For a friend of mine, Valentine’s Day was the perfect storm. On top of the already tempting abundance of chocolate gifted to her, it was her daughter’s birthday. There was cake. Chocolate cake. Chocolate cake that was baked by her other daughter.
And by 8:30 that morning, she told me, “I already blew it. I had cake for breakfast.” Then she got straight to the root of her dilemma: “How do we get away from justifying bad food choices with ‘special occasion’ thinking?”
I’m going to answer that question by telling you about a few things that don’t seem to be related but I will eventually bring together into a valid point. Here we go.
Mel Brooks made a film called, “Robin Hood: Men in Tights,” that I love because it is silly and always makes me laugh. In the film, he plays a twist on Friar Tuck as Rabbi Tuckman, and in one scene justifies drinking the sacramental wine that he carries by “blessing” everything around him. He blesses the trees, the birds, the squirrels, the air… and it reminds me that there is always something to celebrate. We can make any day a special occasion!
Growing up in Louisiana, we had a lot to celebrate. New Years rolled right into Mardi Gras, and then it was crawfish and festival season. Spring was the start of a series of birthdays in my family, and they would go hand-in-hand with summer vacations when we would, of course, celebrate something else. Before we knew it football season would start, and then right away it was Halloween. Well once Halloween hits it’s pretty much over, right? Might as well put on the stretchy pants for Thanksgiving, and then there’s Christmas. For those of us vowing to start our diets after the holiday, well, that day never came.
About seven years ago, I swore off sweets once and for all. That’s right, I have not had dessert in over seven years. It’s a personal decision, and yes it was hard and yes it is worth it. And people always ask, “not even on your birthday??” My mother-in-law asked, “how will you celebrate your birthday if you don’t have cake?!?” With a party, of course! Who needs cake when you’re surrounded by the sweetest people in the world?
One of the biggest hurdles my clients face every day in their pursuit for greater health is the office break room, followed by the monthly office birthday celebration. Cake! There is cake and everyone comes downstairs and eats cake together. And that’s cool. Cake is delicious. I was at an event once where someone asked, “what do you suggest instead of cake at the office birthday celebration?” How about everyone says something they appreciate about the person being celebrated? How about a fun game to build camaraderie and be silly at work in celebration of someone on the team? And then if you want to eat cake because it’s someone’s birthday, go ahead. But I mean, everyday is someone’s birthday. That’s a lot of cake.
Here is the point - there is a reason to celebrate every day, and if you really wanted to, you could justify eating cake for any number of reasons. But if you have a goal of losing weight or reversing diabetes or improving your cholesterol, eating cake is in direct conflict with that goal. It will give you the exact opposite outcome that you want. I’m just saying, it’s true.
Can you imagine saying, “it is a special day for me! I am going to go drop a brick on my foot!” No, of course not, that makes no sense at all.
But have you said, “it’s a special day! Let’s get ice cream!” Or, “it’s a special day! Let’s treat ourselves!” Yes, we do it all the time!
Now I know you are rolling your eyes and saying, “oh you’re no fun, lighten up, it’s just once in a while.” But I’m not encouraging you to stop eating indulgent food on occasion. I’m encouraging you to consider whether food needs to be part of your celebration and whether including it enhances your life or just makes you feel frustrated and discouraged. Just because something wonderful happened doesn’t mean you need to then go eat food!
Eat cake. Eat chocolate. Eat whatever you want! And, celebrate life’s events with cheers and high fives and hugs and jokes and smiles. You may find that by the time the cake comes around, you are already feeling quite full.