“So, what you’re saying Paulie, is that one night of the week I get to eat anything I want?!?! This is awesome! This is gonna be too easy!” Teddy declared when I first introduced the idea of a “Splurge Night”.
Splurge Nights, or days, are somewhat controversial. You’ll often hear them referred to as “cheat nights”. We prefer the word splurge, as “cheat” implies that we’re doing something we shouldn’t. Language is important. “Words make worlds,” as my good friend Dr. Wayne Phillips often says.

Splurge Nights

On Splurge Nights, for those who partake, we allow ourselves to indulge with foods that we would ordinarily avoid, for just that one night or day.
The theory is that by allowing ourselves room for a bit of planned indulgence we can summon the necessary discipline throughout the rest of the week to hold fast to the commitments we’ve made to ourselves.
That’s the idea, anyway. It works for many people because as humans we are better able to endure privation and discomfort when we know that it will end and how long we need to endure.
Knowing on a Tuesday, for instance, that we only need to hold out for another few days, till say Friday night, we may be able to find the discipline to make better choices for another few days until we can let our hair down a bit.

Splurges Are Controversial

Not everybody approves of this approach. Some object to the idea of using food, particularly foods of suspect nutritional value, as a reward. If we believe that some folks are addicted to sweets or carbs in much the same manner in which alcoholics are addicted to alcohol, periodic splurging would seem to be an imprudent method to manage such a dependency. Also, some might argue that the psychological value of the “forbidden fruit” becomes exaggerated when held out as a reward from which we must abstain for a period of time.
Perhaps the most salient argument against splurging is laid out exceptionally well in this post from Dr. Krista Scott-Dixon of Precision Nutrition.
Interestingly, my own practice of splurging has at times mirrored Krista’s. Often a Friday night splurge would leak into Saturday, and then sometimes Sunday, and occasionally even kick-off with a little indulgence on Friday-eve. A Splurge Night turned into a splurge long weekend!

But they can be effective

So, yes, the notion of using Splurge Nights to reinforce daily discipline may be suspect. But, so much of our success with nutrition comes back to mindful eating. If we pause before chowing down, even for just a brief moment, and think about what we’re eating and why, we are much more likely to avoid derailments and limit the damage when we do lose our way.
When splurging is done with intent, and with a mindful acknowledgment that we are allowing ourselves a temporary indulgence, it works well as something of a pressure relief valve and will help us to summon more discipline throughout the rest of the week.
And so, in response to Teddy’s enthusiastic question, “one night of the week, I can eat anything I want?” I would add the qualifier, yes, within reason. He could eat his beloved Chicken Parm, but we’ll need to contain the splurging to just that one night or day. If it begins to look like Splurge Night is leaking into a Splurge Weekend, we’ll need to reevaluate and course correct.

What’s Next?

Tune in next week when we continue our coaching discussion with our friend Ted and examine how he may have been deluding himself into thinking that his switch to vodka was “healthier” than his usual PBR’s. Look for that post titled, “But I Thought Vodka Was Fat-free!” – Are We Deluding Ourselves About The Calories We Drink?
How about for you? Has a practice of splurging worked for you?
If any of this sounds like something you could use some support with, you’ll likely be interested in Julie’s soon to launch Small Group Nutrition Coaching program. We’re actually meeting this afternoon to put the final coat of varnish on it so we can share the details with you. Her launch list is actually filling pretty quickly, so if you’ve been considering participating, please reach out to her (julie@midstrong.com) for details and to reserve your spot.
Be strong and have fun!

Paul Reilly

Paul is the Owner and Founder of MidStrong. He created MidStrong in 2017 to train men and women in midlife who are busy with work and family to build muscle and burn fat so they can look and feel better than they did in their 20’s. MidStrong is making Functional Fitness training safe and fun, and inclusive. He and his wife, Julie also own and operate MidStrong locally, their bricks and mortar business, previously called ACCELERATED Strength & Balance. It is a boutique fitness center specializing in training folks in and around Westborough through the challenges of midlife for more than five years.