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Are 'Cheat Meals' Really Cheating?

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Are 'Cheat Meals' Really Cheating?

We have all been there. Thinking to ourselves, “Just get to Friday and then it is time for my Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson like cheat meal.” 

You think about it all week, what should I have this week? Maybe you’ll use the family BBQ as your “cheat meal,” or perhaps you are in the mood for pizza. Tough decisions!

Then, the moment comes and goes by faster than you can say “cheat meal” and then it’s back to the regular diet and count down to the next Saturday night grubbing.

But why use the word “cheat meal” at all? Is that really what we should be calling it? I hear it ALL the time from my clients but, here are the reasons why I believe there is no need to call it “cheating” at all…

  1. The most applicable definition of the word “cheat” is: “to break a rule or law usually to gain an advantage at something”. What LAW are you breaking because you want to enjoy a slice of pizza? A law that you made up? Since when do diets have laws? What rules are you breaking? Even if you are trying to lose weight, you should be following guidelines and suggestions, not rules. Rules suck, and who wants to stick with a diet for the long-haul that’s full of all these obnoxious rules anyway?
  2. Holy cow is the world going to come to end if you eat a piece of cake? Absolutely not. Why do we beat ourselves up about it? We are too hard on ourselves! The expectation for perfection with our diet I always hear about is astounding, yet it is unrealistic! In our efforts to “be good” and lose weight we tend to ignore our need for moderation and include a few favorite foods. YOU ARE HUMAN. It IS okay to like food.
  3. Hyper-focusing on a cheat meal all week can cause individuals to go into the meal in the mindset of needing to “take advantage of it” because it’s the only ONE meal they “get” for the week that they really want.
  4. Let’s face it, by the time your “cheat meal” gets in front of you, you’re eating so fast that it’s like you can’t wait to get rid of it and move on! Rarely do we eat slowly and with appreciation. Instead, we are faced with thoughts such as “I don’t want this to end,” “How much more cardio will I need to do to work this off?,” “I’ll start back on 100% on Monday.” By eating so quickly, we neglect to listen to our body telling us when we have enough. This means we eat much more than intended and often leaves us feeling physically uncomfortable. So tell me again why you look forward to your “cheat meal” when it’s leaving you with a headful of negative thoughts and emotions and feeling physically uncomfortable?
  5. “Cheat” = “bad” “naughty” “shouldn’t be having” associations with food that we don’t need to have. These associations create stronger restrictive mindsets surrounding food. Other restrictive talk and mindset easily begin to build, and words such as “rules” “good or bad” “perfection” “rationalizing” “failing” “willpower” “guilt” and “shame” begin to emerge. You keep this up you will be eating healthy foods only because you feel you “have to”, so you’ll continue to “cheat” more often and the vicious cycle will only continue to get worse.

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