Indulge or Deprive- The Secret We Have Been Missing for Years

Photo by Zulmaury Saavedra on Unsplash

In the latter days of 2020, I made the decision to quit the consumption of anything with added sugar for one month in the new year of 2021. I had done it a few times before in previous years, usually for only a couple of weeks.

However, when the clock struck midnight on Jan 1, 2020, my ‘sweet’ new year’s celebration ceased. I dropped the cake, had the last sip of champagne, and watched as everyone else continued their gulosity- Ahhh, the bliss of guiltless indulgence.

I tried roping in a few family members and friends. While I could sense their unmatched enthusiasm, I still managed to cajole them into starting the journey with me. (They abandoned the idea, mere days into the new calendar).

Depriving oneself of select foods or food, in general, is nothing new. In fact, for hundreds of years, Muslims have deprived themselves of food in the observance of their sacred month of Ramadan. It is believed that the practice of food deprivation is a reminder of human frailty and dependence on God for sustenance.

The practice goes beyond physical food as practitioners are encouraged to abstain from specified pleasure-seeking activities and maintaining positive mental habits during this time.

Similarly, some denominations of the Christian religion endure a period of fasting and giving up self-serving activities during the period of Lent.

“After all, if you do not resist the apparently inevitable, you will never know how inevitable the inevitable was.”

— Terry Eagleton

Deprivation Beyond Food

Whether we realise it or not, we deprive ourselves every day through the choices we make. If you choose to stay in bed an extra hour, you are by default or conscious choice, depriving yourself of an hour of learning the latest Tik Tok dance ( and vice versa).

In the business realm, this choice is referred to as the Opportunity Cost. Put simply, it’s giving up something in order to get something else.

If you take a brief moment to analyse the day-to-day decisions that you make, you’ll realise that each one is a choice. And with each choice, comes a gain and an element of deprivation.

When Indulgence Turns Out to be Self-deprivation

Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

One blog article explains it perfectly. Chris explains that what at first glance may seem like acts of deprivation, to him and his wife, giving in to their impulse shopping was depriving them of bigger more meaningful luxuries like travelling. If they could just give up the fleeting excitement that comes from buying an item they thought was a treat in the moment, they could afford to enjoy the things most valuable to them.

Likewise, if we exercise that discipline now and give up what seems to be the more attractive option in the moment, we stand to benefit from greater luxuries in the long run.

It’s incredibly tempting when faced with the choice between studying for two hours or watching the newest Netflix hit for two hours, to go with the latter. But, make it a habit to ask yourself, “What is most important to me in the long run?”

Rebutting the temptation with a reflexive question like that consciously holds you accountable for the subsequent action. And nobody wants to consciously and willingly diminish their chances of reaping greater rewards.

When we make those choices to continuously give in to our short-term desire for what’s shiny and attractive now, we are effectively saying no to a shinier, more attractive long-term option.

So, what’s more important to you? The two-hour Netflix binge now, or the two-hour contribution to the investment in yourself? It’s the opportunity cost between immediate rewards and delayed gratification. The power of choice lies with you.


At the stroke of a new year, I chose to deprive myself of the sweet, satisfying taste of sugar to convince myself that I have free will, discipline, and (not gonna lie), shed a few ounces of belly fat. But upon reflection, I gained more than I bargained for.

Sugar-deprived crankiness aside, these are my key takeaways:

Don’t coax the unwilling.

“I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist.”

— Mae West

Let’s face it, I was intrinsically motivated to deprive myself of sugar for a whole month in the new year, the unwilling family and friends weren’t. I had to remind myself of this when I happened across them spooning sugar into their tea or admitting to buying “just one Coke.”

You’re going to have to be okay with walking the road alone sometimes. Don’t expect everyone to drop their plans to partner with you on your self-depriving train. Free will, remember?

Goals can help…but to an extent

The goal of going sugar-less for a month served as a finite motivation factor. It was useful for pushing myself to fight the urge to sink my teeth into those seductive Passion Fruit cheesecake squares my friend gave me for just another week. I mean the pressure!

…But then what?

When February 1st came, I went to the fridge, extracted the cheesecake squares that I had placed intentionally out of sight, and indulged. Mmmmm

I break the nostalgia to tell you that, although goals can be useful in their own right, we can’t rely on them alone. I went back to my sugary ways after the month passed but made a conscious effort to be cognizant of my daily sugar intake. The latter has proven more effective in the long run as it’s a more sustainable method.

The little stuff vs the big stuff

In the end, I didn’t regret the missed partaking of the chocolates that glazed my eyes or the morning cups of Joe without milk and sugar. Instead, I carry the spot of pride somewhere inside that I was able to endure. And that translated into confidence and the knowledge that I could do it again if I wanted to.

In essence, depriving myself of the little pleasures, for the greater gain, was to me, well worth it.

What are you depriving yourself of? What life achievements are you depriving yourself of? Is the achievement being hindered by your choice to pursue something else?

What will your opportunity cost be?

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Susanna J

Susanna J

A Caribbean small-island millennial writing about life and improving it.