The very same day we posted Scarlet Letter last week…a reproval of treats was posted elsewhere. It was presented in an analogy that goes like this (my interpretation).
“Paleo” treat : the “real” thing
having sex with your pants on : having sex with your pants off
I actually agree with this statement…but for none of the reasons its original authors intended.
When taken out of context it probably makes some really healthy people question themselves (unhealthily)…but even in the context of it only being a temporary challenge I think it still promotes ambiguous shame. This was the kind of prescription I was afraid of when writing that post.
I’ll add that they say they are not promoting that we become nutritional members of “the cloth” forever…as they write this in the context of a 30 day challenge. And while in that sense I see where it could have potential, I see its shortcomings as well.
I’m going to post a few thoughts on the subject just to illustrate that there are usually two sides to every story. Many things like this are personal…what works for one may not work for another. So let me be clear – if a strict abstinence period works for you, that’s fine…I know there are those who would respond best to it. However, if it doesn’t…let me show you how this exact same analogy can promote an entirely different method. As with anything…all we can do is determine which one we want to buy.
1. Not the best I’ve ever had?
On the surface this argument seems reasonable. Their first point is that the stand-in treat won’t be good enough to curb your “desires”. I guess it’s true in most cases removing wheat and high amounts of sugar won’t yield you the exact same eater experience. But first off…is it safe to imply that it won’t be really good (good enough to satisfy you)? I don’t think it is…I know many first hand who do enjoy likenesses to SAD treat’s who no longer have any desire for the much-worse-for-you version.
ThePaleo pizza example is used…even if it isn’t as good as a brick fired pie in Naples…couldn’t it still be a hell of a lot better than a lot of other boring and uninspired meals? Is variety no longer the spice of life? Even if it’s not “as good” as the original why shouldn’t the ingredients you do want to eat be made as great as possible? Even if they resemble a delicious innovation that just happened to have been made with ingredients we no longer wish to eat.
Sometimes not having sex is the wise and prudent choice (that part was left out of the original argument)…but why would having sex with your pants on (so to speak) really be harmful? Sure it isn’t the same…but the danger according to the other post is that this will make you want “real sex” more.
I’m having a difficult time seeing how zero sex and “interaction” for an extended period of time would make you want sex less than having some form of safe interaction over that same period of time.
The last point brings up the question…is everything we do and enjoy an addiction? Can an abstinence period make us no longer want the thing in question? With some things (like sex)…it’s hard to think that a normal “need” is something that could or should be cured. It’s even harder to believe that 30 days (or even years – think: POWs) would take away our desire for some things that are innately human (sex/ tasty food). It could probably lessen them or change the way we perceive them but I can’t see how they would go away entirely.
Somewhere the line has to be drawn…we can’t think of everything in life as an addiction similar to crack. Am I a workout-head, a reading-head, DIY-at-the-house-head, a sugar-head? These are all things I enjoy and/or do frequently. I’m not that happy when I don’t do them but is it really the same? And in the case of sugar…you have to eat…even if you lived entirely off the land you would likely eat some form of sugar (seasonally)…I realize that it has an effect on your brain (wouldn’t all food) but is it really the same dependence as someone on powerful psychoactive drugs? Again, I just think we have to draw the line somewhere or we could compare everything that brings us joy to the type of habits that we would kill or steal for.
I don’t feel that our need for exciting food is something that could or should be cured either…simply managed.
3. Quarterback sneak.
I know that folks like to set a goal and go after it. That’s why I see some value in 30 day challenges. But in other ways I believe they can be detrimental. That if you’re living the challenge in a different way than your comfortable/mindful/compromising daily life would be after said challenge…how are you learning/creating the lifestyle that’s going to work for you along the way? Isn’t it possible that instead you learn that restriction is no fun and you just go back to the way you were before? Isn’t it valid to think that if you we’re feeling it out for that month and finding a way to make it all work for you the individual that might lead to a more smooth transition into a different lifestyle?
Why would you practice in a way that’s different than you intend to play (to insert another analogy)? It’s football season so go with this…would you run plays all week that you don’t intend to use this weekend at the game? Shouldn’t you be developing and practicing the plays you’re going to use to go for long term success?
And to use the sex analogy again…does having no sex or sex-like-activities teach you how to have safe sex later on?
4. Let’s talk about sex.
Seriously…what it is FUNDAMENTALLY. A way to procreate. Something that serves only one true purpose that we exploit for enjoyment.
To use the analogy that is acknowledging the idea that sex is more than this…that it’s fun…flies directly in the face of any point you would then try to make to say that we shouldn’t treat food the same way (albeit responsibly).
Food has only one real purpose, to fuel our bodies…and we as humans go beyond that to make it enjoyable on other levels.
So if the underlying premise that makes the analogy work is that humans make enjoyment from things that are otherwise strictly utilitarian…it’s flawed to then argue that we should try to reduce food to fuel only for any period of time. Because we’ve already admitted that they are much more than that.
Sex : procreation :: food : fuel
Sex: enjoyment :: food : enjoyment
Sex: responsibility :: food : responsibility
There are 2 sides to every story. It’s all in how you see it.