Off the Wagon or Simple Indulgence?

by Sarah Pope MGA | Affiliate linksComments: 33

By Fitness Editor Paula Jager, CSCS

Clients will often ask me, “Do you cheat”? 

What comes to mind when I hear that word is cheating on your spouse, cheating at sports, cheating on tests and my answer is absolutely not.  I despise cheating and people that do; it seems they have no honor or integrity. 

On the other hand, when it comes to food, I do “indulge” from time to time.  Occasional indulgences enable me to maintain a healthy nutritional lifestyle year round without feeling deprived.  It’s realistic.

Unless you make your living in fitness and sport, maintaining a 24/7 “perfect” nutritional lifestyle 365 days a year is neither fun nor healthy.  Even fitness competitors/athletes indulge at certain times.  I find the 80/20 rule to work beautifully.

Let’s take a quick glance at the difference between cheating and indulging to further clarify.

  • To “cheat is to deceive somebody or break rules for personal advantage, to be unfaithful or trick, con or swindle, defraud.
  • To “indulge” is to have or permit or allow yourself a treat, to experience something enjoyable.  To yield to desires in an excessive degree, to give free rein, take unrestrained pleasure.

To me “indulge” is a much better descriptive term of what straying from my typical nutritional intake means than the negative connotations implied by the word “cheating”.  But an even more relevant question remains. . . is “indulging” right for everyone?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you healthy?
  • Are you at a healthy weight and one that you are comfortable with?
  • Are you free of autoimmune disease and metabolic syndrome?
  • Are you free of hormonal and adrenal issues?

If the answers to all these questions are yes we can look at incorporating “indulging” into our maintenance program–later.

If the answers to any of those questions are no, then I would not recommend “indulging”.  I will have clients on medications (for diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol) that are 50+ lbs overweight eat decently for 5 days and then ask me “when do I get a cheat day”?


Wise up–how do you think you got where you are in the first place.  Call it what you want–“lack of compassion or self promoting” but I call it tough love.

People come to me to get in shape and become healthy.  This is not romper room, you need to take a good hard look at reality and realize what these negative nutritional habits are doing to your health.  I’m not going to do anyone a favor by sugar coating it (no pun intended).

Folks who are in bad shape health-wise need to follow a strict nutritional program until they have resolved their health and weight issues and then we can take a look at a maintenance program.  There is no “cheating” or “indulging” until you are well.  You will need to refrain from certain foods that other healthy people do not.  Get with it, get well and then we go from there.

Healthy Indulgence 101

Many of you reading this blog are not sick and overweight so how do you incorporate normal and healthy indulging into your nutritional lifestyle?  It is not black and white; there is a lot of grey.  Fifty shades perhaps, anyone read that book?  Excuse me, I digress.

You can structure this in any manner but most of us have weekends off and those would be our preferred days to indulge.  It’s the 80/20 rule or 70/30, 90/10–we’re all different and at different places.  I’m personally at 85/15–it works for me.  During the week I am in a set routine, set workout structure and my eating is pretty spot on.  I enjoy my food during the week but rarely feel deprived.  Come Friday evening I’m ready for a little bit of decadence.

Pick your “pleasure”, for some it is alcohol, others sweets and for some breads, pasta and other grains.  Choose one and splurge but not to the point of gluttony.  And not a weekend long binge, pick one or 2 meals.  Come Sunday evening you are back on track with a healthy dinner and a good night’s sleep to start the week.

My “pleasure” is usually a homemade dessert, grits, biscuits or cornbread but never all of them.  Do I do that everyday?  Of course not, that would be unhealthy and gluttonous and make me fat.

When Indulgence Becomes Harmful

What should you not indulge in–ever?  Garbage foods.  By garbage foods I mean processed junk such as anything that comes in a bag or box.  Man has screwed it up, period.  No chips, Doritos, Fritos or other stuff (even vegetables) fried at high temperatures in rancid oils.  No fast food, no artificial sweeteners or store bought desserts that along with the flour and sugar have chemicals and bad fats added.  If you’re going to splurge make it yourself or purchase it at a healthier alternative store.

Maintain a comfortable weight–not a stage ready weight; one that you feel comfortable with and look good in your summer gear yet don’t feel deprived of the pleasures of food.  It’s a “happy place” and one that takes experimenting and time to find what works for you.

None of us are perfect nor should we strive for perfection.  Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed and food and drink are a big part of our socializing.  Be smart, choose wisely and enjoy!


Paula Jager CSCS and Level 1 CrossFit and CF Nutrition Certified is the owner of CrossFit Jaguar.

Her exercise and nutrition programs yield life changing results

[email protected]



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