So I’ve always known days or meals where you indulge in foods that aren’t necessarily healthy as cheat days or cheat meals.
But recently there has been a lot of talk about whether or not “cheat” is really the proper word to describe the meal or day.
CHEAT implies that you are doing something wrong…something bad…something breaking from what you shouldn’t be doing.
There can be a negative connotation to calling a day or meal a “CHEAT.”
So I’ve heard some people call it a TREAT meal instead.
But personally, TREAT almost bothers me even more. You aren’t a dog…You don’t need a treat for eating well. Eating well is what you should be doing.
Both can really imply, in a way, that eating well isn’t really all that fun, tasty or enjoyable.
Which honestly really isn’t the case.
Healthy food can be delicious. And it not only makes you feel good but helps your body and mind truly run well.
BUT as good as healthy food is and as great as you really do feel when you eat well…there are just times you want to indulge even if that means your belly is going to grumble a bit the next day.
Like for me, a vacation isn’t a vacation if I’m worried about finding something healthy on the menu – If I’m more worried about eating well than on trying new things.
Cheat days, treat days, whatever you call them, are about more than eating bad food. They aren’t even about indulging in things you are “deprived off” otherwise.
They are more about a mental release and enjoying something in life that you don’t necessarily get to do every day.
Maybe a more apt description of cheat days is VACATION.
I mean think about it…Why do you take vacation?
Because you need a break. You need a break from routine. A break from exercising self-control day in and day out. Because you need both a mental and physical rest.
A VACATION is a chance to recharge!
For me…a “cheat day” is exactly that…a chance to re-charge.
It is a mini vacation from self-control and it can mean a ton of different things.
It isn’t always about eating food that is bad for me. I mean sometimes it is…Sometimes it is indulging in those nachos because they just take so good and I really really love food. Sometimes it is getting to try new foods when I’m on vacation and really let go.
But most importantly it is about relaxing and enjoying be it nachos or simply a glass of wine. It is about enjoying something and taking a mini vacation from the normal routine.
It is about “cheating” for the sake of cheating. It isn’t about eating something bad just because it is there or because I’ve had a bad day or because someone else pressures me.
It is about doing something, eating something, that I enjoy because I WANT it.
A big part of making a healthy diet into a lifestyle is about also realizing that you don’t have to be perfect all the time.
You need vacations from work…from family…from daily life…
So why wouldn’t you need a vacation from eating well or working out every once in a while?
We need chances to recharge and indulge be it a glass of wine and dark chocolate, a piece of bread with butter or a whole pizza and pint of ice cream. Shoot maybe it isn’t even eating something unhealthy…Sometimes it is just about telling yourself that you can do WHATEVER that day IF you end up really craving something.
Sometimes you just need a break from your daily habits because those daily habits do wear down your self-control no matter how ingrained they seemed to be.
So whatever your cheat/treat/indulgence/splurge/break/vacation/(whatever you call the snack, meal or day) is, make sure it is something you are going to enjoy to the fullest without guilt.
Do you include a “cheat” something into your daily, weekly or monthly diet plan? What do you prefer to call that “treat?”
I frankly think that developing a healthy diet is simple.
People make it seem like it is super complex. Heck companies want people to think it is complex so they can sell supplements and weight loss products and processed foods that supposedly have all these health benefits.
But honestly, you really only need to remember one thing when it comes to eating healthily - eat whole, natural food!
Cut out all the crap!
Don’t worry about freaking supplements even if they were on Dr. Oz. Don’t worry about your micronutrient intakes. Don’t worry about exactly how many fruits or vegetables you eat or how many omega-3s you are getting.
Just cut out all of the processed crap!
If you started focusing on just eating natural foods, so things that spring out of the ground and aren’t processed…aka usually have a short shelf life unless frozen, your healthy and the way you feel will improve exponentially.
Just by starting to even cut out one processed thing a day, like the crackers you eat for a snack (even if they are supposedly “healthy” crackers), you will be cutting out a ton of crap from your diet.
Processed foods are loaded down with vegetable oils and sugars. I mean take a look at any nutritional label on any pre-packaged food at the grocery store. I bet there are a ton of things listed in the ingredients that you’ve never heard of.
AND I bet all of them have way more sugar than you expected…but then again you were probably more worried about the fact that they were supposedly advertised as low-fat or “all-natural,” right!?!
But seriously, those pre-packaged foods can do some damage.
Here we are worried about the amount of saturated fat in an animal product and yet people are consuming a TON of simple sugars and vegetable oil (which is SUPER bad because it causes inflammation because it contains a horrible ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s) in all of the processed crap out there!
Anyway, the point is if you cut out processed, pre-packaged foods and focus on eating whole, natural foods, you will instantly cut out a TON of bad things.
Once you do that and have a good diet baseline, then start looking at ratios and exactly what natural foods are best and how you react to gluten, dairy and carbs, in general.
Don’t make it complicated to start!
At work we constantly talk about getting back to basics. And that is exactly what you’ve got to do here. Don’t make a ton of changes and complicate your diet.
Make one simple change and get back to the basics – eat whole, natural foods!
Today Lois and I were talking about her daughter trying to change her diet and how difficult that can be.
Lois didn’t think that her daughter could make the transition to Primal like she did.
But I told her that her daughter most definitely could.
Everyone goes about starting a healthy diet in a different way. And even once we’ve settled on a healthy diet, we are constantly editing it – we are constantly changing it to fit our lifestyle better, make us healthier, help us reach a fitness goal….
No one’s diet is exactly the same as anyone elses.
For some people, making a drastic diet change is simply impossible. They have to ease themselves into it.
That is exactly what Lois’s daughter will have to do.
It may start with cutting out soda. Then vegetable oils. Then gluten until she finds a diet that not only makes her healthy but allows her to reach her goals and enjoy life.
Yes that’s right…ENJOY LIFE.
Most people don’t consider “enjoying life” when they start a new diet.
You have to create a diet that works for you! And you won’t stick to a diet that you don’t enjoy!
While you want to eat what’s healthy, you also have to allow yourself foods that you enjoy.
While you don’t want to eat a ton of bacon or a ton of cheese, if you enjoy those foods ALLOW yourself to have them. If you deprive yourself for too long, you will just fall off the wagon and have the hardest time getting back on.
If you enjoy pizza, while you don’t want to eat it every day, you can give yourself meals to eat pizza at…and I’m not talking about some Paleo/Primal pizza…I’m talking about the real thing.
I think that all out cheats once a week really work for some people.
There are just so many things that can work. You just need to find out what you enjoy the most while staying in line with what is healthy.
Only if you enjoy the diet will it really work for you!
And if a diet doesn’t work for you? You won’t stick to it no matter how healthy it is!