To Splurge or Not To Splurge


It’s officially National Splurge Day, or as Parks and Recreation fans may know it: “Treat Yo Self 2016”.

Splurge Day reminds me of an article I saw recently. The author, Gretchen Rubin, proposed that there are two kinds of people: “abstainers” and “moderators.” According to Rubin, these two groups approach splurges differently. Abstainers completely avoid situations that would prompt a splurge, while moderators make room for splurges while keeping sensible. The idea is that abstainers feel they aren’t able to muster enough self-control to keep them from going all out when faced with temptation. Moderators, on the other hand, occasionally need a sensible splurge to stay on track and avoid feeling deprived.

Rubin’s simple pop-psychology paradigm can be a bit problematic when applied to healthy eating. A quest to lose weight or get healthy often will begin with someone declaring themselves an abstainer. Just think of all the stories of your friends starting a restrictive diet or “cleanse” with the best intentions, only to bow to temptation after they realize their abstinence is unsustainable.

Self-reflection is a good first step to practicing healthier eating behaviors. If you consider yourself an “abstainer,” ask yourself:

  • Do you find yourself craving to temptation eat “off-limits” foods?
  • Has breaking one of the rules of a restrictive diet caused you to abandon your healthy eating style completely?

If you answered “yes” to either of those questions, you might actually be a moderator. Try enjoying your favorite splurges again, but with a healthy game plan.

Mindful eating can bridge the world of moderators and self-proclaimed abstainers. Learning how to enjoy favorite splurge foods mindfully, and in the context of an overall healthy eating pattern, is key to helping abstainers confidently practice moderation.

A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can also help you approach sensible splurges more mindfully.

At the IFIC Foundation, we’re all about making our food “splurges” sensible. The bottom line: Do what works for you to maintain an eating style that minimizes deprivation and maximizes healthfulness.