The Dangers of the "Cheat Meal" Mentality

We have ALL heard of a "cheat meal". And the internet is overflowing with opinions on when/if/how/why you should or shouldn't eat a cheat meal. 

It's overwhelming. I will always preach doing what works for you. In my experience as an athlete with a history of eating disorders and anxiety, I've found that cheat meals are a dangerous game for me to play. And it's not the meal itself that's the problem. 

As with all things in life, it's my thoughts and subsequent behaviors that stem from the ever-so-attractive cheat meal. 

I read a great article on Mind Body Green about someone who had lost weight using some particular thought patterns. Great read, check it out here. Here's the bit that got me thinking:

"Understand something: Cheat meals are not bad. There is plenty of support for indulging once in a while. The problem emerges when a 'cheat meal' becomes our reason for indulging whenever we want. (...) We get consumed with the fear of missing out, so the 'cheat meal' becomes our lifeline."

Maaaaan oh man, can I related to that! When I was cutting weight, I would literally watch HOURS of videos of food being made. (Thank you, Tasty.) It was an unhealthy obsession because I had deprived myself so hard for so long that I was literally fantasizing about "cheat food".

The cheat meal became my idol, my goal, my all encompassing hope at the end of this weight loss journey. 

Who wants to live like that??? When a single meal or food hijacks your thoughts and behaviors (think: killing yourself at the gym so you can "justify" that slice of pizza), you may be going down a dangerous path. 

Healthy romantic relationships typically have a zero cheating policy. Yet, in the most important relationship we have--the one between our body and our mind--we encourage cheating. To me, that signifies a serious problem. 

So here is my two-cents, take it for what it's worth: pay attention to your thoughts and behaviors surrounding "cheat meals". Do they help you feel refreshed and able to stay on track with your healthy lifestyle? I genuinely hope so and if they do, continue on! Do they leave you feeling depressed or obsessive about correcting your calories or punishing yourself for eating more than you had intended? Then maybe it's time to reevaluate your game plan. 

Moderation in daily life has can be far more sustainable than the all-or-nothing mentality, which I am 100% programmed to fall back on. But allowing myself to remove labels from food, not calling something good vs. bad, and just focusing on my nutrition and overall happiness has allowed me to really enjoy food. No cheat meals, no guilt, no punishment. Just a healthy, happy relationship with my body and with my (frequent) meals. 

I'd love to know what works for YOU! Let me know in the comments below!


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