Today is Fat Tuesday, which is basically a day in which everyone heads to IHOP and eats more pancakes in one sitting than they would during the entire year. Colorful pastries and decadent foods cross people’s lips, and with Mardi Gras celebrations in full swing, it’s also not uncommon for folks to step out wearing elaborate outfits, adorning themselves with metallic beads and feathered masks while they continue going about their day-before-Lent food fest.
It’s also a day that makes me somewhat uncomfortable.
Although I’m not nearly as strict about my eating habits as I was when I lost 70 pounds many years ago, food-focused days like this bring about some uneasy feelings.
On one hand, I’m reminded of the me who enjoyed Fat Tuesday every day of the week, causing my weight to soar and my mood to sink. Therefore, my first inclination today was to set out writing about why people trying to lose weight (or maintain the healthy one they have) should abandon Fat Tuesday with a passion.
While the rest of the world makes like bears readying themselves for hibernation on Fat Tuesday, I was prepared to offer healthier eating suggestions and advice. No pancakes or pizza for you! I was ready to write about the importance of staying on track with figure-friendly recipes and hitting the elliptical. I’d ultimately conclude that you’d be on top of your game if you did so. You’d be smiling inwardly, pleased with the knowledge that you’d be helping your health while everyone else falls into a food-induced coma, their shiny beads raking across heaps of ranch dip as they reach across the table for more potato chips.
The other part of me says, “Jen, calm down about all of this!”
Now, while I don’t advocate all-out, gluttonous calorie fests on Fat Tuesday (or any day), and I truly enjoy having big salads with a plate of roasted butternut squash and carrots for dinner, this doesn’t mean I have to come down so hard on others who choose to eat otherwise. After all, I was there once too; I know all too well that it’s not as easy as waking up one day and bidding raspberry cheese Danish rings adieu. And I don’t want to lose sight of that.
Furthermore, I can’t forget that even after my weight loss, I was far from the picture of health; while I spoke about making better food choices and the benefits of exercise, I also got wrapped up in eating-disordered tendencies and body image struggles, eventually eating nothing but a pork chop, apple and yogurt – all day. Thankfully, I’m back on track, and have even intentionally gained back some needed weight.
So yeah, the idea of a day dedicated to devouring pancakes and pizza like it’s going out of style makes me think more deeply. It not only reminds me that for about two years, I never ate even a single pancake and boy oh boy – now knowing what I know – I sure wish I did. I shunned balance in the name of eating healthy, all the while telling the world I was balanced (truth is, I was terrified of going back to the significantly heavier me and actually convinced I was engaging in healthy behaviors).
What I know now is that the world won’t end if I have a garlic knot or enjoy some penne. I don’t have to face foods with such an all-or-nothing approach; balance really is key. So, I suppose Fat Tuesday reminds me of what I missed out on: the syrupy pancakes, cupcakes and cookies and fun that I denied myself – for way too long.
I can comfortably say this about today: It’s Fat Tuesday. I don’t plan on eating pancakes, but I sure won’t beat myself up if I do.
Jennifer Lea Reynolds
U.Jennifer Lea Reynolds is a weight loss success story who enjoys living a healthy lifestyle. A fan of the elliptical, roasted asparagus and remembering to put the lid on the blender, she’s appeared in many national and local print publications. She lives in New England where she writes professionally about health and wellness in online publications including U.S. News & World Report, Reader's Digest, Woman's Day, The Huffington Post, and more.