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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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January 31, 2013

Entitled to Sabotage

By Mark Sisson
237 Comments

Treat or Cheat?Last 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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237 Comments on "Entitled to Sabotage"

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Honeybuns
Honeybuns
3 years 7 months ago

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

Kevin
Kevin
3 years 7 months ago

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!

fifer
fifer
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Amy
Amy
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Stef
3 years 7 months ago

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.

laurabailey
laurabailey
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Mikki
Mikki
3 years 7 months ago

Dinner at yours!

Alice
Alice
3 years 7 months ago

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

Dano
Dano
3 years 7 months ago

Go ahead. You DESERVE it! 😉

Dano
Dano
3 years 7 months ago

That was a misplaced post. Sorry.

mm
mm
3 years 7 months ago

ironically, proper ice cream is paleo

bobbychuck
3 years 7 months ago

especially with your username 🙂

BK
BK
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Groktimus Primal
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Jenny
Jenny
3 years 7 months ago

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.”

Emily Allred
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Trixie
Trixie
3 years 7 months ago

I’m right there with ya! Addiction for sure

Carolyn
Carolyn
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Alex
Alex
3 years 7 months ago

I completely agree! I couldn’t have put it any better!

paleozeta
paleozeta
2 years 3 months ago

same here

Madeleine
3 years 7 months ago

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!

Animanarchy
Animanarchy
3 years 7 months ago
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.… Read more »
Egglet
Egglet
3 years 7 months ago

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.

k
k
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Kelda
Kelda
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Jenna Felicity
1 year 5 months ago

+1
Everything you said here it totally me.

Trevor
Trevor
3 years 7 months ago

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”!

Dave
Dave
3 years 7 months ago

+1. Full fat heavy cream of course..

tess
tess
3 years 7 months ago

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….

Sam
Sam
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Katie
Katie
3 years 7 months ago

Exactly, I always try to remove guilt by overly justifying it. I like your ideas for treats and will copy! THANKS!

Dave
Dave
3 years 7 months ago

+1

melissa
3 years 7 months ago

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!

Mazzy
Mazzy
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Primal V
Primal V
3 years 7 months ago

Ooooooo – Excellent comment Melissa

Alex
Alex
3 years 7 months ago

I second that!

tess
tess
3 years 7 months ago

third! 😀

TerriAnn
TerriAnn
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Dave
Dave
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Mazzy
Mazzy
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Gydle
3 years 7 months ago

FOurth. “)

Jenna Felicity
1 year 5 months ago

Agreed. A manta I like to repeat is “I am blessed with abundance.” Coming from a mindset of abundance rather than deprivation is really helpful.

Veronica
Veronica
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Alice
Alice
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Jen
Jen
3 years 7 months ago

+1

Alex
Alex
3 years 7 months ago

Like

Amy
Amy
3 years 7 months ago

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.

lockard
lockard
3 years 7 months ago

+1
how dare you host a gathering without “fun” food- what will my friends think if they were forced to drink water

Jess @ Crunchy Hot Mama
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Stacie
3 years 7 months ago

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.

stephanie
3 years 7 months ago

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!

Amy
Amy
3 years 7 months ago

Ha!

Paleo Bon Rurgundy
3 years 7 months ago

I’m loving it.

Another Jen
Another Jen
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Madama Butterfry
Madama Butterfry
3 years 7 months ago

Haven’t laughed so hard all week.

Suzanne
Suzanne
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Amy
Amy
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Grokesque
Grokesque
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Amy
Amy
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Oly
Oly
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Suzanne
Suzanne
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Grokesque
Grokesque
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Jess @ Crunchy Hot Mama
3 years 7 months ago
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.… Read more »
Egglet
Egglet
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Susan
Susan
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Meagan
3 years 7 months ago

+1

Thanks for sharing this!!

Elena
Elena
3 years 7 months ago

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. 🙂

Alice
Alice
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Primal V
Primal V
3 years 7 months ago

I’m going to make steamed cabbage with garlic butter tonight – favourite veg recipe of the moment!!!

Amy
Amy
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Alice
Alice
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Nocona
Nocona
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Walter
Walter
4 months 20 days ago

Some people just can’t have a good time without alcohol, some without sugar.

I’m not a coffee addict; we’re just in a committed relationship. After 6 months of no coffee or tea, I found I wasn’t getting anything done or having any fun, so I went back.

Shary
Shary
3 years 7 months ago

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.

oxide
oxide
3 years 7 months ago

“By putting things like bakery items on a pedestal”

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

Alice
Alice
3 years 7 months ago

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?

Alex
Alex
3 years 7 months ago

Ha!

Pure Hapa
Pure Hapa
3 years 7 months ago

Yes, cakes on pedestals are like the belle of the ball! Heh. Let’s buy cake pedestals and put charcuterie on them!

Vanessa
Vanessa
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Jen
Jen
3 years 7 months ago

LOL!

Paleo Bon Rurgundy
3 years 7 months ago

Stacked meat plate sources:

1) Find and hang with charcuterie practioners.

2) Epic Meal Time

Julie
Julie
3 years 7 months ago

I have a cake stand I never use now after going primal. NOW I know what to use it for!!

Mik
3 years 7 months ago

LOVE EMT!!

eema.gray
eema.gray
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Dave
Dave
3 years 7 months ago

Yumm, great idea

Amy
Amy
3 years 7 months ago

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”.

Violet
Violet
3 years 7 months ago

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’!

Amy
Amy
3 years 7 months ago
“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… Read more »
Pat
Pat
3 years 7 months ago

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. 🙂

Emily
Emily
3 years 7 months ago

Wow Alice. Great response! I’m right there with you, but my veggie that I crave is roasted brussel sprouts after work!

Andrew
Andrew
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Kareem
Kareem
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Mazzy
Mazzy
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Mazzy
Mazzy
3 years 7 months ago

I want to add…there is goodness inside of us already.

Jenny
Jenny
3 years 7 months ago

Mazzy, that is your second comment that I made a point of copying down for later reference. I’m guessing you’re a therapist.

Donna
Donna
3 years 7 months ago

+1 regarding Mazzy’s insightful, brilliant comments….Archiving immediately.

Pastor Dave
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
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[…] Last 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 abits because they tell themselves they deserve the treat? “Can’t … Mark’s Daily Apple […]

bjjcaveman
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Charity
Charity
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Donna
Donna
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Randi
Randi
3 years 7 months ago

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? 😉

Mama Barrett
Mama Barrett
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Miki
Miki
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Agnes
3 years 7 months ago
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.… Read more »
Holly
3 years 7 months ago

Great post, as usual!

Liesel
3 years 7 months ago

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…. 🙂

Rimbaud
Rimbaud
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Carolyn
Carolyn
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Sarah
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Crofter
Crofter
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Susie
Susie
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Jenny
Jenny
3 years 7 months ago

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!

Carol
Carol
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
TerriAnn
TerriAnn
3 years 7 months ago

yep. me too. after christmas it started, Its now over (again)

Jenna Felicity
1 year 5 months ago
The same thing happened to me just recently. My partner and I travelled around the US (we’re from Australia) for 5 weeks and didn’t put on any weight. (There was the occasional things like a big slice of pizza or a hot dog from a cart, but those were more just to say we’d tried those American things that we don’t have at home). But we walked 5-6 hours every day so were fine. But in the week since I’ve been back, I’ve had popcorn and coke at the movies (I haven’t had soft drink in years), fish and chips… Read more »
Isabel
Isabel
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Ellie
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Myra
Myra
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Shawn
Shawn
3 years 7 months ago

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 🙂

greg
greg
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Shawn
Shawn
3 years 7 months ago

‘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!

Kathleen
Kathleen
3 years 7 months ago

Thank Goddess for today’s post – I needed it!!!

cTo
3 years 7 months ago

Anyone else reading this with the intonation and cadence of “TREAT YO’SELF 2011!” from Parks and Rec? 😉

Jo
Jo
3 years 7 months ago

YES! I love Parks and Rec!

Anna
Anna
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Jane
Jane
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Bryan
Bryan
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Gordon
Gordon
3 years 7 months ago

Shawn being type 1 does not mean you are not normal, just different from some others and unique against all others!

Karson
Karson
3 years 7 months ago

that picture has me craving a huge insulin spike, thanks mark

Jenna Felicity
1 year 5 months ago

Hahaha me too! It was the cherry…. 😮

adina
3 years 7 months ago

thank you for this, mark.

solstice
3 years 7 months ago

I really felt I deserved to treat myself to Jamaica for some extra Vit. D production this year, but my pocketbook isnt in agreement! 🙂

Miss Grok
Miss Grok
3 years 7 months ago

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.

Violet
Violet
3 years 7 months ago

Winter holiday to warm, sunny climate? Now there’s a treat I could really get behind! Sadly, my pocketbook agrees with yours…

gibson
gibson
3 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
brandon clobes
brandon clobes
3 years 7 months ago

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

stephanie
3 years 7 months ago

This week I’m treating myself to a size smaller jeans from the local second hand clothing store ($4.95) and a membership to Crossfit (significantly more expensive). Food is not the only way to “treat” oneself!

Quentin
Quentin
3 years 7 months ago

I just happened to be treating myself today! I work at Jimmy John’s, so I have to indulge on our French bread every once in awhile. I feel so much better being primal, and I’m so glad that I can wait and appreciate some of my favorite non-Primal foods only sporadically. (If I could eat toast everyday without feeling like crap and non-nourished, I totally would). But now it’s a treat whenever I visit my parents and I’m glad I finally have that control and mindset!
Best to all. Cheers!

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[…] What do you “deserve”?: The slippery slope of treating yourself […]

Alice
Alice
3 years 7 months ago

I have diabetes. I buy myself flowers (daffodils cost about the same as a coffee) for my sweet treat when I
I really want one.

PrimalGrandma
PrimalGrandma
3 years 7 months ago

+1 Wonderful idea!

Adam ben
Adam ben
3 years 7 months ago

I haven’t ate a chips ahoy chocolaty chip cookie in over 2 years. The thing is your brain does not know any difference from reality to thought. So I can literally sit here and think that I’am eating a chips ahoy cookie without physically eating one. Honestly, its all sugar to me, if you want to transition from a fat meal to a sugary one to satisfy a craving, then why not get it from natural food! You can very well make a dessert from natural ingredients that come naturally whole from this planet!

Katherine
3 years 7 months ago

Not long ago my boyfriend bought some of them. I was apprehensive about even having them in the household, as I keep a gluten-free household. But he ate a few and threw them out. They were nasty and stale. He couldn’t believe he used to enjoy them.

I make a barely sweetened chocolate chip cookie from almond flour and dark chocolate chips. It is more bread-like than cookie-like, and they are so undersweetened that you really can eat just one.

Christine
Christine
3 years 7 months ago

Usually when I am craving a carb, I figure it is really fat that my body is asking for. I try to eat bacon wrapped sausage first. That has always done the trick. Bacon wrapped any kind of meat is simply sensational!

Peter
Peter
3 years 7 months ago

The way I usually put it:

There is nothing wrong with treating yourself every once in a while. It would be unprimal not to. Just as long as you recognize what you are eating as a treat and not an every day occurance.

Sabine
Sabine
3 years 7 months ago
I admire your self-control. I “tried” a little taste of a cookie before Christmas once, then hunger set in. Pretty soon three cookies were gone. No self control and ravenous by now (insulin probably shooting through the roof) I finished the bag. Then I went to the store for more. Just like any other druggie, it took three weeks of hard work and determination to get myself off again. I can do the same with bread, for example. Please think about the millions of sugar and carbohydrate addicts out there, when you make recommendations, and promote “occasional treats”. For many… Read more »
Katherine
3 years 7 months ago

You were not rewarding yourself. The entire episode was punishment, not reward.

bubbajank
bubbajank
3 years 7 months ago

Ok, time to stay away from the Ritz crackers 🙂

Suzanne
Suzanne
3 years 7 months ago

What better “treat” than coconut milk with some stevia/maple syrup/cocoa/vanilla?! Or a cocoa macaroon made with maple syrup!? (thank you Hail Merry!) Or some dark chocolate?? How can people go astray with options like that and site after site of ideas of paleo breads/muffins/etc? I think that’s the one thing that makes this lifestyle so sustainable for me…even the “treats” are fine.

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