Healthy people eat chocolate cake, too

Part of me really wanted the chocolate cake. It had been a great day. I had eaten healthy. I nailed my workout. I had lots of great energy swirling around work and life. Mark and I were enjoying a nice dinner out and part of me really wanted to cap off the evening with a bite of something called “chocolate volcano cake.” But another part of me started the judgement game. Amy, you shouldn’t undo your whole day with chocolate cake. Amy you know that healthy people don’t eat dessert.

Wait. What? Somewhere along the way there came about this notion that to be healthy or athletic you have to sacrifice “bad” food and resign yourself to a life of rigorous natural food. But this idea doesn’t jive with me. Even in my strictest diet days, it never felt quite right. I want to enjoy life and to me that includes cake. (And ice cream and flapjacks.) But in order to enjoy the food in my life I had to let go of a pesky habit: Guilt.

Many of you know the story: You’re trying to live a healthy lifestyle and eat healthy food. You’re doing all right too, until you order something deep-fried and smothered in cheese at a local restaurant. Or you mindlessly eat two dozen Hershey’s Kisses while working on a project. Or that giant muffin looked too appealing at breakfast to pass up for the oatmeal and yogurt. What happens next? Catastrophic thinking. Well, I blew it. I cheated. I fell off the wagon. I slipped up. Might as well scrap today and start tomorrow or next week.

If you’re like me, you might continue to beat yourself up, chastising yourself for making the “wrong” choice or a “bad” choice. The thing I’m learning is to let go of the judgement words. What if there was no “good” or “bad” or “right” or “wrong?” What if there were just choices? And what if each moment is a opportunity for me to choose again? I can constantly look at what I’ve done in the past, whether that was 10 years ago, last month, last night or 10 minutes ago, and wallow and rail about the choices I made. Or I can focus on what’s in front of me right now. I can start writing a new story this very minute, regardless of what I ate for breakfast.

So what choice did I make at dinner last night? I ordered the chocolate cake. Mark and I immediately cut the giant piece in half, placed part of it on the to-be-wrapped-for-later pile and went about sharing what remained. Sensible? Surely. But more importantly, my attitude toward what I was eating was simple — gratitude for delicious food and good company. This morning I eschewed the part of me that really wanted to feel guilty for enjoying the chocolate cake. Instead, I celebrated the part of me which started the day with one of my favorite breakfasts, oatmeal and toast, and then went out for an easy run.

Healthy living isn’t about dwelling on my past. It’s about focusing on the moment and creating my future.


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