Most people have heard of a “cheat day”. Whether it’s a bodybuilder at the gym talking about his “cheat meal” burger and milkshake, your best girlfriend “cheating” with wine and chocolate, or a commercial on tv advertising a treat “so harmless, it can’t be cheating”, the term is nearly impossible to ignore.
And while I have no issues with the foods, meals, or days themselves,I absolutely loathe the term “cheat ”.
In any other circumstance, cheating is bad. It can get a person kicked out of school, cause them to lose their job, or get arrested. Children are taught at an early age that it’s morally wrong to cheat. And yet when it is applied to food, it magically becomes this beautiful term that people look forward to using.
Using the term is mentally confusing, and I put part of the blame of why a person’s latest diet “just isn’t working” on the cheating mentality.
Now, it totally depends on the diet, how often the person goes off plan, etc.There are a lot of factors involved. But when someone cheats, they tend to feel guilty about eating whatever it is, live in guilt for a few hours, even up to a few days, and often hardcore restrict to make up for what they did, or give up completely, not getting back on plan.
It goes back to how cheat foods are okay to have, yet it’s not okay when you actually eat them. People label foods as cheats, put them in a box, and ultimately give them more power than a food should have.
I think people have lost touch that food can be more than physically beneficial. It can be socially, mentally, or emotionally beneficial. A slice of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving probably won’t give you six pack abs, but it may remind you of all of your Thanksgivings growing up, and those happy memories are emotionally beneficial.
Emotional eating has become a major problem, but when there are times when emotional eating is okay. Maybe just not when you’re trying to suppress an emotion with food. You may eat the homemade mac and cheese that your mom made you because she made it out of love, and you love her. That, to me, is an example of positive emotional eating.
There are plenty of foods that I eat that are processed, and nights when I eat what I want, throwing my macros to the wind. But those, to me, are treats, if I must label them as anything. A treat is something fun, and it does not happen very often.
People never punish themselves for a treat, and children are taught how treats are a positive thing as they grow up. You have a treat, whether it’s a manicure or a nicely cooked steak or a day on the golf course, and then you move on without thinking about any negative implications.
And that is how I treat a situation when I have a “treat meal” or “treat food”. I enjoy it, and then I move on with my life. What a treat is will look different for everyone. For me, simply having someone else cook me food is like having a treat. Eating what I want, without regard to my macros, is a treat.
It doesn’t mean that my diet and lifestyle aren’t sustainable. It simply means that, once in a blue moon, I let go and let a health aspect other than physical take center stage. I live in the moment, and then I move on from the moment.