One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident


Do You Self-Nurture or Self-Indulge? What’s the Difference?

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I recently read an article comparing self-indulgent with self-nurturing and I can’t get some of the concepts out of my mind.  It’s something I’ve seen and struggled with myself.

The article loses its focus a bit and I’m not sure I agree with its more in-depth analysis so I copied and pasted the intro and some excerpts that I did really relate to. Click here to read the article in its entirety if you are interested.

The first few paragraphs really sucked me in…

It’s something like making a pact with the Devil. When we self-indulge, we obtain the object of our desire up front — whether it’s some glorious “high” (think cocaine, really good New York cheesecake, Ecstasy, or a reckless splurge at Tiffany’s); or we get a roller-coaster type thrill that enables us to experience an excitement not available to us otherwise (think X-sports); or an almost rapturous sense of tranquility that before then may have been painfully elusive (think heroine). But the “bill” for such self-indulgence — i.e., the associated “costs” of our intemperance — invariably arrives later.

These longer-term costs exist on a continuum from mild to severe, but only rarely can they be escaped. We may find out, for instance, that what we’ve chosen to help make us feel better has damaged our lungs (e.g., nicotine), or our liver (e.g., alcohol). Or that our self-indulgent (or addictive) habit has — directly or indirectly — injured our most important relationship. Or that what we’ve done to get an adrenaline rush has left us in a body cast. Or we may learn that, as a result of poor food choices or binge eating, we’ve developed diabetes or heart disease. Or that the debts we’ve incurred from gambling, drugs or shopping are now overdue … and unpayable.

The above examples illustrate the eventual “costs” of self-indulgence: the price of our desperate attempt to make ourselves happy (or at least happier than we are) because our lives don’t really fulfill us. If our daily pursuits don’t allow us to express something deep within our personality, we end up feeling empty, depressed or deprived. And these abiding feelings of discontent are typically what drive us toward unhealthy substances, activities and relationships.

WOW, that last paragraph!

…our desperate attempt to make ourselves happy (or at least happier than we are) because our lives don’t really fulfill us. If our daily pursuits don’t allow us to express something deep within our personality, we end up feeling empty, depressed or deprived.

Can I just add … and then we eat? Or rather, I eat. Food is definitely my “drug” of choice when I feel empty, depressed or deprived.

The author also says…

Contrary to what some people might assume, self-indulgent people are not particularly happy — even though they may strive for happiness (or better, the immediate “highs” of happiness) a good deal more than the rest of us. There’s a wonderful expression: “You never get enough of what you don’t really want,” and these words help explain why the keynote of almost all self-indulgent practices is more.

But what all of us most want — and need — is to be able to comfortably love and nurture ourselves, to care for ourselves the way we naturally desire others to care for us. … And lovingly caring for ourselves isn’t really about self-indulgence at all.

Reread that last line one more time:

And lovingly caring for ourselves isn’t really about self-indulgence at all.

That really hit home. I’ve used self-indulgence as a way to care for myself and I know so so many people who do this as well.

I’ll use a night out with a friend a few years ago as an example. While we were looking through the menu and deciding what to eat, this friend was adamant about ordering fried mozzarella sticks because “she deserved them” since she had a hard day. Her kids were on her last nerve, she was making some pretty big life decisions, she had a lot going on, and a pound of fried cheese was what she thought would make her happy.

I knew what she meant. I’ve been there. I’ve ordered the pound of fried cheese to make myself feel better. I’ve stuffed a huge warm piece of buttered bread in my mouth when the kids were being especially annoying. I’ve ended my day with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s because I “earned it.”

But is that really caring for ourselves? Does it make our day better? Is it what we need?

As opposed to self-indulgence, self-nurturance fosters both the physical and psychological health requisite to our happiness. Here we’re not “treating” ourselves to something that in the moment makes us feel better but ultimately is bad for us. We’re not looking for a quick fix to alter our mood or consciousness so as to escape the boredom, drudgery or pain of our existence, or to drown out nagging doubts we have about ourselves. Rather, we’re addressing our inborn needs for self-succor—but in an adult, responsible fashion.

When we’re self-nurturing, the way we take care of ourselves is loving, respectful and prudent.

We certainly don’t permit ourselves to substitute dessert for dinner, but we do allow ourselves (in moderation) to have dessert after dinner. And rather than an oversized slice of chocolate cake with whipped cream, the dessert might well consist of a bowl of fresh cherries topped with creamy low-fat yogurt — the dinner itself lovingly prepared and healthful. In fact, when we can focus on taking the best possible care of ourselves, we’re in just the right mindset to artfully combine the delicious with the nutritious.

His example of dessert for dinner may seem to come out of nowhere because I skipped a bit of the article but what he is saying is powerful. Especially this:

…when we can focus on taking the best possible care of ourselves, we’re in just the right mindset to artfully combine the delicious with the nutritious.

That is EXACTLY what I’ve been teaching myself to do these past 10 years. It’s why GreenLiteBites exists. I use blogging as an outlet or rather a catalyst to inspire myself and continually look for ways to SELF-NURTURE myself instead of self-indulging.  I literally just did it today!

I’ve been a bit out of sorts lately, dealing with some personal stuff. Frankly, I was moping about all morning. The Husband asked if I wanted to go to lunch and I didn’t. I’ve been eating out way too much lately and I’m tired of it. Plus I knew if I went I wouldn’t be in right state of mind to make the best choices.  So I declined his offer and when he left I cranked up my music, hit the kitchen and prepared myself an amazing salad.

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It made me feel SO MUCH BETTER!

The whole experience of it — listening to my music, taking time to take care of me, creating a fun salad, photographing it and even sharing it — is what made me feel better.

Yet, at a different point in my life I would have gone out, thinking a pound of fried cheese or fast food would make me feel better because I deserve it.

I wish I could capture this slight shift in my self-care and explain it better because I think it made the biggest difference not only in my weight loss but my happiness.

One last line from the article as I think it’s relevant:

What is so unfortunate about self-indulgent (vs. self-nurturing) behavior is that at bottom it represents a misguided effort to bolster positive feelings about the self.

I can honestly say all my binges, food sneaks, late-night deliveries of stuffed-crust pizzas and massive amounts of ice cream were definitely misguided efforts to feel better about myself. Usually they were after yet another attempt of dieting and denying myself food because I didn’t look the way I thought I should look.

I told you. That article really got my gears turning! It expressed a shift in my focus and validates why I think weight loss is really only possible if you are driven to do it from a place of self-love. It also reminded me of this article I blogged about years ago. I think the two are really related and give different perspectives of similar issues a lot of us face.

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There are 11 comments so far.


    August 4, 2015

    WOW! I struggle with this daily! Everyday I am tempted with some food situation that I think I “deserve” because of something that happened that day – regardless of the mostly positive experiences I had during the day. Thank you for a thoughtful and reflective blog post.


      August 5, 2015

      You are so welcome!


    August 4, 2015

    Totally can identify with this article. It’s a daily struggle and has been for the better part of 37 years.

    Incidentally, the salad you made today with the blueberries and corn reminded me of a salad another blogger (local to me) made today. You might enjoy it as it’s got avocado, too!


      August 5, 2015

      That looks amazing!! I was considering avocado too but I’ve been using it SO much lately. lol


    August 5, 2015

    I love this post and just shared it with a Fb group I’m involved in. It’s such a subtle difference in perspective that has an enormous effect on behaviour and results. I just love your take on this one!

    Side note: where the HELL are you getting those beautiful blueberries?!?!?!? Ours around here do NOT look that good. Not by a loooong shot.


      August 5, 2015

      Ha! They are all over right now! Those are from my local grocery store and where buy 1 get 1 free!!


    August 5, 2015

    I was thinking as reading, how much of what we do is learned behavior? I have experienced the same thing but for so many years, I was on autopilot. I never thought about it because I witnessed my mother doing the very same thing, I guess growing up I thought it was ‘self-nurturing’ to eat what I ‘deserved’ based on how my day went. Now I’m in the process of relearning to practice and experience the difference between the two. Maybe this comes with age? Very helpful, thank you!


    August 6, 2015

    this is a fantastic, eye-opening blog post. I have read and re-read it and am going to copy it and put it in my journal to read and re-read. Thank you, Roni!
    Truly a great one!


    August 6, 2015

    I read this article when you posted it on Facebook last week, and it hit close to home – I have a close friend who has always been a big proponent of “deserving” things, and has consequently ended up in quite a bit of credit card debt. For me, the line to remember is “And lovingly caring for ourselves isn’t really about self-indulgence at all,” which you called out. I went through some bad times 13 years ago, and my therapist at the time talked about “self-care” quite a bit – I don’t think she intended for me to go home and eat a pint of ice cream as self-care. This article really helped frame the difference between self-nurturing and self-indulgence, and I will definitely keep it in mind for future stressful days/weeks/months. Thanks for posting about the article here – it’s given me a chance to mull it over some more.

    I’ve been following your blog for years (8 years, maybe?) and, more and more, I find your wycwyc seeping into my life. I’m about to sign up for a half-marathon, not because I have a specific time goal in mind, but rather because I know it’ll give me motivation to get out the door and go for a run in the months ahead, and it’ll be a better/healthier way to spend a Saturday morning than my usual. If I have to walk half of it, that’s still be better than sitting on the couch. Thanks for being an inspiration. =)


    August 7, 2015

    LOVE this post, but the librarian in me is disappointed that you didn’t give the citation for the article you reference. Link is great but citation is essential to avoid copyright violation!


    August 9, 2015

    Good points. So many variables can affect what you see on the scale. When I was trying to lose weight, I always looked for a general trend and expected blips along the way. Totally worked out for me. :)