The things you think are bad for you might actually be good for you.

The Things You Think Are Bad For You_EMAIL

I’m really not a fan of the term “guilty pleasures.” It implies that we should feel bad about the things that feel good.

The idea that things that feel good are bad for us has caused enough secrecy, suffering, and guilt.

I think it’s time for us to own what feels good as good for us.

Feeling good is not hedonism. Feeling good is health. {Tweet it.} Feeling good is not hedonism. Feeling good is health-tweet

Why? Because pleasure releases a molecule in the body called nitric oxide, which actually improves our health by signaling our cells to do things like increase our blood flow.  (I learned all about this from my mom, Dr. Christiane Northrup, who wrote extensively about this science in her book The Secret Pleasures of Menopause. It applies to us all, women and men, no matter our age.)

When we consciously pursue pleasure, we reduce stress. When we reduce stress, our body can hang out in rest-and-restore land instead of fight-or-flight.

The pursuit of pleasure, therefore, must be part of your health regimen.

Dr. Mario Martinez did a study of over 700 healthy centenarians (people over 100 years old) around the world to see what they had in common. There were 5 key health-giving characteristics that they all shared.

The one that stuck out to me most was that they indulged in daily rituals of pleasure like savoring a glass of wine, a cigar, a brownie, or a small scotch.

All of these indulgences would be pegged a “guilty pleasure.” But Dr. Martinez found that these rituals of pleasure were actually contributing to their health instead of depleting it.

Let’s be clear, these healthy centenarians were not binge drinking and blacking out, stuffing themselves into a food coma, or chain smoking.

Mindless indulgence depletes our vitality. But mindful pleasure enhances it.

So what have you dubbed your “guilty pleasures?” Might it be time to reframe them and drop the guilt?

I bet if we stopped feeling guilty for pleasure and were brave enough to shine light on what brings us pleasure instead of hiding it, we’d be more mindful about it.

Instead of needing two chocolate bars to fulfill our craving, being present to the pleasure of a square or two would do it.

Instead of drinking so much that we can’t remember last night, we could slowly savor one small premium glass of whisky to ensure we remember every last drop.

I bet if we honored our pleasures instead of feeling guilty about them they wouldn’t turn into compulsions.

Honor what brings you pleasure.

Indulge in it with your full presence.

Stop calling things guilty pleasures and embrace that there’s no need to feel bad about feeling good.

Owning your pleasures mindfully may just help you live healthily past the age of one hundred. And even if it doesn’t, you’ll make the most out of the years you’ve got. And that’s what it’s all about anyway.



What are you ready to give up as a “guilty pleasure” to allow it to simply be a pleasure? What rituals of savoring do you enjoy or would you like to enjoy? Let me know in the comments!


  • Yes! I loved every word of this, but the line “The pursuit of pleasure, therefore, must be part of your health regimen.” is the best thing I have read all week.

    I will dedicate to focusing on pleasure over the next few weeks… for the good of my health of course ;)

    Thanks Kate :)

  • Noeleen

    Kayaking on a peaceful (glass) lake is what I used to call a guilty pleasure because it’s time spent on me, thanks to your article I’ll relish every moment of it.

  • Sandra

    Great post! I didn’t know about that molecule! How nice! I have always said you’re doomed for failure if you don’t include a treat for yourself once in awhile…whether it’s a diet or a job you have to do.
    I especially love that I’m reading your post while loving a pumpkin spice latte AND a pumpkin donut! Yikes!

  • Awesome post, Kate. 100% agree. Chocolate chips are my daily pleasure (though too many and my face breaks out and I feel crappy so it keeps me being mindful!). Thank you for this thought!

  • I’m going to embrace “being lazy”: those rare pockets of time each week to chill on the porch with the kids and a glass of wine or stretching out the moments in bed with my husband in the morning before we hit the ground running. I’m sharing this brilliant post widely Kate – it’s a keeper!

  • Monica

    A square or two of dark chocolate after dinner! Soooo good!!

  • Kieran McKenna

    I love this post. Love the science behind the pleasure. Have just been talking to my partner about the indulgences we enjoy like a glass of wine or beer, and vanilla ice cream with chocolate topping on Friday and Saturday nights. We love feeling the peace and joy of them whilst knowing they are health giving! We dont need the health eroding chemicals of guilt coursing through our veins ( quite literally as science now shows us. ) THANKS AGAIN!!

  • My pleasures are Interiour blogs, puppy blogs and autumn and winter blogs on Tumblr. They make me feel good every single day.

  • jaspreet

    Awesome post, Loved it to the core.

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