To Celebrate is Human

by Karen Mann

The French Quarter in New Orleans

I just returned from a short trip to New Orleans, Louisiana, where I was able to participate in some of the traditional celebrations associated with the Mardi Gras season.  

Wow, do those folks know how to have a good time! Even when it’s not a time of celebration, New Orleans has a rich culinary tradition, a true foodie capital of the world, with cuisines blending Cajun and Creole cultures and including innovative dishes using rabbit, alligator, plenty of seafood, and lots of spice! And don’t forget the beignets! Beignets are fried dough topped with mounds of powdered sugar. If you want the definition of an empty calorie, I think the beignet has you covered. 

As someone who has lost and maintained a 20% weight loss, adventures like these encourage me to pause — not panic, but pause.  

How do I want to feel while I’m here, soaking up the sights and experimenting with new food? How do I want to feel getting back into my normal routine at home? Do I want to indulge my senses and push my protocol aside for a few days to see how that feels? 

YES! I do. And I did. But I had this epiphany about the tradition of Mardi Gras, which, if you didn’t know, dates back to the 1600s and takes place on the last day before Lent when it’s customary to give up certain pleasures as part of a religious tradition. While I don’t observe Lent, I definitely observed Mardi Gras! 

Here’s my epiphany. You might consider the behavior associated with Mardi Gras the ultimate binge. A group of people are enjoying their most hedonic vices in anticipation of giving them up for a while. They’ve been doing this for hundreds of years. What does that tell you? 

The desire to go all in in the name of celebration is part of the human experience. Before the diet culture, before being thin was so tied to morality, before our food system seemed determined to sabotage our metabolism, we celebrated. And then we moderated. There’s an ebb and flow. There’s a balance to be had. At least, that’s how I interpret it.

So instead of fearing the usual self-flagellating guilt I once felt after a vacation like this, I instead let myself soak it all up, celebrating with the hundreds of joyful people all around me, with live music everywhere, beads flying through the air, and yes, a few beignets. It was magic. And I’m still buzzing from that energy. 

I went back to the gym today. I cooked with some veggies I’d picked from my garden. I got back to work. I’ve returned to my routine, where I do my best to make decisions that reflect my desire to be healthy and live a long life in a body I love.  

Life flows when we honor balance and let ourselves be human, which means we can see the big picture.  

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