On many days, I have asked myself the profound question: Do I want pizza or do I want abs? In a perfect world (when I was younger and skinnier), I didn’t have to choose between these things. The reality is you can accept that your body changes as you age and as your lifestyle changes, or you can pretend otherwise. I choose the former.
Particularly on weekends, when most of us are likely to spend a ton of time with our friends – and especially when it’s nice outside – we’re more apt to forgetting about our good eating habits. Good eating habit that we may generally subscribe to, during the work week.
Of course friends cluster together with respect to habits – if you’re a healthy eater, chances are your friends are too. A problem that I’ve observed, however, is there’s a certain mentality towards eating that many people have over the weekend. A mentality of, “I’ve eaten healthy during the week so I’m going to spoil myself. This is my reward.”
But why do we reward ourselves with doing something that isn’t necessarily good for us, or at least for our health? That is to say, why do we reward our good healthy practices by eating (and drinking) poorly over the weekend? Shouldn’t we “reward” ourselves by doing something that will make us even healthier?
Now don’t get me wrong – I am not one of those people who believes that people should never have anything, “unhealthy.” I cook, I bake, and I’m even dabbling in home mixology these days. And those things alone mean I know most of what is going in my body. To me that is fundamental – knowing what you’re putting inside your body.
The problem though is during the weekend, when most of us are more inclined to go for all the foods we want simply because it’s the weekend – we know less what we’re putting in our bodies. And most of us, even the most health-conscious of us, don’t even want to think about it.
This is not a particularly beneficial way to live – treating your health and eating habits like a reward system, that is. In the long-term it creates a mentality that the reward for healthy behavior is unhealthy behavior.
For many, the loss of self-control is our inability to focus on our future gains. Or what I like to call, our future or long-term selves. Our love of instant gratification includes the way we eat, and we love to satisfy our short-term selves.
So even though our long-term selves may wants abs, our short-term selves want pizza. And on the weekends, especially because of a culture of excess and work and a sort of, “living for the weekend” mentality, we’re more inclined to listen to our short-term selves.
A friend and I were talking about this late last night as we got together and had a glass of wine and some hors ‘d’oeuvres. I told her, part-seriously and part in jest that my struggle that evening was that profound question: Do I want pizza or do I want abs?
I had chosen a salad mostly because I am simply one of those people who believes, and who comes from a culture that believes, saying “no” to yourself is a good thing. And it’s not just a good thing, it’s an important thing in order to lead the kind of life you want in the long-term. Self-denial, especially in the short-term, can lead to success in the long-term.
I also recalled something my friend once said to me which I had been thinking about yesterday specifically. She is a health professional and someone who I credit as one of the best strength training instructors I ever had the privilege of being trained by. In one of her fitness classes one time, she said the following in passing, “When you say no to something, you are saying yes to something else.”
Those words stuck. I’ve often remembered them in times when I really needed to recall what my long-term self really wants. I think it’s a good thing to remember too if you struggle with seemingly day-to-day decisions that end up affecting you over a lifetime. How we eat on our weekends may change if we stop thinking about health as a rewards system, and start thinking about what we want to say no to, and what we want to say yes to – in the long-term.
So definitely have that glass of wine or that cupcake or that cookie or that slice of pizza. Food and drink, after all, are not the enemy. And my God, what an awful existence it would be to always deny one’s self little pleasures. Moreover, the odd pizza slice is not going to ruin your abs.
But if you do want abs – which is really just my synonym for good health in this piece – recognize that you have to make sacrifices. You have to say no to some things. But don’t focus on the no’s. Ask yourself: When I say “no” to this, what am I saying “yes” to? Focus on those yes’s. And if you think about it, you can apply this ideology to more than just weekend eating – you can apply it to life.