Saturday, November 14, 2009


Last weekend I hung out with a friend, her husband, and the 8-year old girl she mentors through a volunteer program. At the end of the day, we all went to get dinner at Panera Bread. My friend is on Weight Watchers and was calculating the points of the dinner entree she wanted to order. The little girl asked her if she had enough points left for it. "I'm not sure," my friend said. "But I get splurge points every week and I never use them, so I think it's OK for me to go ahead and have it." Then the little girl asked us what 'splurge' means. We tried to explain that splurging means indulging beyond your usual limit (calories, spending, etc.) and that it ought to be done sparingly.

The trick with splurging, as with so many other things, is self-control. Last week I decided to splurge on a treat, but before I knew it, one treat had turned into two days of eating unhealthy food. I've noticed that the danger of overindulging is particularly bad when I am dissatisfied with my regular life. If I'm not happy, then I'll want to do more than splurge--I'll want to divert myself as far from my regular routine as possible in order to distract myself from whatever's bothering me, even if it's completely unrelated to whatever I'm overindulging in. That's why stress eating and drinking alcohol when we're upset aren't good for us. They don't really help. We're not really hungry or trying to have a good time. Instead, we're trying to distract ourselves from other problems. So I need to make sure I'm not misusing my splurging. I was in a funk last week, so splurging on food was a bad idea. It's much better to allow myself a little indulgence when I'm already feeling happy, when I don't feel like I need it, but it's just a special little treat. When I want a cookie because I'm stressed, it's probably not a good idea to have one. But when I want a cookie because it's a beautiful day and it's been a while since I had a cookie, why not?

I think a little bit of splurging now and then can be healthy. If I'm mostly happy with the way things are, a little splurge is all I need. I won't go off the deep end because I'm not trying to escape from anything--I just want to enjoy a little taste. One new dress can be perfect all by itself, and a couple bites of dessert can make an entire day. Because I enjoy my life, I just want little diversions now and then, not to completely vacate my life. I don't need a weeklong trip to Rome to shake up my regular routine. A little weekend getaway on my anniversary can do the job just fine.

In fact, splurging can help us appreciate our regular life even more. I wouldn't want to buy new clothes or eat really tasty food or travel the world all the time. I also want to just relax and live my life. Those treats are exciting because they're the exception rather than the rule, and getting back to regular life after a fun splurge can be a treat in and of itself. As Frank Sinatra sang, "It's very nice to go trav'ling to Paris, London, and Rome. It's oh so nice to go trav'ling, but its so much nicer, yes it's so much nicer to come home." Sure, I like to buy new things sometimes, but I also really enjoy using the things I already have. I love chocolate, but I also love salad. I like to throw a little variety into the mix now and then, but I also really thrive in my routine. Splurging is a fun accent in my life, not the main attraction. Just like my friend doesn't need her splurge points every week, I'm also pretty happy with my regular life. Still, we both deserve that tasty treat once in a while.

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