We all indulge.
It’s a fact. We’re human after all.
The concept of ‘treating ourselves’ has been around since the first ever batch of chocolate chip cookies came out of the oven.
It appears that we have this urge to regularly indulge in foods we know (100%) make us less healthy. We’re rebels. We want to break some rules. We want to live a little.
We want to ignore some of our most essential eating habits.
And so every so often we say screw it. We throw our middle fingers up to the world and let our taste buds go crazy.
And it feels good. It feels damn good.
But what happens to your body when you indulge? What consequences do we suffer when we decide to break our rules and make poor food choices?
After reading this post, you’re probably going to hate me. It’s OK. I’m ready for it.
But, if I’m lucky, this post might give you a slightly different perspective on the effects of food indulging.
Let’s dig in.
Let me start off by saying something important (and, hopefully, obvious): I’m not your mama.
I didn’t put together this post to tell you to stop indulging. That’s not my place. Nor am I an advocate of living life behind some crazy rules. I indulge every so often too. I mean look at that first image. I’m eating pizza. And, no, unfortunately it’s not gluten free. But I was in Rome. And when in Rome you do as Romans do.
But here’s the point: Indulgence is a choice.
And the purpose of this post is simply to make you more aware of what happens to you and your body when you do make this choice.
So what is indulgence you ask…
Well, for the sake of this post, indulgence is the act of making poor food choices every now and then. Note that this doesn’t include people who make poor food choices every single day, although everything mentioned in this article applies to both groups (drastically more to the second group).
But why do we indulge you wonder…
Well, for a number of reasons.
To start, we’re probably hooked on these foods, at least psychologically. We indulge when the food is around us (and it usually is). We indulge when it’s easy to indulge (and it often is) or when we have no other options (or at least we think we don’t). We indulge when we immerse ourselves in a toxic environment.
Some of us have this funky mindset that says we deserve a treat after a good workout or training session. That we deserve a treat for the hard work we just put in. Realistically, that’s the same line of thinking as: “Hey, I just had an awesome workout! I feel great. I’m going to celebrate by punching myself in the stomach.” That’s why I said exercise can make you fat.
Sometimes our indulgence is based on social pressure. Like that time you really didn’t want that piece of birthday cake, but you felt like you practically had to have a piece so people wouldn’t look at you funny. Maybe you awkwardly asked for the smallest piece as consolation but didn’t bother rejecting the big one handed to you.
Regardless of why or when it happens, the consequences of making poor food choices are the same.
Let’s begin the analysis by zooming in on your digestive tract for a moment.
OK. We’re inside your gut now. I’m chilling inside your small intestine.
Your small intestine is where all the digestion magic happens. This is your holding tank for food. All the food that enters your mouth eventually reaches your small intestine.
The small intestine is the key to a healthy digestive tract. It is long and has an enormous surface area. They say that if you were to take it out, open it up, and spread it on the grounds at Wimbledon, it would cover roughly the surface area of a full tennis court. Crazy, I know.
Your small intestine is actually the largest separator between the outside world and the inside of your body. And here you were thinking it was your skin. Nice try. Nothing actually ‘enters your body’ until it crosses the small intestine membrane and enters your blood stream.
Interesting stuff, I know.
But the small intestine’s most important job is to help you absorb nutrients effectively.
And here’s what’s really interesting: roughly 70-80 percent of your entire immune system is stationed inside your gut.
That’s right. Nearly 80 percent!
This is because of all the nasty stuff that makes it inside your small intestine (you put all sorts of crazy things in your mouth). Your intestinal wall is, therefore, loaded with immune cells which are ready to find and destroy any pathogens that try to make it through the intestinal lining.
But what happens if these pathogens somehow make it into your bloodstream?
Well, there are other defenses and filtration systems in place to take care of this (remember, your body is a complex system), but it doesn’t always work. If these defense systems are breached, a full-body immune response is triggered to fight these bad guys.
Not a good situation to be in.
If this kind of thing starts to happen on a regular basis, auto-immunity can develop. But I won’t get into that at the moment.
Introducing Leaky Gut Syndrome
What the heck is a leaky gut?
Leaky gut = increased intestinal permeability
What the heck does that mean?
It means that bad stuff can easily make it inside your body.
Leaky gut syndrome happens when the intestinal lining is structurally damaged, making it very easy for bacteria, toxins, and undigested foods to leak into the blood stream and trigger an immune reaction.
Once they’re inside, these guys can wreak havoc on the entire body.
Here’s what Dallas and Mellisa Hartwig had to say in their book It Starts With Food:
“Increased gut permeability is always a problem because it means your body no longer has control over what comes in and what stays out.”
Maintaining a healthy gut lining is, therefore, very important.
But here’s what happens when you indulge: you damage your intestinal lining.
Poor food choices flood your gut with toxins, overwhelm your immune system, and create increased gut permeability, digestive distress, and full-body inflammation.
Let me give you a more visual example.
The other day I went rollerblading with my girlfriend in a small town nearby.
In an effort to impress her and win over her love, I tried to pull off a somewhat dare-devilish maneuver where I went full speed down a super steep hill that ended with a sharp corner. Not smart.
And it didn’t help that I’m no good at breaking.
Here’s what happened:
While I didn’t manage to pull off the stunt, I think she was still somewhat impressed.
Anyway, how does all of this relate to food choices, leaky gut, and food indulging?
Let me explain.
When you make poor food choices, you are essentially doing the same thing to your intestinal wall that I did to my poor skin. In both scenarios, our insides are completely exposed to the outside world and the chances of bacteria getting inside and causing an ugly infection are increased.
In both cases, there is an increased chance that the immune system would be triggered.
(Fortunately for me, I got my hands on some solid antiseptic wipes).
If you are continuously making poor food choices, you are structurally damaging the intestinal wall. On purpose. You are essentially creating gashes on your gut and making it that much easier for bacteria and toxins to find their way in, which, once again, would require your immune system to step in and take action.
And the more times your immune system has to step in, the more likely it is that you’ll end up with some form of auto-immunity.
Not good for your health.
And if health isn’t your thing, maybe you’ll be motivated by the obvious: indulging will make you fat.
“Deposition of visceral fat (which contributes to that sexy apple shape) is one of the direct effects of increased gut permeability.” – Dallas and Mellisa Hartwig from It Starts With Food
The human body, on its own, is very good at keeping itself safe and healthy. But the problem occurs when we start making poor food choices that infiltrate our defense systems and wreak havoc throughout the entire body.
Indulging – or treating yourself – is, at the end of the day, a process of poor decision making.
And, even though you may not be indulging on a daily basis (or even if you are), the consequences are the same.
We don’t purposely throw ourselves skin-first onto the concrete to create gashes on our skin for fun (I hope not anyway). So why would we purposely put food in our body that will create gashes on our intestinal wall?
Think about what that moment of indulgence is worth to you. Is that temporary pleasure worth all the damage?
You don’t have to answer that.
I’m not advocating you never treat yourself again. We all indulge. My goal here is not to convince you to stop indulging. I’m simply trying to make you more aware of the things that are happening inside your body when you do.
Because awareness (and understanding) will only help you make better food choices down the road.
So, to indulge or not to indulge?
The end decision is yours to make.
Now I want you to do something important for me: scroll down to the comment section below and tell me why you indulge. What is it that drives your food indulging? I’m really curious.
And, if you have nothing to say, please do me a favor and share the post with your social circles. I will love you forever.