I love treats. Especially if said treat involves chocolate or chips or peanut butter. I like non-food treats, too. Like reading a book long past my bedtime or binging on a great documentary series.
But here’s the thing I’m learning about treats.
A treat is only a treat if I feel good afterward.
There are treats that are anticipatory – things that are most enjoyable when being considered. There are treats that are most enjoyable in the moment. There are treats that we enjoy primarily in retrospect (I’m thinking of a very jet-lagged trip to Denmark with a toddler; the pictures gloss over the horrors of sleep deprivation).
But I’m recognizing something fails to be a treat if it ultimately leaves me feeling unsatisfied physically or mentally.
I’ve been thinking about this in the context of food – likely one of the most common sources of troublesome “treats”. I like to blame my recent cravings on weather (#TheWinterThatNeverEnds) or my hormones, but I was categorizing my evening meeting with a tub of ice cream as a treat. But here’s the thing – even while I was eating it, I knew I’d regret it (too much dairy really sets off allergy symptoms, and I also have mild lactose intolerance). One week I ate ice cream four times. Once is a stretch, and four was at least three times too many.
For me, ice cream day after day isn’t a treat…because I don’t feel good afterward. Ideally, I want to seek out treats that have staying power.
A slice of cherry cheesecake (not too big, and made with lactose-free cream cheese, ideally) is a treat. Binging on Twizzlers a handful of times a year is a treat. Because I enjoy the anticipation, the actual event, and remembering the special and tasty “treat.”
Sometimes I can’t tell, of course, when an activity is going to veer out of “treat” territory and into something with negative implications. Sometimes a plan that looks like it will be a treat – a coffee date with friends when I’m too tired to enjoy it, the second serving of pie when I’m already full, the extra hour in bed that leaves me feeling sluggish and down for the rest of the day – ends up backfiring. And sometimes I need to eat ice cream four days in a row because it’s an imperfect, but functional, way to cope with something.
But at least now I can use the right definition.
For now I’m trying to listen to my body and mind, aiming to be honest with myself in recognizing that a treat is only a treat if I feel good afterward.
Your turn. How do you handle this idea of treats? What are your favourite treats and how do you manage them so they remain special and a positive force in your life?