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • EXACTLY! :-) “being good” most of the time entitles me to have what i consider a treat — and what is that? rack of lamb! home-made ice cream! lobster tails! once in a blue moon i’ll even have some twice-baked potato! take THAT, baskin-robbins….

      tess wrote on January 31st, 2013
  6. This is something I think many people struggle with, and the removal of guilt in the way Mark describes is spot on. I also believe his final comment is pertinent. We should treat ourselves in both new and non-food ways.

    And, for my money, when I want to treat myself, I buy an exotic/expensive fruit/vegetable or cut of meat. All the indulgence without the risk.

    Sam wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • Exactly, I always try to remove guilt by overly justifying it. I like your ideas for treats and will copy! THANKS!

      Katie wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • +1

      Dave wrote on January 31st, 2013
  7. wow, so timely! i am heading on vacation after a month of pretty strict primal and had a dream last night that i was massively cheating particularly around sugar. i feel like i am pretty easily able to do this at home, so this will be a new challenge…travel for work and pleasure, how will i fair? staying conscious and aware will be key.
    thx for the post!

    melissa wrote on January 31st, 2013
  8. Mark, great post.

    I believe that many of us tend to live our lives with a “poverty mentality” and dieting is pretty similar. Living as though there just isn’t enough to go around – not enough pleasure, not enough love, not enough food, not enough money. At some level, we feel like we have to steal these things. I think it helps tremendously to go around believing that there is ENOUGH, it removes the inclination to beg, borrow, and steal…or find excuses to provide to some imaginary master.

    Mazzy wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • Ooooooo – Excellent comment Melissa

      Primal V wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • I second that!

        Alex wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • third! :-D

        tess wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • Agreed completely. The “abundance” mentality enables me to practice gratitude and stop looking for “treats”. Now if only I could keep it right up front in my head and not lose sight of it when life gets in the way.

      TerriAnn wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • Can’t agree more. It’s a mindset. What do I “deserve” – why would I “deserve” to destroy what I’ve worked so hard for? What “good” does that do? None! I love what others have said about the “treat” being a better cut of steak; a fancy fruit; or treating myself to extra time at home with the family.

      As for having “enough?” After you’ve lived overseas as long as I have, you learn what is really important. Live in a tent with 49 of your closest friends for a year – and “enough” takes on a whole new meaning! Enough means being warm, fed, clothed, and, most importantly, loved. Everything else is just extra.

      Dave wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • Dave and TerriAnn….exactly! I agree on all counts!

        Practicing a state of gratitude means that you have all you need…you’re safe! All will be provided when you need it. Also, allowing yourself to appreciate yourself and the things you do. We get criticized so often that it helps to remember we all do the best we can and we deserve respect and to be treated kindly.

        Mazzy wrote on February 1st, 2013
    • FOurth. “)

      Gydle wrote on February 1st, 2013
  9. In the U.S. it seems like every “treat” is a food (or alcohol). And we are compelled to pair fun with high-oil, high-carb white-flour (or fried carb) treats. Especially with kids (and that’s where it starts), food is no longer tied to hunger or nutrition; food means fun – like McDonald’s Happy Meals and play tube slides. Can we host a team breakfast without donuts and high fructose juice?

    The social nature of treat food is very difficult to overcome. I’d never buy myself a store-bought cake, cookies or cupcakes, but one or more shows up at every celebration or gathering. Even post-dinner events for kids come with “snacks” and treats to make it more “fun”.

    I’d like to see more ideas for how groups to enjoy time together and celebrate without making it about edible treats that we eat at non-meal times.

    Veronica wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • This is a good point…”the social nature of treat food.” Nothing quite like having to pass on someone’s store-bought birthday cake to have everyone in the room raising their eyebrows.

      Alice wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • +1

        Jen wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • Like

        Alex wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • The surprising thing though is if you commit to no cake, after a while everyone in the family gets used to it. (Hopefully!) My family does ask, but they are waiting for me to say no. (They’d probably be shocked at this point if I asked for a big slice.)

        In big social gatherings, usually people are less concerned with you actually eating the stuff than with you having had the chance to have the cake.

        Amy wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • +1
      how dare you host a gathering without “fun” food- what will my friends think if they were forced to drink water

      lockard wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • EXACTLY! When we have friends over and we make them breakfast, I can offer them water…or water ;) I doubt they want my homemade Kombucha or coconut milk, but that’s all I got. I even hate to have sodas at our house if we do a crawfish boil or something like that. The 2yo only gets water, so should the adults.

        Jess @ Crunchy Hot Mama wrote on February 2nd, 2013
    • And it seems like we have these gatherings several times a week, if not every day. That’s where the problem gets REALLY problematic, when the “treat” becomes an every day event.

      Stacie wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • Your mention of McDonalds reminded me of a comedian I once heard. He said that when he was growing up he associated McDonalds with good feelings and would get a warm & happy feeling every time he saw the golden arches. He did not want his children to grow up like this so ever time they drive by he punches them in the arm. NOTE: I’m not advocating child battery!

      stephanie wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • Ha!

        Amy wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • I’m loving it.

        Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • Ha! Although it would benefit from a little tweaking in regard to the method, it sounds great in theory!

        It’s unfortunate that to a great number of us, food is much more about with what we associate it rather than nourishment for our bodies and a necessity for health and survival.

        To many, food = love, safety, comfort and celebration.

        Another Jen wrote on January 31st, 2013
        • Haven’t laughed so hard all week.

          Madama Butterfry wrote on February 1st, 2013
    • Yes, so TRUE!! I am dealing with this right now with a 7 year old, who I fear will test positive for Celiac soon (as I did)…that will make this so much more difficult, as these treats that literally surround him at school and after school will actually become dangerous, not just habit forming. Living this lifestyle has brought this to light for me, that this food follows us around everywhere and is tied to literally ALL social events, especially with kids. I may have to come to grips soon with being “that parent” if my little guy is, in fact, Celiac…but it will be the right thing to do for his future. It just baffles me to see food from this perspective now, and realize that nutrition is so far gone from the picture unless we live “alternative” lifestyles that somehow force good food on kids!

      Suzanne wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • Why would you need to be “that parent?”. As an adult, I go to many social gatherings where I essentially eat gluten free without creating big issues for others. It’s a habit I hardly think about now and I’m sure it can developed in a 7 year old, too.

        I know it’s hard when you are the kid that has to be “different”. And it’s hard on the parent, too. But I was “different” kid and I survived. Not only that, I grew to adulthood and thrived. It’s an opportunity to really learn to how to navigate society as unique individual.

        Amy wrote on January 31st, 2013
        • Sorry, but you do become ‘that parent’ as soon as your child isn’t allowed (for whatever reason) to go and have a burger with his friends or can’t have grandma’s lasagna. Of course, it gets easier as an adult but there are still social situations over which you have little control.

          Grokesque wrote on February 1st, 2013
        • LOL – I guess there are 2 levels of “that parent” What you describe is simply good parenting. Even without any outstanding health conditions, being parent means creating structure for children. That’s not easy, it won’t make you popular, but it’s critical and just part of the gig. That role takes on even more importance where there are health issues.

          However, there’s another level of “that parent” where all of society has to participate in the “woes” of the family. As in my child has a gluten issue, dairy allergy, nut allergy, etc. Therefore you, busy stranger, need to wash your hands, not eat a whole classes of food near my kid, and label any homemade food, etc so that my child can feel “normal”. (An by extension, myself.)

          I deeply respect the right of parents to choose what’s best for their family, even if I don’t agree. Not so much when I’m supposed to participate in those choices lest anyone feel bad about not being “normal”. There are ways around all those issues without asking strangers to change how they are living.

          Amy wrote on February 1st, 2013
      • You know what? Gently be that mom. There are celiacs who ding negative with the biopsy because it can take years for enough damage to appear yet in unnecessary agony all that time. Even if he’s not celiac, he could have an intolerance. Then he gets leaky gut, and then you have all the rottenness that comes with that. My suggestion is you educate your kid on the potential consequences, and make paleo/primal kid friendly treats available. “Eat like a dinosaur” folks have lots of allergy friendly sweet treats for kids.

        Oly wrote on February 1st, 2013
        • Oly, good point. And yes, I plan on going about like that. I’m overly sensitive to the harsh response people have to the whole “gluten free” thing right now. I’m not one to put others out…my nature is to gain joy from accomodating others. So to have this issue that puts me at odds with about 95% of all food out there in social situations just sucks (the looks and comments I get for kindly turning down food with no explanation slay me!). But I have already started down a very reduced gluten road with my little one, as I’m already sure he’s sensitive. I plan on slowly building him up to eating Paleo most of the time – making it second nature with time. Sadly, I think the “that parent” comment comes more from how my own mother has reacted to the news of Celiac…she doesn’t want me to involve my child at all in “my health issue”. It just makes me hyper aware that there are those out there that view this as being very much in our heads. Should I care? Absolutely not. Do I? I try not to, but I can feel what others think very acutely – it’s a special skill I have that’s not working well for me in this instance! ;)

          Suzanne wrote on February 1st, 2013
        • Suzanne – I hope you don’t think I was having a go at the CD/gluten parenting. I’m sure that the more people become aware of primal/paleo the better for everyone – including CD sufferers. Unfortunately so many CD sufferers try to claim exclusive rights on eating this way and scorn us primal types.

          Grokesque wrote on February 2nd, 2013
      • I was diagnosed with CD 32 years ago so our household is 100% gf. When our daughter came along, two years ago, it wasn’t even a question, she would be gf (and now paleo). I am ‘that’ parent and have friends ask me, why would you do that to her? Do what? Feed my child the best possible foods. It’s a non-issue for me, which isn’t to say it’s not hard socially, because it is sometimes. I just have to remind myself that I’m the parent, and it’s up to me to raise my child the way I see fit. Sorry Mickey D’s…she won’t know who or what you are!

        Jess @ Crunchy Hot Mama wrote on February 2nd, 2013
    • I couldn’t agree more!!

      The manager of my 5 year old son’s hockey team decided that every family would take turns bringing a ‘treat’ for the team for after the game or practice.

      The item most people bring is a box of Timbits. For those of you who don’t live in Canada, they are basically little donut balls that are sold at a large coffee shop chain.

      I don’t let my son have them, and I’ll bring him something else to eat like an orange or banana, but I’m pretty sure that if I wasn’t there, he probably wouldn’t glance at me and say ‘no thank you’ to the person offering him this junk. Keep in mind that we’re talking 8:00 in the morning to boot. Sugar is bad news any time of the day, but for some reason it seems more horrific first thing in the morning.

      To make things worse, my ex doesn’t think there’s a problem with our son having that crap. It won’t kill him, he says. Ugh!! I ask him if he’d feed our kids spoonfuls of sugar and his answer is, of course, no, and when I tell him that’s exactly what he’s doing his answer is always ‘but it’s different’. It is very frustrating!!

      I apologize for going on a bit if a rant there! I think as long as we’re giving our kids a head start at home, bring primal alternatives for them when were not at home, and keep talking about why we eat this way, it will pay off in the future.

      Egglet wrote on February 3rd, 2013
  10. My trainer/RD has stressed that I’m entitled to good health and wellbeing. With that mindset, nothing that will compromise my health and wellbeing feels like a treat.

    Susan wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • +1

      Thanks for sharing this!!

      Meagan wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • Exacly what I think everytime I feel guilty when saying “no” – AGAIN – to someones painstakingly homabaked treat. I AM entitled to protecting my health. It may taste heavenly but my health tastes even better. :-)

      Elena wrote on February 1st, 2013
  11. I see the “treat mentality” in what sometimes appears to be the desperate quest to find dessert recipes that barely squeak by as paleo. By putting things like bakery items on a pedestal, they become what we really wish we were eating, the food to which other foods are negatively compared. So many of us had childhoods where junk treats were given as rewards, to celebrate good times, or even just after every meal to reward us for eating our veggies, and it’s so hard to just mentally get rid of the pedestal. For me it has meant getting away from all bakery…I don’t care if you have the most delicious wheat-free primal chocolate chip cookie recipe ever, I don’t want it. I can’t take a step down that road. It is possible to get to the point where regular food is a treat, for instance I look forward to a big bowl of steamed broccoli with olive oil right now.

    Alice wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • I’m going to make steamed cabbage with garlic butter tonight – favourite veg recipe of the moment!!!

      Primal V wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • Alice, this is so true! Thanks for putting into words what I just couldn’t quite articulate. There’s nothing special about these foods, yet we hold them in the highest regard and imply that if you don’t eat them you’re somehow missing out on this great thing.

      Amy wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • I struggled to articulate it, too. I read an article many years ago about how if you are the type of dieter who is “allowed” to eat one small piece of candy a day, then your whole day will revolve around when you get that candy and the candy will remain fixed in your mind as the most desirable food of the day. The article put it much more succinctly but I can only recall the general concept.

        Alice wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • Yes, my Big Ass Salad is my treat for every day of the week. I look at it as a treat and it is a treat. It treats me right and it’s not a “trick or treat”. I didn’t have to sign a treaty to stick to it either.

        Nocona wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • You make some excellent points, Alice. For me, a bowl of turnip greens cooked Southern-style with bits of ham and sprinkled with pepper sauce is a treat. I love it.

      Shary wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • “By putting things like bakery items on a pedestal”

      Which is something people literally do! I’ve never seen an elevated meat plate.

      oxide wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • It didn’t dawn on me when I wrote that that my metaphor was literal. :-) But yeah, what’s up with cakes on pedestals? Some kind of psychological shrine/worship thing?

        Alice wrote on January 31st, 2013
        • Ha!

          Alex wrote on January 31st, 2013
        • Yes, cakes on pedestals are like the belle of the ball! Heh. Let’s buy cake pedestals and put charcuterie on them!

          Pure Hapa wrote on January 31st, 2013
        • Putting a cake on a pedestal elevates something pretty and gives the table some height variation. You can put something else that is colorful on it; fruit, vegtables or even candles. We do need another way to say “celebrate.” In the old days people used to sing, maybe I should try that at my next party.

          Vanessa wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • LOL!

        Jen wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • Stacked meat plate sources:

        1) Find and hang with charcuterie practioners.

        2) Epic Meal Time

        Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • I have a cake stand I never use now after going primal. NOW I know what to use it for!!

        Julie wrote on January 31st, 2013
        • LOVE EMT!!

          Mik wrote on February 2nd, 2013
    • I agree with you! I grew up baking, my mother taught me to bake bread as a very little girl and I always took pride in my skills. But now I don’t bake at all, apart from birthday cakes. The sugar just isn’t worth it. My husband will spend weeks begging for brownies and when I make flourless brownies, he eats one and the kids and I get suckered into eating the rest and then reap the consequences in disturbed sleep and behavioral upset for a week or more after. I just had a roasted sweet potato with beef drippings poured over. It was awesome and far better than any bakery treat I could concoct.

      eema.gray wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • Yumm, great idea

        Dave wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • If you make some more, it might help to cut down the recipe to like Ez-Bake oven portions and/or throw away the excess. I mentioned it upstream, but our household is ruthless with disposing of “non-food”.

        Amy wrote on January 31st, 2013
        • Amy -

          I think your idea of ‘non food’ is very good. I have been taking things (milk chocolate, cookies, etc.) that get into our house – usually as a gift – to work where it is eaten quickly (by colleagues, not me!). But I think that there are times when chucking it into the bin might be just as well. It feels wasteful, but I don’t feel I’m ‘wasting’ other kinds of rubbish, a used tissue, say, when I throw it out. So, no longer will I feel bad for tossing out ‘non food’!

          Violet wrote on February 1st, 2013
    • “I see the “treat mentality” in what sometimes appears to be the desperate quest to find dessert recipes that barely squeak by as paleo”

      This is very true. Paleo baked goods make a great celebration food (rather than “treat”) but it’s critical to back away from the bakery aisle as a part of daily life. So many women, especially, are rightly proud of their baking skills but it’s an unfortunately unhealthy “hobby”.

      I used to bake pretty well myself. It’s not anything I do any longer. Ultimately, I saw it as freeing up my time to do other things. It also helped to declutter my kitchen. ;)

      Amy wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • I like baking bread, and I’m the only one who can’t eat it, so I make it once in a while and don’t eat any. I’ve learned to feel happy that they love it so much and not regret that I can’t have any. :)

        Pat wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • Wow Alice. Great response! I’m right there with you, but my veggie that I crave is roasted brussel sprouts after work!

      Emily wrote on February 1st, 2013
  12. Me and the mrs. Bought a realy awesome dark chocolate bar that we are going to have when she get under 200 lb. ( im under that already.) But its not the real treat. The real treat is fitting into our highschool pants again and not being tired and sick all the time.

    Andrew wrote on January 31st, 2013
  13. I do find myself indulging in bad foods under stress, and I am painfully aware of that weakness. Applied at the right time, the rush of sweetness or comfort food does offer a relief when everything else seems to be going wrong. I do not do it because I feel I “deserve it”, but because it temporarily alleviates sadness.

    To give an example, when my dad passed away and I found myself close to emotional collapse from having to keep it together on particularly difficult days in the immediate aftermath, I managed to stave that off with good old-fashioned cake and candy. I realise obviously that emotional eating is not a good substitute to properly grieving, but it does offer some measure of comfort.

    It is low-hanging psychological fruit picking. But sometimes that is all you need to make it through a rough patch.

    That said, the time when I had the most mental fortitude was when I resisted temptations amid the holiday season. It turns out that breaking the cycle of temptation and giving in provides you with a much broader capacity to resist emotional eating.

    Kareem wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • We reward ourselves with food because it’s the only thing we’ve permitted ourselves as a reward. At some level, it’s because we devalue ourselves on the whole of our lives. If you use food as a balm to emotional stressors, the reason is because you need someone/something outside of yourself to reassure you that there’s goodness left in the world.

      Punishment is inherent in our culture. And self-punishment is a pre-emptive strike against others punishing us. This is the nature of daily work and family related stress. The mentality of Self-punishment puts a shadow over everything – nothing you do is good enough, nothing you have is good enough, you will never have what you need…

      Is it any wonder that, when stripped of anything possibly enjoyable, we react by reverting to infantilism? Mama, me needs my milk!

      Mazzy wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • I want to add…there is goodness inside of us already.

        Mazzy wrote on January 31st, 2013
        • Mazzy, that is your second comment that I made a point of copying down for later reference. I’m guessing you’re a therapist.

          Jenny wrote on January 31st, 2013
        • +1 regarding Mazzy’s insightful, brilliant comments….Archiving immediately.

          Donna wrote on January 31st, 2013
  14. I think the way I have worked this out is thus: Before I indugle in something that is off limits or not primal, I try to think of
    1. How long will I be eating or drinking this?
    2. How long will I regret eating or drinking this?
    3. Am I really desirous of this treat or am I just bored, tired, tempted, etc.
    4. By the time I actually think on these things, I usually forget it and go about some other activity.
    Occupy the mind with good thoughts and productivity, listen to Beethove’s 7th symphony, read, walk, chase the dog.

    Whatever works most of the time!
    For me it’s the thought of how I will feel when I cheat or treat.

    Pastor Dave wrote on January 31st, 2013
  15. While I agree that cheating is dangerous and ultimately a bad thing, I still think there is a role for cheat it.

    For some people it’s extremely hard to go cold turkey and immediately stop consumption of grains and other high sugar products.

    So using the concept of cheat days can be a helpful stepping stone along the way.

    I found that after eating well for 6 days my taste buds eventually adjusted so that when I cheated on the 7th day everything felt TOO sweet.

    I’m now at a point where I don’t feel the need to cheat and don’t feel deprived of those foods I used to eat… but I can tell you.. those first few months of trying to eat healthily… I was really jonesing for grains and carbs.. and having a cheat day helped me stay on track in the long run.

    In the end, not cheating and not wanting to cheat is the best state to be in. But being able to cheat once in a while is still better than eating poorly all of the time.

    bjjcaveman wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • I have to agree with you. My Friday night ‘Cheat Night’ really helped me to stay on track in the beginning. But as time has moved on, I don’t feel the need to do that anymore. As a matter of fact, teh thought of putting in my mouth what I once did is kind of repulsive.

      That being said, every once in a while, I will have something non-Primal because I simply like the taste of it and want to enjoy it. It’s not a reward, it’s not an allowance…it’s just simply because I feel like indulging in a butter tart (as an example)…no more, no less. It’s not a pattern of emotional eating nor is it a habit.

      Charity wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • I feel, unfortunately, that my food blog gazing qualifies as cheating…because I can spend/waste hours of my life coveting the images of baked goods that I simply know are not good for me, whether said bakery goods are paleo or not….Why oh why do I engage in such behaviors?!..I do not actually engage in preparing the recipes…but it almost seems punitive to gander at such things…to obsess over food to the point where one forgets to fully embrace the primal way of life…being vibrant and multi-faceted..open to all that life has to offer.

      Donna wrote on January 31st, 2013
      • I find that the more I think about, look at, or focus on something, the more I want it. So I focus on things that are good for me. Ice cream? No, I think about a couple tablespoons of heavy cream poured over blueberries (or pecans, or dark chocolate chips) Big Mac? No, bacon wrapped filet mignon over seared asparagus suits my health better. Focusing on baked goods is only going to make you want baked goods more. Focus on what is good for you AND delicious. The Primal Diet allows BACON AND CHOCOLATE. What is there to miss? ;)

        Randi wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • I would argue that eating carbs on a once weekly basis while transitioning into the Primal lifestyle is not a “cheat”. If you made the plan to allow yourself this indulgence, you are following your own rules and not, as the article describes, passing responsibility for your choices to some outside authority.
      I actually found that doing this helped me go Primal sooner than otherwise, since it helped me develop will-power (to not indulge for the 6 days), and then be disappointed by desserts not living up to my expectations (and feeling gross afterwards). After 1 month, I’m ready to kiss carbs good-bye altogether.

      Mama Barrett wrote on February 1st, 2013
  16. I totally get this. I don’t think to “reward” myself with non primal food, because I’m not on a diet and I’m not suffering in any way that should require a “reward”. I am NOT patting myself on the back, but merely noting the psychology of it all.

    Our family simply has a new paradigm. Everything found on the primal/paleo food pyramid are the options we have to live the healthiest life possible. I’m as likely to eat something that is not on that pyramid as I am to put my hand on the burner of a hot stove.

    That being said, I do bake “paleofied” treats to keep three teenagers and a husband happy and on board. These treats have not impeded the tremendous health benefits we have seen.

    Miki wrote on January 31st, 2013
  17. Thanks for this post, Mark, and the one on emotional eating. Like many other readers here, I struggle with both of these issues a great deal. It’s important not to forget about the heavy social and psychological factors that dictate what we desire and ultimately choose to eat. I know that being strictly paleo makes me feel amazing and, what’s more, eliminates the cravings for non-paleo foods more so than when 80/20 becomes more like 60/40. Yet even though I know this to be the case, I can always find many reasons not to be strictly paleo all the time. Number one on that list is precisely the topic of this post: that I should be allowed a treat, that I deserve it, that I should just live a little.

    I think that, in general, we fixate too much on food as a reward, as the ultimate pleasure. We (and I especially!) should focus on other things that truly matter: friends, family, work, hobbies, play!

    Agnes wrote on January 31st, 2013
  18. Great post, as usual!

    Holly wrote on January 31st, 2013
  19. There are so many nice treats within the primal diet that I really don’t have the need to “treat myself to stomach problems” by eating anything else…. :-)

    Liesel wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • bingo ! with the very rare exception, this is exactly how i feel. i’ve been following the PB for about 9 mos and have lost nearly 60 lbs.

      Rimbaud wrote on January 31st, 2013
  20. I have found when I am really craving something non-primal, I can fend it off by eating something primal. I decide that I can have the “treat” after I eat this (fill in good primal food here). Once I’ve eaten the primal food, if I am still really desiring the “treat” then I may eat it, but usually the craving has subsided & I am satisfied without it.

    Carolyn wrote on January 31st, 2013
  21. Wonderful post. I used to feel this way about “junk food”, that it was a treat and I deserved it for running so many miles, skipping lunch, having a hard day at work, etc…..then I would feel guilty and hate myself for it.

    Paleo eating (introduced to me through Marks Daily Apple nearly a year ago) has changed all of that. I no longer see food as a reward in the forementioned sense.

    I reward my body every day with wholesome, basic, nutritious, natural (delicious!) food and that is very satisfying.

    I had one of my husband’s french fries the other day……tasted disgusting! Not kidding. I used to live for those things…….now they just seem like rancid oil drenched starch. Yuck.

    Thanks to Paleo/Primal/Marks Daily Apple, my view of what is a “reward” has changed significantly. I love it.

    Sarah wrote on January 31st, 2013
  22. My treat is dark chocolate. At least 80% stuff. I buy a 100 gram bar (3 and a half ounces) and have 20 grams (thee-quarters of an ounce) as a treat. When it’s gone, that’s it for the week.
    A bar usually lasts a week but if not it’s kind of self limiting as I can’t buy anymore til shopping day.

    Crofter wrote on January 31st, 2013
  23. After reading this and much contemplation I have determined that need to plan my schedule better for what/when I eat. For instance, I had a awards dinner to go to last night. What I should have done was eat something prior to going, but the work day got away from me and when I showed up, I was starving, stressed and had no time to wind down. 3 glasses of wine, due to a stressed day was my “treat” followed by dinner and a healthy serving of tiramisu.

    As much as I appreciate Pastor Dave’s message – when I eat or drink like I did last night, it was because I was in the moment with friends. I didn’t think about what I was eating when I was eating it. That isn’t all of the time, but… This, apparently, is another challenge for me – think before I eat.

    Susie wrote on January 31st, 2013
  24. Thanks for this post, Mark! I started Primal 2 1/2 years ago, and it was a great way to jump-start healthy eating. Now, I’m working through this “treat” issue, because I’m realizing that while overeating on Primal food is better than the alternative, it’s still overeating. It’s not good for my body to have to process a lot more food than I need, and certainly is not good for my diabetic tendencies!

    Jenny wrote on January 31st, 2013
  25. I made it through the holidays just great – it was actually easy to say no to the holiday cookies and treats. But then January hit and somewhere inside my head it “was ok” to treat myself because I did so well over the holidays. Make sense, huh? I actually handled my treats well, until we bought the MOST delicious, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth croissants & fresh bread from a local bakery….two weekends in a row. We actually made nachos for dinner one night – what were we thinking?? Well, now my jeans are feeling tight and my clothes aren’t fitting as well, and I’m feeling off. I’m tired & dragging and am having a hard time finding my motivation to work out. So now I’m slowly getting back on track (still fighting some cravings) and am trying to come up with ways to treat myself in the future that have nothing to do with food so I don’t put myself through this again!

    I keep telling myself “Stop rewarding yourself with food, you’re not a dog!”

    Carol wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • yep. me too. after christmas it started, Its now over (again)

      TerriAnn wrote on January 31st, 2013
  26. Hi Mark, I don’t follow ‘primal’, I am a low carber, but have been following your blog for a while. This is a timely post because I am off the wagon at the moment, can’t get back on, being dragged by the damn thing. I really like “What do you feel you deserve, and how does your answer genuinely serve your wellbeing?” Great questions. Unfortunately in the moment of feeling I deserve a treat it is not always possible to hear the voice of reason asking sensible questions. All you have is the pain of the moment and the knowledge that that ‘treat’ will fix things. The rational you knows it won’t fix a damn thing but the hurting part doesn’t know nor care.

    I enjoy your blog Mark, thanks for all you do.

    And dark chocolate doesn’t cut it for me, as a treat, yuk – not sweet enough. I’ve tried 70% up to 90% dark and its all too dark.

    I also have an issue with ‘just one piece’. If I could eat just one piece, or just one slice, or one cookie I wouldn’t be fat. (though I have lost ~ 50 lb on low carb, struggling to maintain that, and could stand to lose another 25 lb or so).

    Isabel wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • Hi Isabel,

      I know exactly what you mean. Asking questions that would guide us away from indulgence when we’re in the midst of hurting just doesn’t work.
      The biggest hurdle in self-sabotage and emotional eating is that we’re fighting with our subconscious, survival-based, primitive brain. Human beings are programmed to avoid pain, it was a vital stage in our evolution that we are all still operating from. When we learn (often early in life) that food is a solution to our pain (or food is love) no amount of logical questioning will work to interrupt that subconscious pattern.
      Our subconscious programming is the problem here and it is largely running the show of our lives. Keep in mind that the majority of our thoughts are subconscious in nature, some experts claim that as much as 95% of our thinking is below the level of our awareness. That programming is largely created from the ages of 0-7, while we are little sponges without the cognitive ability to evaluate things in our environment for truth or importance. Everything we hear, see and experience as a young child is automatically true, and in some way means something about us. Many of the conclusions we come to about ourselves, who we are, what we’re capable of, about others, about love, marriage, money, food and everything else are incorrect or only partially true. Trauma is an especially powerful programmer, so it stands to reason that people with traumatic childhoods are more likely to have difficulty with their identity, addiction issues and all other manner of issues later in life.
      I learned all of that through my training as an Emotional Freedom Technique Practitioner from psychologists and social workers, but I don’t claim to be one, so take it for what it’s worth.
      Finding a tool that allows you to access those old programs, delete the ones that are obsolete and install new ones that serve you better, i.e. I am worthy, I can manage my emotions without food, it’s possible for me to be healthy and lean, it’s safe for me to be at my ideal weight etc. is the key to resolving the issues in my opinion. Keep in mind that as you read those new beliefs above, your logical, conscious mind will often agree, but the truth is, if your life isn’t a reflection of those beliefs, you have subconscious programming in your way.
      I highly recommend that one struggling with self-sabotage or emotional eating look into EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or other tools that can help us re-wire our brains, like NLP, hypnosis, neurofeedback and others. The neuroplasticity of our brains and how we can change our memories, belief systems and old programming is an absolutely fascinating field of study that is changing what we know about human change at an exponential rate! Hope that helps!

      Ellie wrote on January 31st, 2013
  27. Social eating has been my biggest challenge. In my early primal days I would just give in to eating non-primal foods, but as the consequences started getting worse, I rethought that strategy. Now my response to those that feel sorry for me because I’m “deprived” from non-paleo desserts because of my “diet” has been to ask, so which part of the dessert is a treat? Is it the sugar that will put me to sleep, the wheat that will give me a stomach ache or the dairy that will leave me with sinus/ear pain for 3 days? My friends now bring me fruit and nuts.

    The other part of social eating is overeating, especially on vacation with my non-primal husband. The beauty of a primal lifestyle is that even when I overeat for a week or two and gain weight as a result, once I return to regularly schedule programming the weight does too within a few days.

    Myra wrote on January 31st, 2013
  28. Being T1 diabetic, i dont have the option of ‘indulging’ if i want to keep my blood sugar levels at that of a normal person. I havent had dessert in about 2 yrs, and its not hard to avoid when you dont have a choice. This is one positive of having diabetes(at least for me), and i make sure to always remind myself of this :-)

    Shawn wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • Just about to post any treats always fail to live up to expectation when you’re a diabetic, then i read you’re post. I rarely have a ‘treat’ then it reminds me how much it fails to please and then the post prandial high blood sugar feels horrible. Ive recently learned, after 23 yrs of type 1, how strict (primal but considerably stricter) my diet/excercise has to be to keep my blood sugars ‘normal’. It’s not easy as my insulin sensitivity continually increases meaning my insulin doses need to be constantly re-evaluated, which is a good thing long term, but whilst my body constantly moves the goal posts it aint easy (daily hypos). I digress, back on point: Dessert is bad!

      greg wrote on February 1st, 2013
      • ‘dessert is bad’-amen to that. as a diabetic, i tell people i have a unique way of determining if a food is healthy or not: if it requires a whole vial of insulin to regulate blood sugar, it probably aint good for you! and nothing requires more insulin than dessert, bread, and pasta!

        Shawn wrote on February 1st, 2013
  29. Thank Goddess for today’s post – I needed it!!!

    Kathleen wrote on January 31st, 2013
  30. Anyone else reading this with the intonation and cadence of “TREAT YO’SELF 2011!” from Parks and Rec? ;)

    cTo wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • YES! I love Parks and Rec!

      Jo wrote on January 31st, 2013
  31. I seem to be totally detached from this concept of “deserving” certain kinds of foods… I’ve thought about it but I don’t think of food as something I’ve earned or not. It is simply to be enjoyed as much as possible. I don’t hesitate to indulge in great food every day. Life’s too short to not eat things I love all the time. I would never consider ‘treating’ myself to unhealthy indulgences or cheats. The idea of this being a reward is just foreign to me. If I do happen to eat something I shouldn’t, I regard it as an exception, or a mistake. Which we all make.

    Anna wrote on January 31st, 2013
  32. I “deserve” good, whole foods that make me feel good and aren’t just about momentary pleasure (one of the good things about paleo: eating non-primal/paleo foods makes me feel sick after about ten minutes.)

    Besides, any indulgence I might want could be done better. I don’t eat sugar anymore (as in added sugars, stevia, sucrose, agave nectar, honey, etc.) so if I want something sweet, I’ll eat some grapes. It’s sweet, and I don’t want it often, but when I do want it (like… right now as I type), I don’t need to feel guilty.

    Jane wrote on January 31st, 2013
  33. I don’t ‘cheat’, ever. With my workout schedule I won’t eat anything that isn’t good for me. I’ve said publicly that I’m only one Hershey’s Kiss away from being a fat guy again.

    Bryan wrote on January 31st, 2013
  34. Shawn being type 1 does not mean you are not normal, just different from some others and unique against all others!

    Gordon wrote on January 31st, 2013
  35. that picture has me craving a huge insulin spike, thanks mark

    Karson wrote on January 31st, 2013
  36. thank you for this, mark.

    adina wrote on January 31st, 2013
  37. I really felt I deserved to treat myself to Jamaica for some extra Vit. D production this year, but my pocketbook isnt in agreement! :)

    solstice wrote on January 31st, 2013
  38. A friend just told me that he is now going to use “sweet” instead of “treat”, as in “I’m going to the store to buy a sweet.” The reason being that by using a neutral word like sweet, he’s removing the emotional connotations of the word treat.

    Miss Grok wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • Winter holiday to warm, sunny climate? Now there’s a treat I could really get behind! Sadly, my pocketbook agrees with yours…

      Violet wrote on February 1st, 2013
  39. Thoughtful subject today. For me, it’s the numbing under stress, which only lasts a few minutes before it switches to regret. I am a compulsive eater, and I usually sail through lunches, parties, etc. without cravings since I’ve been living low carb primal. I am very satisfied with the quality and variety of my daily diet. That is actually a miracle. Today, however, my son is driving for hours through a snowstorm. Two hours after a meal that can hold me for five hours or so, I’m into my husband’s peanut butter. I knew what I was doing and I knew why. Insanity? Absolutely!

    gibson wrote on January 31st, 2013
  40. its all about the kind of stress you get when you turn things down if you stress out about rice not being in your diet alot then maybe eh throw it in there its not ideal but hey it works. when i threw yams into my diet not all the time but maybe 1 or twice a week the stress relief i got was enormous so id try looking through that lens

    brandon clobes wrote on January 31st, 2013

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