Are Indulgences Good for Your Heart?

SYoung Health Guide
  • Hello everyone.  I hope you have had a heart healthy and exercise filled week so far.  Something from the news this week just stuck with me.  Michelle Obama's burger and fries lunch was all over the news as I am sure most of you saw or read.  Regardless of your political leanings, imagine yourself in her shoes.  Imagine, for a moment, that if each and every time you snuck a burger and fries lunch it was written about in the paper, all the blogs, and every web site.  Now admittedly, the First Lady is a healthy eating advocate and she is, in light of her role as First Lady and her strong position on healthy diets, a role model.  Yes, role models are always supposed to act accordingly.   That said, this blog isn't about Michelle Obama, it's about all of us struggling with heart disease and high cholesterol.

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    I happened to be visiting with my physician for a regular standing appointment this week and posed the question to her.  Is it bad for my cholesterol and heart to eat a burger and fries every now and again and what about donuts and cinnamon rolls?  Is it really as terrible as I think?  What if I pull a Michelle Obama and scarf down a cheeseburger and fries, but add in a milkshake on top?  Would that, should that make frontline news?  In my case, most likely not since I am far from famous or from being a spokesperson, but still, should that make headlines in my life?  Is it really all that terrible?


    Well, it turns out that, in her opinion, it is ok to indulge every now and then.  Now for the fine print and rules.  It is ok to indulge only if you are burning off the calories consumed.  Think of boxers and athletes.  They consume up to 7,000 calories a day, but they are burning more than that each day running, weight lifting, and practicing.  In line with the boxer scenario, if you are working your body that hard each and every day you need those calories to build and maintain muscle, strength, and endurance.   Next and while this may be obvious, for those of us with high cholesterol and heart disease, none of us should be indulging daily.  Not one of us should be eating burgers and fries on a regular basis or dunking donuts in our coffee each morning.  An Indulgence, like a burger, fries and shake, is just that a special, rare occasion activity.  Think of it as a reward.  Yes, contrary to what the media thinks, it is ok to reward ourselves every now and again and within reason for good behavior.  Psychologically speaking rewarding ourselves in small ways and not binges of course will help us maintain that good behavior and our exercise regimen.


    So, this weekend I am going to indulge.  I have been working out at a higher level burning more calories than a month ago and have been adding in more weight work as well.  So, I am heading off to the store shortly to pick up some cinnamon rolls fresh from the bakery to have with my morning cup of coffee tomorrow.  These cinnamon rolls have no high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils, and they are delicious.  This will be my way of rewarding myself for an exercise job well done this week.    I even did extra time on the elliptical today! 


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    So work out as hard as you are able, do so as often as your physician allows, stick to your heart healthy diet, but don't shame yourself if you indulge once or twice.  Instead of shaming, take it out on your cholesterol and burn it off with a second work out.

Published On: July 18, 2011