Many people think they have to give up foods they love, or feel guilt after the fact when they indulge, but I don’t think that’s true. It’s all a matter of balancing the good with the bad. I have heard a few percentages quoted in the media, if you eat well somewhere between 85-90% of the time, then the other 10-15% of the time, you can live it up.

Although I’m not sure where I fall with percentages, I subscribe wholeheartedly to this philosophy. I’m one of those people who love different tastes, appreciate a good chef and the creativity of fusing unexpected flavors together. And of course, love the bottle of red and desserts that go with it. A few months ago, I wrote For the Love of Foods , with the message you can still achieve your health goals, but also live it up with food when the time is right.

This ideal has worked well over the last few years, but I have to come clean about one new problem that keeps cropping up after I have one of these dessert-wine-heavy meal evenings.

One I keep silencing every time I think about it, because I don’t want it to be true.

On these nights, I have insomnia.

And it’s awful. I go to sleep easily, and then wake at 2 am, like clockwork, and am not able to go back to sleep. I have searched the web, and it’s well-documented that alcohol can cause insomnia. But after a few months of testing, just wine, wine + dessert, only dessert, etc,  I have noted the problem isn’t really the wine by itself, as much as it’s the sugar in the dessert–or the combination of both.

This appears to be my new reality, and I’m faced with this tradeoff every few weeks:

Live to eat whatever I want for one fun evening?

Or not sleep, and suffer the next day by being tired and irritable.

But I love wine…I love dessert…I deserve it, really….help!

But I can’t tell you how awful I feel at 2 am watching the clock for hours and hours waiting for morning.

What to do, what to do…

When I know I want to write about a topic at some point, I create a draft with a title and a few descriptive words, just so I don’t forget about the topic.

Then promptly forget about it.

This idea, Tradeoffs, has been sitting in my drafts folder for a  long, long time, but after reading this post by Caitlin Kelly, at Broadside: I’m not where I expected to be, and subsequent discussion, I thought it was a good time to pull it out once again.

The stakes aren’t monumental if I make the wrong choice once in a while when I go out to dinner, I’ll just be uncomfortable and tired and need to make up for it somehow.

But there are other tradeoffs, either conscious decisions, or ones we haven’t realized we even made, that shape our lives.  And we question ourselves repeatedly over the conscious ones, wondering  if we have made the right choice.


My big life tradeoff, the one I keep questioning over and over in my mind, is my decision to jump out of my successful corporate career and stay home with my son full-time.

When I was working full-time and traveling, and generally frazzled and without sleep all the time, I remember glaring at those lucky stay at home moms, who could actually hire a babysitter so they could go out to lunch with “the girls”. I remember seeing them when I was out to lunch with my co-workers. Must be nice I thought. They have all the time in the world to play during their day.  But what I realized very quickly is that the mom stuff is actually really, really hard. These women do need to do lunch with the girlfriends, as often as they can!

Work problems taxed my mental capacity, sometimes stress was so great I would wake in the middle of the night all-consumed by issues with clients or with co-workers, or just overwhelmed by the projects I had due the next day.

Mom-stuff zaps me of all physical energy and at the end of each day, I’d love to curl up under a rock and fall asleep and just not speak to anyone….

But each day those brain-muscles are a bit underutilized. I kind of wish I had some of those more interesting work-like-puzzles to unfold.

Other trade-offs with this decision? Money is a big one. The ability to fix up the house isn’t really an option anymore. And that’s ok generally, until the washing machine and the dishwasher break at the same time, or when the toilet springs a leak…eventually this stuff has to be fixed. And I remember the days when I had a big paycheck, I used to collect orchids! Really, who does that? I think every orchid was probably $20-$50, and my beautiful collection slowly died out after my son was born and I wasn’t able to keep up with them.

I think about all the money I spent on that now, and on $500 suits, and other little throw-away luxuries I indulged in when I was working, and think, wow, I do wish I saved some of that for now!

The travel tradeoff, I think about this often. When I worked full time, I traveled so much for work, I never wanted to travel for personal reasons. But I could afford it. Now? I’m dying to get out of town. Would love to visit my mom and my brothers and sister-in-laws, and my niece and nephews. And I have plenty of time now. But the budget isn’t there.

Nope….it’s never easy.

But my son knows I’m here for him every day. I have the time to work on his challenges. I know what he’s eating. I know he has a good mix of what’s important in his day; nature, exercise, healthy foods, time together to read a book, build legos, catch frogs. He gets a good nights sleep and as much as he likes activities, with me around, he has more flexibility to be home when he needs to recharge.

He often is bummed when his dad is out of town on a work trip, and doesn’t have as much time for him. But we explain the tradeoffs his Dad is making now, so he and I can spend our days together. We explain to him this isn’t always the norm with kids who may have to go to daycare or after-school activities and not see their parents but for an hour or so a day. We explain Dad enables us to do what we do, keep our family happy and clothed and warm and cozy each night in our cute little house. It may not be the most up-to-date, a la HGTV, but it’s our home, and we are comfortable and safe…

My husband and I do find this family set-up very funny. We never expected we would be a traditional, Dad works; Mom stays home and cooks and cleans and takes care of the kids kind of family. But hey, it seems right now. And I suppose we will re-evaluate these decisions and make adjustments as we go.

I think I made the right choice. For my son, and for my family. Time will tell for me personally.


When I think about day-to-day tradeoffs I make, most of them are account of my biggest obsession: health.

In that first year home after I stopped working, I was disorganized and overly-focused on my son, I didn’t bother worrying about myself. I thought just being outside with him meant I was getting enough activity for the day.

I didn’t have a lot of energy.  I couldn’t get a handle on my weight. And my back started to bug me all the time.

My son had the down time he needed, but I did not prioritize myself. Nothing in my day took into account any of my needs.

The tradeoff:

Child has attentive Mom 100% of the time.

But, Mom is sick, unhealthy, unhappy and impatient

This to me?

Not quite acceptable. I did some research, figured out how much to eat. I learned how to like exercise (something I thought I hated initially, read about that here) and then made time for formal activity every day. No more leaving it to chance anymore. I also learned to take time for myself when I need it. If I’m impatient and burnt out? I give myself a time-out.

Making changes isn’t easy, but I’m a lot happier. And I now feel great. Have no back problems. And as long as I have a good cup of coffee in the morning am mostly patient.

And you are asking, what are the Tradeoffs?

Sometimes I don’t feel like exercising. Sometimes I’d rather do something else.

Sometimes if it’s a super-busy day, I have to wake up early to get that workout in and that’s tough. I miss out on some sleep (again!)

Sometimes when he was younger I had to stick my kid in front of a video to make it happen.

Sometimes I’d rather do take out and not cook our meals

Sometimes I’d like to eat a gigantic bowl of tortilla chips and salsa all day every day without a care in the world about how this is going to affect me long term…

Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to think so hard about this stuff, because it is hard!

But it’s life…if you want to be healthy long-term, you can’t ignore it and hope what you read in the news about the need for eating well and staying fit do not apply to you.

At 20, you can get away with it.

At 35+? Not an option.

Just like my wine and sugar issues never bothered me before a few months ago, there are new realities that come into play all the time, and we have to figure out the best way to address it.

And there are even more tradeoffs:

My house is oftentimes messier than I’d like. My husband, a few months ago mentioned I should entitle one of my blog posts “A fitness buff’s dirty little secret”, to address the fact he found a zillion dust bunnies under the bed when he happened to look for something under there. Thanks hon.

Part of being healthy of course is foods. I cook a lot, and every night after dinner I am still stunned at my ability to use every dish in the house and am getting tired of dealing with the mess.

One little issue that has come to mind in the last few years is that my health focus has been so all-consuming I haven’t had much time to think about anything else, namely what I want to eventually do for a career.

From what I have been reading, every problem in life these days: lower stress levels, lower anxiety, better focus and attention, overall energy levels, fewer colds and sickness; better diet and improved fitness levels, along with some time outside are exactly what we all need.

And what most people do not get.

Nope, I don’t see too many downsides to this tradeoff.

But I do need to come clean on one other very little tradeoff:

This summer, if I want to write, my son plays Minecraft for way, way, way too long…

Mom, brain-exercised

Son, brain-frazzled…

But now it’s time to take it outside and we’ll both be ok for the rest of the day…


What are some of the tradeoffs you have made? Are you happy with them? Still trying to decide?

Big or Little day to day tradeoffs…

Would love to hear your stories and discuss. How are you handling them?

11 thoughts on “Tradeoffs

  1. You describe it well.

    At my age, eating and drinking what I want is a nightmare. I see it on my body within a day or two because I do not exercise every single day for 60 minutes as it bores the hell out of me, no matter how important it is. And I still eat dessert and drink alcohol because a life without those two significant pleasures is just not worth it to me. But I now drink (most weeks) only on weekends and now do 2-3 major workouts a week and lift upper body weights. So I am doing what I can stand doing *consistently*. Self-discipline is tedious.

    As for the lack of $$$ and intellectual stimulation, American business is a disaster in this respect. There seems to be very little between stay-at-home boredom and insane 80-hr $$$$ jobs.

    Focusing on physical fitness is good, but not to the exclusion of your mental fitness!

    Thanks for the link to my blog…

    • I knew I’d like you Caitlin…you have very strong likes and dislikes and know yourself really well…I’m very similar. The discussion last week was great–thank you for the inspiration. And I love what you said about lack of $$ and intellectual stimulation….seems like I am not alone 🙂

  2. I hear you. I am reading David sedaris latest book and one of his stories mentions an anecdote which describes four burners on a stove. Each burner represents health, family, friends, or work. The woman, a successful businesswoman claims that we typically operate with two burners on strong and the other two weak. If we focus on family and work, our friendships and health suffer, for instance. I totally related to this analogy. I know my health is suffering so much right now because im so focused on work and family. It’s exactly the trade offs you describe

    • Jen, hope you had a great vacation, I have missed your posts! Thanks so much for this “burner” analogy….how perfect. Must read that book…I can imagine with your life changes, and move to Israel, you have a ton of tradeoffs, along with the other 4.

  3. Another great post Robin. The vision I had of my life is not the way it ended up. I made some sacrifices early in my marriage that I sometimes had difficulty coming to terms with. Nearly 25 years later I see that while my life isn’t necessarily what I expected it to be, it is exactly what I needed it to be and just what it should be. I am happy with my choices and grateful to be living the life I have. Yes there were trade-offs but that’s what its all about isn’t it?

    The health trade-offs are also something I struggle with. I love good food and enjoy eating. I don’t love exercise but I do go to the gym 5 days per week and I am generally very active every single day. Its not always easy. But family history dictates that I must be careful with my health. The women on my mother’s side of the family do not have longevity. Nearly all in the generation prior to my mother died before hitting the age of 70.

    Ten years ago, at the age of 61, my mother had a stroke. Prior to the stroke her health was considered good, no high cholesterol, normal blood pressure, normal weight, etc. She ate whatever she wanted and argued that since it didn’t affect her weight it was OK. Over the course of the year prior to her stroke she had many health problems and ultimately had the stroke. It was an “AH HA” moment for me…..what you put into your body is about more than what it does to the way the outside of your body looks like (i.e. just because the crap you eat doesn’t make you fat doesn’t mean it isn’t harming you). I’ve faltered some over the last ten years but I do strive to balance my love of food with my desire to not repeat the family history (My Grandmother, my Mom’s Mom also had a stroke at age 61, she died on her 66th birthday) I’ve just turned 50 so I’ve got a while to go to see if I can break the cycle but I am working hard and making the necessary trade-offs to improve my chances 🙂

    FYI – my Mom made a full recovery from her stroke and has also learned to take better care of herself. She needs reminders more often than I’d like but she is 71 now and doing quite well.

    Please keep this type of thought-provoking posts coming, they are great!

    • Lisa, thank you so much for adding to the conversation. Your story is exactly what a lot of us need to hear: it’s worth it. but it’s not easy. But it doesn’t matter. I think so many of us, when “life” gets in the way try to make excuses for why it’s ok not to keep going. Your family history shows proof of why it’s worth it….what your mom is doing is fantastic. You can make changes and change that family history if you really want to. And I think we all need reminders now and then, why it’s so great to have so much support from people like you to keep going. And for me, I keep writing these posts as gentle reminders to myself as to why I do what I do…every little thing counts.

  4. Yep, I also have insomnia when I drink more than one glass of wine. It must be an age-related phenomena as my husband experiences this as well. There certainly are tradeoffs for living a fit and healthy life. I live in the gym and the grocery store. Not much time for other things and certainly housecleaning falls by the wayside except for the kitchen where we spend quality time preparing meals and snacks. One of our friendships with another couple also became a thing of the past. Our commonality was eating rich food and over-drinking together on a regular basis. We took trips together for the sole purpose of eating and drinking our way through Europe. No more.

    • Chris, I like that the 2 of you go through this together—I find it really odd my hubby is older than me by a bit and he has none of these problems so happily eats a huge dessert and wine and sleeps really well. UGH! Interesting what you said about friendships…another big topic to explore at some point. I have thought about it but am not sure of the right approach. thanks so much for your comment and support–you are the best!

  5. I’ve probably made many at a level below conscious thought, but one I made consciously was touched onion your post: cleaning. When my son was a few months old, I found myself increasingly frazzled trying to get everything done. I realized something had to give if I had any hope of keeping on keeping on. The something I gave up? Serious cleaning. For a while I tried getting my SO to pick up the slack, but managing it that way was too time-consuming as well. I stopped, and the load off my shoulders was enormous.

    Actually, there was another one. Before I got pregnant, I was on track for a slow career shift to medicine. I opted to postpone my carefully constructed plan, not as a negative thing (giving up) but a positive one (choosing to give more of myself to my child, that s/he might feel about me something like what I felt about my own mom).

    • Deborah, thanks so much for your comment. It’s interesting, maybe the timing of it. You were able to change course before starting and feel so positive about not going into medicine. That’s such a good thing. I’m positive too that I did the right thing but I guess it’s the stopping mid-stream, and not being sure I can build what I did again that is worrying sometimes. Funny thing about cleaning- I don’t think the men in our lives even see the kinds of things we see when looking around the house and that’s why they don’t seem all that helpful. I don’t mind it day to day so much, that I have let that go as well, it’s only when we have visitors. And I just thought about something else–I think entertaining has declined in a huge way since I started on my health kick too! Way, way too hard!

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