Let me start off by acknowledging that some people hate the term, “cheat.” Cheat meal, cheat food, cheat day, cheat week, blah blah blah. Some people hate it because it carries a guilty or bad connotation.
Some people prefer “treat” because they feel like they “earned it” while others hate that term because it carries with it the idea that you can out-exercise a poor diet or if you eat a cookie, all you have to do it extra cardio to “burn it off.”
Some people use “off-plan” because they are eating something they don’t normally eat, while others don’t like that term because it feels too rigid and structured; they think you should just eat well most of the time and be done with it.
All of these thoughts and opinions carry some validity and I can somewhat understand why they get people’s panties in a wad. Food is an extremely emotional and sensitive topic. It can make us feel loved, happy, guilty, energetic, sick, exhausted, excited, or ashamed. It is so powerful!
One whiff of a particular food can take you back decades to wonderful memories of sitting at your Grandma’s kitchen table talking to her while she made her famous apple pie or it can take you back to hiding in your car in the parking lot of your favorite fast food restaurant while you wolf down 3 cheeseburgers and then cry because you hate yourself for what you’ve done.
I acknowledge that it’s emotional and trick,y and for some people, it’s a huge part of their life (I am one of those people).
I have spent almost a decade paying close attention to what I eat and trying to keep a good balance between healthy and unhealthy foods. I am a junk-food junkie at heart and there is not much that excites me more than a big plate of yummy food!
Over the last 8 years I have had times where I only ate healthy food for weeks at a time and felt guilty if I ever gave into a craving. I have also had times where I have eaten something unhealthy only to spiral out of control for a week or two afterward.
Finding that balance between eating well and enjoying yourself is difficult. If you’re like me, you’re constantly faced with situations where unhealthy food is available. This may be at your office, out to lunch with a client, over at your Mom’s house for family dinner, or just the ice cream that’s sitting in your freezer taunting you. So what should you do?
Over the last several years I have recognized some of the best and worst tactics, in my opinion, for dealing with these situations. I hope that by sharing these with you, that you too will find a balance between eating for optimal health and body composition andenjoying yourself occasionally.
1. The absolute best-case scenario: turn the food down and feel OK about it.
Tell yourself, “That food is not good for me; it doesn’t make me feel good, it doesn’t help me reach my goals, and heck… it’s not even something that I am craving right now! I am not going to eat it and I am proud of my decision and fine with it. ”
In this case I also like to remind myself over and over again that I could have it if I wanted to, and I am choosing not to. This makes the food less desirable as it is no longer forbidden. This is the best case because you are not eating the unhealthy food and you feel good about it.
2. The next best scenario: eat the food and don’t worry about it.
You would tell yourself, “I am choosing to have this food as part of the off-plan/treat/cheat meals that I eat occasionally as part of a balanced diet. I am having it because I want it, it’s delicious, it’s fine to indulge occasionally and I will be right back on my plan after I have it and it won’t negatively affect me at all. I am glad I decided to have it because I really enjoyed it.”
Obviously not eating the food would be slightly better for your body in most cases, but at least you really enjoyed it and felt good and confident about your decision.
3. The undesirable scenario: you don’t eat it and you are upset about it.
The reason you are not eating it is because you are beating yourself up about wanting it and you are talking negatively to yourself. You may saying things like, “You are too fat! You shouldn’t be eating that! Why don’t you have any willpower? You are disgusting! Only a pig would eat that! What is wrong with you?”
This leaves you feeling deprived, miserable, and guilt that you even wanted the food in the first place and that’s never fun. You are also more likely to binge later if you are feeling deprived and emotionally ‘down.’
4. The absolute worst case scenario (and yet it’s probably what most of us do most often): eat the food and then beat ourselves up about it.
At this point, we can’t resist it, we eat it (possibly a lot of it) and then we start guilt-tripping ourselves about eating it using phrases similar to the ones mentioned above, such as, “You are disgusting! I can’t believe you ate that! You are so weak! What is wrong with you? You aren’t going to fit in your clothes now! You’re such a pig! Who eats that much food anyway?”
As you can imagine this is an awful place to be. You may have even started a vicious cycle of binging, followed by guilt and shame, followed by more binging to temporarily relieve the pain, followed by more guilt and shame, followed by, well… you get the picture. It’s not pretty.
As you can see, the common denominator in the good choices is positive self-talk and being kind to yourself regardless of your decision. The common denominator in the bad choices is negative self-talk and hatred towards yourself and your body.
Positivity breeds positivity and negativity breeds negativity. You are in your own head 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and many of us would never let someone else speak to us the way we speak to ourselves. Be kind to yourself and treat your body right. Exercise and eat well 90% of the time because you love your body not because you hate your body! It’s the only one you have to work with, so treat it right and become the best version of yourself while allowing yourself to indulge and enjoy life every once in a while.
Do you have other strategies when it comes to finding balance? How do you deal when confronted with less-than-healthy choices? Let me know below! I would love to hear from you!