I have never liked the term “cheat meal” or “cheat day.” The word cheat invokes a negative connotation, something wrong or bad. When we feel we are doing something bad, this sets off a negative mindset, and we are more likely to allow ourselves to get further off track… “well, I already blew it at lunch, so I might as well skip that workout, and then I’ll just cheat the rest of the day and get back on track tomorrow.” While a “cheat day” or “cheat meal” here and there is just fine, to do so because of this self-negativity is not. Now you have given yourself more reason to wake up and hate yourself in the morning, creating further potential for a negative coping cycle and to be off track again tomorrow. This is because it wasn’t a conscious choice, it was doing something unplanned and that you told yourself was bad.
My weight gain was due to a serious problem with overeating, choosing unhealthy foods, and engaging in all-out binges. The answer to my problem was not cutting out every food I loved and beginning a perfectly clean diet. I knew this wasn’t the answer because I’d tried this and failed many times before. When I got serious about my weight loss, I made slow changes, making healthier choices here and there (cutting out fast food, no more daily donuts for breakfast at the hospital cafeteria, choosing cleaner foods at most meals) – all of which became healthier and easier with time. What allowed me to stay on track with the majority of my meals, and skipping that beloved donut at breakfast, was knowing I could look forward to a daily afternoon treat.
I went through a variation of afternoon treats on my weight loss journey. I kept bulk size boxes of dark chocolate full size Hershey bars in my garage freezer, which was my main treat of choice. This, plus an afternoon cup of decaf coffee with creamer or skim milk. Be-Bop Biscotti’s were another longtime favorite of mine, ordered as a special treat for myself online – yum! There were also options I tried and found I could not keep and enjoy as a serving size treat – dark chocolate mini peanut butter cups (the serving of 5 was usually more than 15 by the time I could control myself)! That’s not to say I never ate 3 or more of those Hershey bars in a sitting, but I was able to control this one more and more with time. Keeping these frozen helped me eat them more slowly and mindfully, really enjoying the treat.
In addition to daily treats, I planned eating my favorite foods into my diet. One night a week I went to the movies by myself and ate popcorn, candy, and soda! I still do this when I find the time, but not weekly anymore. At this point my body wouldn’t handle those calories on a weekly basis, and I wouldn’t feel good eating that way every week. Making these slow changes helps your body adapt and tell you it doesn’t want so much of the unhealthier stuff anymore! Popcorn for me is something that triggers a need for sweets, even the air-popped variety, so this is an indulgence I keep out of the house – or just expect to overeat that night – and that’s fine sometimes too! I never look at eating out, or getting off track, or eating something “unhealthy” as a cheat or something bad. It is all just a part of my healthy lifestyle! Expecting perfection is a key to failure, anxiety, and self-loathing.
Check out this great article from WebMD for more tips on eating Sweets and Treats in a Healthy Diet…
You can also feel better about your planned treats by considering the timing. I plan my non-fat dark chocolate mochas for after a 4 mile or longer run! I know I can afford the extra calories and my body will still be in fat burning mode!
Spend some of your personal contemplation time planning out how to add in your favorite foods, while you plan to be overall healthier!
PS. I seriously recommend this treat… http://www.be-bop.net/