Under circumstances like the christmas holidays, i'm not as strict with myself as I am ordinarily. This week has been one of those times.
It's not that I practice austere privation on an everyday basis -- i'm NOT an austere kind of person! I always fully appreciated dear Mr Wilde's epigram "Nothing succeeds like excess." [evil grin]
No, I just know how much better I feel when I eat what a lot of people would consider an extremely limited diet! Coffee (both hot and iced), beef, lamb, a modicum of eggs, pork and poultry, a small amount of cheese and wine, and a little garnish of vegetable matter like mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and nuts, and i'm thoroughly content. The "paleo musts" like big-ass salads and fermented vegetables do nothing but chap my innards, and 85% chocolate I actually find rather boring and not at all life-enhancing. Butter is something I put on vegetables to make them palatable, or on cuts of meat which are too lean, like tenderloin or white-meat. Cream is how you make poor coffee drinkable, and another way to boost the satiation potential in naturally-low-fat dishes.
But occasionally, a day is made less stressful by NOT going to great lengths to find ideal food. When traveling with others, for instance, it sometimes saves a lot of time and trouble to cave in and get lunch at the fast-food place that's close to the highway, and where it's easy to eat in the car because you can't leave the dog alone. Then there was the time we went to the special dinner benefitting a local arts group. Yesterday I could have been a lot more disciplined, too -- I blame the champagne.
What to do when I kick over the traces? Hate myself? Throw everything to the winds and binge? At my age, I've probably tried every choice there is at one time or another, but I like to think i'm a little wiser now. I just take the situation as a cue to start a 20-hour coffee fast and consider the whole experience as a carb re-feed. What some people might consider a failure, I prefer to think is an opportunity to teach my body that resources are plentiful and it can afford to waste energy via a leptin surge. It's not a setback! It's an indirect signal to my thyroid that my body does not need to conserve resources.
There is a philosophy that calorie restriction is life-prolonging, but it does have repercussions that don't get talked about much. Constant deprivation may encourage autophagy but it also raises stress hormones. Leptin, the satiation hormone, "dries up." After a few days, the body DOES respond to a diet of inadequate energy intake by slowing down -- but a slower metabolism not only makes our vehicle "run cooler," it also makes our brains sluggish and our systems less hardy.
If there's no danger of triggering a PROLONGED binge simply by feasting for a short time, I suspect that that feast is good for us occasionally. It's important not to do it "just this once" EVERY SINGLE DAY (or week), but if it's truly an unusual occurrence, the signal we send our bodies is they are not in danger of starvation, that they can afford to spend energy for heat and to fuel activity.
UPDATE: i wrote the preceding a few days ago, but [busy busy busy] didn't manage to finish it. Since then i've been continuing my evil ways, so the day after Christmas is going to be one of those fast-days i wrote about!
The extra carbs i've been indulging in have done nothing but stoke my appetite! Most of the family- and restaurant-meals have been less protein-replete than i usually eat at home, too, and NOTHING affects satiation for me as well as a big chunk of beef or lamb! On Monday we had steaks and BOY did that help.... Yesterday's stroganoff (over zucchini noodles) didn't come close to satisfying as well.
It reinforces my understanding and resolve to have experiences like this. I'm not forgetful enough to fall for the short-term lack of nasty repercussions caused by eating things i shouldn't -- i know that i WILL suffer from unpleasant effects even if i don't feel crummy yet. I already do notice some joint pain, and i wake up in the morning with the stuffy head that used to be the norm, but is no more. (I won't go into details of the change of bathroom habits....)
But this once-a-year orgy IS pleasantly celebratory. Yesterday, my daughter and i went to visit a friend, and we tasted a few favorite-family-recipe cookies at Gina's house -- we broke each one in two and shared them, and they were VERY GOOD. :-) Our pleasure in being naughty probably equalled the pleasure that G's mother had in receiving our compliments on her "masterpieces."
And giving and receiving pleasure and thanks are some of the best aspects of this season, aren't they? Happy continuing holidays, everyone!