Why I hate the term "Cheat Meal" and everything that it implies

Bare with me now before you think “What! She’s saying not to eat chocolate or cakes or sweets ever again.”

Quite the opposite actually.

Anyone that knows me knows that I am a firm believer in everything in moderation – apart from my favourite TV show Scandal - that you can watch as much as you want haha. There are days when you will find me eating chocolate and sweets (mind you they are minimal) and then there are the majority of days when you’ll find me eating healthy, nutritious food and it’s not because I think ok I am not having a cheat or treat today. It’s because I genuinely love it and want to eat it.

Whenever anyone of my clients (or actually anyone on fact) says to me “oh I have “cheat” days.” Red flags immediately go up and I always start to worry. So what does “cheat” actually mean – when you are doing something that you know you shouldn’t. So by saying Ok I am having a “cheat” day and then having chocolate and cakes on that day, it’s telling your brain that these are bad foods and that you’re being naughty for having them. It also implies that anything that you were eating before that was “healthy” and anything you eat on your treat days is “unhealthy” - because really who is going to have a “cheat” day and eat celery sticks and carrot. – Haha yes lots of inverted commas are being used in this post.

My approach to nutrition is everything in moderation (obviously something’s a lot more than others) and that includes cakes, chocolates and deserts. By consciously saying to yourself “yep ok Friday is going to be my cheat day” then every Friday that’s ALL you can think about from the time you get up, all day, is getting that treat. And lets be honest, half the time if you didn’t tell yourself that Friday was cheat day you probably wouldn’t have wanted the treat and wouldn’t have thought twice about having a chocolate that night. And as soon as you’ve had the treat ... All you can then think about is getting your next treat next Friday (because you’ve already told yourself and ingrained in your brain that you are having a treat on Friday) and it then gets to the point of becoming obsessive when it is all that you can now think about – healthy approach and attitude towards food?? – I think not.

I myself used to have "cheat" days until I realised how obsessive and unhealthy that is actually was. I used to have Sundays as my cheat days and I’d allow myself a cookies and cream Kit Kat (Anything cookies and cream is my favourite) and without fail I’d have one. Then literally as soon as I’d finish it I would think, Why did I eat that, I’m not even hungry and didn’t actually want it but because it’s my cheat day I had to have it. Then the feelings of guilt and failure (because I’d had a chocolate, I felt like I was slipping off my weight loss wagon) would come up.

I then changed my attitude towards food. I now don’t think of chocolates and sweets as cheat meals. I, 95% of the time, eat healthy nutritious food, but then if It is a friends birthday or a celebration and there is cake or desert I let myself eat it without beating myself up about it or thinking that it is anything out of the ordinary then me eating food. I don’t obsess over the fact that I’ve had a piece of cake, just like I don’t obsess over my peanut butter toast I have every morning or my salad or wrap I have for lunch. I know that I’ve exercised that day and been healthy in every other way so that one piece of cake every so often is not going to affect me.

And there is the key … those three little words … every so often.

It’s not a daily thing, may not even be a weekly thing, but it’s not something that you need to make a big deal out of and obsess over and need to plan. Hell some weeks you may have 2 friends birthday and have cake at both. But then may not have cake for 3 weeks, so it all evens out.

Now, I’m definitely not saying go and have free reign at the desert buffet, but don’t look at it as having a cheat meal. Look as it as “Ok, I felt like having some chocolate today, so I did.” No big deal and no need to think of the chocolate again. Obviously if you're wanting to lose weight having chocolate is not going to help but if you're realistic about it, keep up a good exercise regime and are eating healthy in every other way, having a little chocolate every now and then is not going to hurt.

And yes ok, if it comes to the fact that you have 4 celebrations in one week, maybe don’t eat cake at all of them or only eat half a slice and make sure you’re exercising and eating healthy the rest of the time, but what I’m saying is don’t have a schedule as to when you are going to eat chocolates, cakes and deserts. Hell you may be going to dinner on Saturday night with friends and they all order desert but because Saturday isn’t your “cheat” day, you don’t. Sunday (your “cheat” day) comes around and you’re sitting at home doing nothing, and eat desert, just because it’s ingrained in your brain that you have too that day. Wouldn’t it have been far better to eaten it the night before and enjoyed it with friends then said “No” and spent the rest of the night feeling guilty for being the only one not doing it.

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2018 by The Nutritional Trainer © 

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