I fell off the wagon this weekend.

After five days full of healthy choices, I went out on Saturday night with a few friends and decided to just eat and drink whatever I wanted. I’m allowed!, I told myself sternly, reaching into a basket full of fried tortilla chips like everyone else at the table. Don’t I deserve a treat every once in a while?!

An hour or two after eating delicious things that most certainly weren’t 100% gluten-free and drinking sugary cocktails (another no no in my life. The headache the morning after is NOT WORTH IT), I was reminded why anything with gluten certainly wouldn’t be defined as a treat by my stomach.  The gurgling, bloated feeling was back with a vengeance, zapping my energy and making me wish I was at home with some chamomile tea instead of dodging elbows in a loud bar. As soon as I got back to my apartment, I threw on my pajamas and practically swan dived into my bed, vowing to never again let my guard down when it came to fried tortillas and desserts with indefinable contents.

A lot of us reward ourselves with food. It’s a deeply ingrained habit. Bad days, bad bosses or bad news send many of us toward the cake or ice cream, even those of us who have digestive systems that rebel against that type of stuff, because gosh darn it we deserve it!  But honestly, this type of thinking is completely flawed.

What we deserve, is a healthy body that functions flawlessly. What we deserve is to spend our weekends having fun, going out and being social, without feeling bloated, or nauseous, or so full of gin and tonic we leave our keys in the bathroom stall and only remember that we left them there once we get home. A treat is something that “is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure,” not something that makes us feel like melting into a puddle of misery the next day.

I gave up gluten (and processed foods, and most diary) because I felt better when they weren’t around, not because I wanted to go on a crazy diet or suddenly become some kind of annoying spokesperson for healthy living. I had a feeling gluten was doing weird things to my digestion (and therefore mental well being), and once I took it out of my daily life, I realized my intuition had been right on.

That’s why I avoid fried foods and candy bars. It’s not because they go right to my thighs, it’s because they make me miserable. If I had really wanted to treat myself on Saturday night, I would have stuck with a salad and then gone with some homemade gelato. If I had really wanted to have a good time with the girls, I would have gone my usual route of ordering a vodka and soda, or whiskey on the rocks, something I could sip slowly that wouldn’t send my sugar spiking into the stratosphere. But because I’m so used to the idea of treating myself with some kind of sugary /salty explosion, I didn’t even question reaching for the chips and knocking back sangria and dessert wine.

So the next time you’ve been through a rough patch and instantly reach for a treat because you deserve it, take a moment to ask your body what you really deserve. Chances are, what you and your body deserve has nothing to do with empty calories or a rumbling stomach.

Tortilla chip photo available from Shutterstock.