If you scroll through some Health & Fitness Tumbler and Pinterest pages you’ll likely stumble across this hilarious but insightful message.
Saying “oh i’ve already ruined my good eating today i’ll just eat crap” is like saying “oh i dropped my phone on the floor i’ll just smash it till it breaks.” It’s silly and doesn’t make much sense. Sense, however has little to do with our choices regarding eating.
I think anyone can relate to having a soda, candy, or fast-food and somehow feeling guilty and thinking you’ve just ruined your diet and essentially eliminated your goals for healthy living. And while that guilt eats up at your heart, you start inhaling Flamin’ hot Cheetos and a Mug Root Beer… oh yes, I’ve been there.
As someone who has successfully battled the bulge for myself and interacting with others I believe in a ‘Cheat Meal’. We’ve all heard of ‘Cheat Days’ and I think during the initial phase of starting a diet program it can be beneficial to some. However, I prefer having a ‘Cheat Meal’ as opposed to a ‘Cheat Day’ not only because it can be less calorie-dense but it reinforces lessons about self-control that you should be learning as you adapt to your new lifestyle. Food can be addicting, especially the over-processed foods that are widely available. It’s reasonable to assume you might give into your cravings and you shouldn’t feel shame or guilt when you indulge. That’s right, indulge, we all have indulgences such as getting our nails done or your boyfriend’s once-a-month golf trip, and healthy eating habits should offer indulgences too. You just have to make it a point not to over-indulge.
I try to plan each month with the idea that I may indulge myself with 2-4 ‘Cheat Meals’ a month, I space my meals throughout the month and try to align all but one with birthdays or gatherings. I save one ‘Cheat Meal’ for unplanned and impulsive response to either a very enticing menu or a rumbling-tummy that is craving something won’t add to my nutrition intake but will delight my taste-buds. To make this work for me, planning has always been key. I always have apples and almonds on me to snack on, and if I’m going out to eat, most times I will go online to investigate my menu so I have an accurate idea of what options would be best for me, even if it means I only get an appetizer, salad and water. I plan out my schedule to allow me to eat a meal or snack every 3 to 4 hours so I never feel hungry. I try to have the bulk of my diet consist of fruits and vegetables not only because of the nutrition value but because when I find myself eating foods that are good for me I end up not needing to count and obsess over calories. And when I say “foods that are good for me” I don’t mean I live on protein shakes and energy bars because while there are some benefits to incorporating them into your diet there are some definite detriments to having your diet be based on them.
Another important thing to do is to clearly define what a ‘Cheat Meal’ is to you. For me, a ‘Cheat Meal’ is something that is 200 calories or more from what I would normally eat for a meal. And sometimes a ‘Cheat Meal’ is a snack which may not be as high in calories but lacks nutritional value. I always ask myself if I’m feeding my body or if I’m feeding my fat. If the answer is fat, then in my opinion it’s a ‘Cheat Meal’ regardless if the label says ‘No Fat’ but is extremely high in sugar. The perfect cheat for me is one that gives into the cravings of my taste-buds and leaves me feeling full and satisfied.
As always, consult your physician before pursuing a major change in your lifestyle and make time to educate yourself about nutrition. Also, while sites dedicated to fitness or healthy lifestyles can be a good source of motivation, anything that makes you feel guilty for eating, promotes hating your body, or valuing one that harmful to your health is not worth visiting. I leave you with the words of Marisa Miller and hope you have a day that moves you forward mentally and physically.
I prefer healthy food and try not to bring too many treats into my house. But I don’t believe in depriving myself either. When I go to the movies, I have a sugary soda, not a diet one. And if I want a burger, I’ll have a burger. I just make it a point not to eat one five days in a row. Some nights [my husband will] bring home french fries, and I have to resist them! I decide to say ‘no’ and then make something else, like a veggie burger. It’s not always an easy choice, but it’s a healthier one.” -Marisa Miller