Cost benefit analysis isn’t just for business plans; it’s also for your life.

I work a LOT, and when I go away, it’s usually with the kids or for work. So when my husband and I decided to take a very long-deserved trip together – no kids! – to New York City, I was STOKED! 

First of all, I’m a sucker for hotel rooms. OMG hotel beds are amazing, and someone else cleans up your mess!

Second, shopping. New York. Enough said. 

Third, food. I mean, we have incredible food in Toronto, but the New York food scene is like Toronto’s on steroids.

Oh yeah – and time alone with my husband…priceless. If you have kids, you know what I mean!

I was also excited because I was going to meet some people IRL for the first time: my editors at SELF Magazine. My editor from the New York Times. And my friend Melissa, who I met online 9 years ago while we were both pregnant. Never met her in person, nope. 

This is a good time to tee up the point of this post. 

I’m a pretty healthy eater. It’s sort of my job, but more that that, I actually enjoy it. It sounds silly, but I crave vegetables if I don’t get enough of them. My overall diet is pretty healthy though, mostly by choice. 

I’m also pretty type-A about life, and you can extrapolate that to what I eat as well. Doing what I do for a living comes with massive pressure to be and look a certain way, and anyone in my position would be lying if they said it doesn’t. But for the past five years or so, my diet and my attitude have undergone a metamorphosis of sorts. I’ve really moved away from the health-obsessed mindset and slid into a body-kindness mindset. I’ve realized, ironically, that being less of a wellness warrior has served me well: I’m a hell of a lot more relaxed in general, and I look exactly the same, too. Hm. Go figure.

My trip to New York really drove home for me the incredible progress I’ve made with this new approach. In the past, whenever I‘ve gone on vacation, I’ve always been the one who goes to Walgreens and gets Greek yogurt and fruit for the minibar. I was the person jogging down the strip in Vegas at 830am. I also made it my personal business to plan every indulgence, and I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t bothered and guilty about the fact that I couldn’t always be healthy when I was out of town. It was almost a source of pride for me to adhere to my standards of health while I was supposed to be relaxing them. 

Even though I was supposed to be on vacation, I’d try my hardest to make it up to myself whenever I overate. Burritos in the Mission in San Francisco? Salad for lunch the next day. Beers at a dive bar in Montana? Yup, I’d shoehorn myself into my running shorts that very next morning.

And sleeping in? Nah, mornings are for working out, silly! Especially when I’m eating all that restaurant food! So much guilt. I never really closed my eyes while I was eating and really savoured the food; I just gulped it down and felt bad about it. Not okay. 

I’m not saying that you should completely disregard health while you’re away (or anytime). But there has to be something said for relaxing your standards a bit so that you can fully enjoy what’s around you. Agreed?

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started taking a closer look at my behaviours and examining how they’re affecting me, physically and emotionally. Intellectually I knew that running those extra few miles after eating a piece of cake really doesn’t make that much difference. And, I was tired. I just wanted to relax and enjoy my life. So what if it cost me a few pounds? Big deal. Most importantly, what was the cost benefit of how I was behaving? Sure, the ‘benefit’ may have been that I looked or felt a certain way. But the cost? Too high. Yeah, it was far too high for what I got out of it. 

Through years of experience, I’ve learned that even if I overeat for a few days, I’ll pretty much go right back to normal after around a week of just eating normally. I started to wonder why I was expending that much energy on NOT enjoying myself, both at home and on vacation. Clearly, I needed an attitude adjustment. 

And just as a side-note, I didn’t want my daughters growing up to do the same thing – so this has been as much for them as it has been for me.

One of the good things about getting older is that you really get to know yourself and your body on another level, and you hopefully become more gentle in your approach. With the knowledge that I’ve acquired about myself, it’s been fairly easy for me to shift to eating intuitively – meaning, what I want, when I want. Healthy, but not obsessive. Letting myself relax. As with anything, it’s a work in progress, but I’ve come miles from where I was in my 20s and 30s. 

We know that diets rarely result in meaningful, long-term weight change. I believe in eating intuitively, but with an understanding that your diet should still mostly consist of whole, minimally-processed foods. It’s a mid-spectrum position: Eat what you love, not too much, and feed your body well. Don’t go crazy with treats. Don’t go crazy with diets. I’ve taken this approach with clients in my practice, and when I speak to them about it, I hear my own story behind every word. 

It’s okay to eat. It’s okay to enjoy food. You’re going to be fine. And when they come back to see me and tell me how much happier they are, I smile. Me too, I think. Me too.

So anyhow, here I was in New York with my husband, on our first vacation together for years. 

I was going to 100% relax and just enjoy it.  

Once we settled into our hotel room, we went out to explore. We ended up at a classic New York pizza place, and having never tried New York pizza before, I was totally stoked. In the past, I would have probably ordered a salad. Not because I wanted it, but because I would have felt like it was the ‘right’ choice. I would have missed out on the New York pizza experience, or I would have pissed my husband off by stealing bites of his slice. Obnoxious.

Instead, I ordered a slice of pizza – with chicken and broccoli, because it sounded good – and I enjoyed it. As I bit into the thin, cracker-like crust, and tasted the cheesy, tomatoey-goodness, sitting with my husband on a rainy day in that little Italian restaurant in New York, I gave myself the opportunity to enjoy every second. It was magical, it was fun, and I felt NOURISHED. By the pizza, by the surroundings, by being with my love, and by knowing that I was doing the right thing by my body and soul. YES.

Over the course of the weekend, my husband and I enjoyed some quintessential New York dining. Dinner at two trendy restaurants, complete with fancy cocktails. Avocado toast at a hipster diner. Hummus at Dizengoff in Chelsea Market, which was literally one of the best things I’ve ever tasted, and that’s saying a lot.

The Black Tap, famous for their over-the-top, Instagrammable shakes.

 

Best hummus and warm homemade pita at Dizengoff. This was easily in the top 10 best things I’ve ever eaten.

 

Steak frites at Balthazar. We went there to honour my daddy’s memory (it was one of his faves!)

 

I ate a hibiscus donut at a street market. A huge birthday cake milkshake at the Black Tap. And each time, I ate what I wanted, but I stopped when I was full. I fully let myself enjoy each experience, and didn’t feel guilty about it. I didn’t actually overeat, because I let myself have whatever I wanted. And, I didn’t force myself to exercise. I was supposed to hit SoulCycle on Thursday with my New York Times editor, but we bailed in favour of drinks in a dive bar. Instead, my husband and I walked a ton, and that was fine. I got to sleep in instead of running out for a spin class. It was divine.

I have to admit that my pants were sort of tight once I got home. Four days of rich food and no formal exercise tends to do that to me, but I didn’t panic or try to work it all off. I just hit the vegetables hard, aka basically returned to my normal diet. Within a week, I was back to my normal. At home, I indulge less that I would on vacation, but I still take the same approach to food and eating: eat well. No guilt. Enjoy my food. No sitting on the sidelines eating salad while my kids and husband are eating pizza. It’s a balance, and it 100% works. I’m happy, satisfied, and content. 

Trying to be ‘healthy’ all the time is exhausting, shitty, and isolating. You miss out on stuff, like cheesy New York pizza and a crazy milkshake with a piece of cake on top. You miss much-needed sleep-ins and cocktails with your loved ones. These are some of the things that make life great. I’m not saying that you should eat until you’re stuffed and sick; I’m saying that feeling okay about embracing life and food is something that we should all be doing. 

Instead of cycling from one diet to the next and feeling bad about ourselves and our behavior, we should be weighing the cost benefit of doing those things. Mostly the emotional costs, because that’s what a lot of this comes down to. 

Overeating occasionally isn’t a big deal, and it’s actually normal. It’s okay to say that it’s fun, because sometimes, it is. And trusting your body instead of second-guessing it is really liberating and empowering. Eat mostly healthily, treat your body with respect, and truly enjoy the indulgences without guilt. 

I went to New York, and I had a blast. 

3 Comments

  1. Another excellent post Abby. It’s tough for many who grew up in our diet culture to see that our relationship with food and ourselves can be very different. Can be rid of food obsession, food rules and food punishment. Can be filled with nourishment, joy and happiness with food. The love of food can return when we ditch the diet mentality and also adopt whole foods. Our body and mind becomes much happier and I think it’s the way we are meant to be.

  2. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog. I’m nearing the end of my first semester of nursing school. I really let me health take a back seat during this insane semester and despite my better judgment I was kind of looking into Shakology (a friend is a “coach”) to jump start my return to a healthier self, despite strongly disliking any MLM, “you need to buy this crap to be healthy” mind set.
    At the end of the day, I know I just need to refocus on balanced nutrition and reincorporate regular exercise and I’ll get there. Slowly, but surely and I’ll have a better chance at continuing good habits this fall when classes start up again. My health has suffered this semester and I need to do better to be a good example to my future clients, my kids, and most importantly for me.

    Thank you,
    A weary nursing student!

    P.S. you’re hilarious! Snarky, and EBP – my favorite combo! ?

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