Cheat Meal is a Dirty, Dirty Word
From the moment we are born we are taught what is right and wrong, good and bad, hurtful or helpful, etc. Our parents and guardians work to instill within us some version of a moral compass that will inevitably guide us through the rest of our lives. Through this compass we develop a perspective on the rest of the world in ways that we may not have anticipated.
This week we're talking about cheat meals.
Even from early grade school we're taught 'cheating on a test is bad,' which then later moves into 'cheating on your partner is wrong' or 'cheating in your sporting event is immoral.' Regardless of the context, we associate the term "cheat" with bad--and in many scenarios, it's valid. But what happens when the issue of morals and cheating seeps into other areas of our life, like our food intake?
You all may be familiar with the concept of a cheat meal: you eat clean all week to build up for this one "cheat" to which you associate as being a "bad" meal. More often than not you'll ravenously eat the meal, only to go back to eating "clean" again. But what are we really doing when we perpetuate the concept and term of a cheat meal? Here are the reasons that we believe you should eliminate that vocabulary from your wellness journey:
1. It's not a cheat, it's a choice. This is a biggie. Food is not an exam. It is not a law. It is not inherently right or wrong--it simply is. And it is our job to make the choice of how we're going to fuel our body in that moment, whether that be with nutrient-dense foods or with a delicious slice of pizza out at dinner with friends, we are allowed to choose.
2. In the very same nature, cheat meals take away your desire for free-willwhile satisfying the part in our brains that craves rigidity and order. In order to succeed in our journeys we need a gentle balance. "Cheat" meals perpetuate an all or nothing mentality in that you're either reigning on the side of order or the side of freedom. It's much too black and white. Food is a multifaceted, highly valued component of many cultures and should be treated as such.
2. It can damage your relationship with food. Our guess is that if you engage in the cheat meal mentality, you are most likely counting down all week for it. Not only does it make you resent the nutrient dense food you're eating all week, but it may also make you resent the 'cheat' meal by creating feelings of shame and guilt. Furthermore, living in an all or nothing mode when it comes to food can not only lead to, but sometimes support the idea of binge eating. Your body recognizes it as a limited supply, and of course, you're encouraged to eat all of your one 'guilty pleasure.' If you allow yourself to eat in moderation, food becomes more of a choice. The salad tastes as good as the burger, and the act of eating becomes much more mindful and enjoyable.
4. If you're "cheating" it makes you morally wrong. The idea of cheating not only warps your perception of food by attaching good/bad labels, but it does the same thing to YOU. "Cheat" meals can make you feel like you personally have done something wrong, thus perpetuating feelings of guilt and shame around who you are as a person. Eating food is not morally wrong. You are allowed to eat and take up space in the world however you so choose!
Remember: it's not a cheat, it's a choice.