So what does cheating mean? When one cheats on their husband or wife it means they are going against the marital contract that they agreed to. They vowed to commit to one person and they broke that vow. So in order to have a cheat meal there must be something that you are cheating on. How can you intentionally cheat on your lifestyle, if it is a lifestyle? A lifestyle implies that it is something you have decided to do long-term and believe in. Sure, people go against their values and even religious beliefs sometimes but to me, to intentionally make a plan to cheat on your healthy lifestyle makes no sense.
Usually, when people adopt a healthy lifestyle, often to lose or gain weight or to just be healthier, they realise how bad certain foods are. You see posts on their Instagram of the dangers of cow’s milk or the amount of sugar in a can or coke or a McDonalds burger that just won’t expire. So, if you believe that junk food is bad for you, then why would you eat it at all? If you truly believe that processed food is harmful then why would you implement it into your diet at all, let alone once a week. It’s like saying, “I’m anti cocaine, it’s so bad for you,” yet setting aside every Friday lunchtime to take it. Junk food is bad for you, that’s why you gave it up in the first place right? The very things that got you overweight or gave you heart problems are the things you’re cheating with. So why incorporate them into your diet on purpose?
And for those who say, “I don’t do cheat meals, I do treat meals” why is food your reward? Are you a puppy? As humans we need to stop emotionally eating. From comfort eating to cheat/treat meals; it’s all a mental thing.
To those who grab a tub of Ben & Jerry’s as soon as something goes wrong (or in my case a Kit Kat Chunky) your problems will not disappear as soon as your food digests. Comfort eating is another blog post for another day but using food to deal with your emotions is not healthy. Likewise, using food as a reward for ‘eating well all week’ shouldn’t be the case. Why would you reward yourself for taking care of your temple by eating something that will harm it? Is that not a contradiction? For some, cheat meals bring a mental relief because eating healthily can be a huge struggle and so the thought of a Dominoes Pizza Triple Stuffed Crust is the only thing that will get them through a week of salads and sweet potatoes but whether it’s a relief or a reward you seek, it should not be found in food, especially the unhealthy kind. If its motivation you need then go back to the whole reason you started this healthy lifestyle. Is it to beat obesity? Do you want to prevent disease? Is it because you hate the way you look? Or is it simply because it’s what everyone else is doing? If your cheat meal is the only thing keeping you on track then you need to re-think your reasoning. If you need a reward to inspire you to carry on then how about treating yourself to something useful? Your hard work is worth more than a cinnamon roll. Treat yourself to a new pair of jeans since you’ve been working so hard on your squats or a new blender or even a spa day. Take care of your body and it will take care of you. No, you won’t gain back those ten pounds from one cheat meal but you’ll be going against all of your new-found health principles and feeding the taste buds and addictions that your new lifestyle is fighting against.
So you’re probably thinking, Hayley – does that mean you never eat junk and you never will again? Nope! I had some cake yesterday actually but my point is, I don’t allocate cheat meals into my life. I don’t restrict my eating according to someone’s rule or plan, I eat what I enjoy. There are things I believe I need to cut out of my diet because they are bad for me but when I do I won’t be going back to them at all, let alone once a week. If I genuinely believe something is harmful for me then I will not eat it.
I want to enjoy every meal I eat, not just on the weekends on whenever cheat days are. I don’t want to feel like I only deserve a good meal if I’ve run 10K that week. So if I have a bad week should I eat food I hate? I don’t want to become obsessed with food and dread any meal. I want to be in control of my food and be able to stop and 2 biscuits rather than devour the whole packet. I want to learn to love melons the way I love chocolate. Society has taught me that chocolate is a treat and that it’s special but God gave me a whole heap of special foods, from the very beginning in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve had many trees and thus many fruits to choose from. God didn’t say “Well you can only have pears on Sundays if you work hard this week,” No! He put all of the food there to enjoy, so why should I limit myself? Cheat meals tell us that we need to earn our food and that we are only good enough to eat certain foods once we have done something to achieve them. If I’m being honest with myself my body doesn’t deserve ice-cream or burgers at all – it is the temple of God, much too previous for such junk but that’s something I am working on. My point is, if it’s harmful then cut it out completely, otherwise, enjoy it in moderation but don’t schedule it into your diary because you can probably go a month without it if you tried and certainly don’t reward yourself with it. Food shouldn’t make you feel sad or guilty and likewise it shouldn’t be the thing to lift your mood when you are down. Food is there to give us energy and nourishment and if what we eat is connected too heavily to how we feel then there are most probably bigger issues that we need to address. If your diet is so great (and it should be right?) then why is there a need to stray from it? A good diet is a sustainable diet. Think about the bigger picture, your long-term health goals and how food affects your body but also your mental relationship with food and you ability to make good choices. It’s all very well being able to eat only fruit for a month but if when that month is over you go back to takeaways and donuts then it was all in vain. Work on repairing your self-control and emotions. Like I said, you are worth more than a Big Mac.