We live in a world where indulgent food is everywhere! At a moment’s notice we can have almost any food we desire. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s also a truth we must be aware of. Growing up, certain foods may have been a special treat, eating them only occasionally. But now you could enjoy them all the time. The dynamic has shifted and it’s easy to just go with the flow, letting indulgent food just happen to us, whenever, wherever.
Instead of doing this or going to the opposite direction of restriction and stigmatization of your favorite foods, I encourage you to prioritize indulgent foods. I believe prioritization is an important concept for developing a normal relationship with food. It’s allows you to live between the two eating extremes of “whenever it shows up” and “never again”.
Prioritization is about ranking your favorite indulgent foods in your eating value system to determine how much, how often and what kind you will enjoy. I consider “indulgent food” to be any type of food that does not offer health promoting, energy-reasonable properties and your enjoyment is driven almost entirely for taste.
Now, to be clear, I am NOT saying indulgent foods are bad, because they are not. They are absolutely wonderful. But eating this type of food willy nilly could lead to a decline in overall health and wellness. Enjoying food is very important, but so is a strong body and therefore there is a dance between these two sides of the story.
This is where prioritization comes in. Prioritization helps you make decisions, in the moment, when indulgent food shows up planned or unexpected (because it surely will, a lot). It guides you to make smart decisions about what foods you will enjoy and when.
How to Prioritize
Prioritization begins by thinking through what your favorite indulgent foods are. Now I know people could say “I like all indulgent food!” I get it, but if you get in tune with your real inner self, you might actually realize that you do in fact prefer some foods more than others.
If you are unsure of your true favorite foods, you should start by figuring that out. Get out a piece of paper and write down all the foods that you enjoy in the “indulgent” category. After you have a nice list, go back and circle the foods that stand out above the rest. What would you “give your right arm” for?
Once you have that handful identified, think about your favorite version of that food and write it next to it. This is the top priority for you and when you encounter it, you should totally enjoy it! It’s really worth it to you. When you encounter a sub-par version of your favorite food, or one of the other indulgences with less priority, you can more easily decide to pass on it or enjoy a much smaller amount, knowing that it won’t be the most satisfying choice to you. In essence, you are holding out for the good stuff. For me, I have turned this into a principle that I follow: Donuts (insert your low priority foods of choice) are not my favorite food so I will pass when I see them. I would rather have a really good chocolate chip cookie.
Here’s an example of this exercise.
- My favorite indulgent foods are: cookies, frozen custard, wine, cheesecake, and french fries.
- My top favorites are: cookies and frozen custard.
- My favorite, top priority type of cookies are homemade, soft and chewy or gourmet bakery chocolate chip cookies. When I encounter these, I will enjoy them. If I encounter a chocolate chip cookie that is not one of these versions, it is not a top priority food.
- My less priority indulgences are: store chocolate chip cookies, donuts, cake, danish, fried food, chips, indulgent coffee drinks, milkshakes etc. When I encounter these foods, I most often pass or make sure I am enjoying a really good version of that food. If I choose to eat it, I will likely pass on some other indulgent food to be balanced.
Now it’s your turn to determine your priorities for indulgent eating. The beautiful thing about this is only you can determine this list. It’s all about what you enjoy. Hey, if fast food french fries are your most favorite thing, you do you! But, then determine which ones are really your favorite and hold out for those.
Once you know your priorities, ask yourself this question:
How much and how often can I enjoy this food without compromising my health, my energy, or my best self?
This question helps you further determine how to enjoy your top priority foods. Yes I love chocolate chip cookies, but if they are showing up all the time in my life, then this question helps me assess how often I should partake.
Give this a try and let me know if you have questions.