Getting Real About Cheat Meals; Why You Need to Let Them Go
Can we talk about something?
And as in something, I mean cheat meals.
This idea escapes me and it makes me sad that people feel they have to classify certain foods as “cheats,” specify certain days or times for said cheats, and restrict their intake before and after in order to compensate.
I say, #stopcheatmeals2k17. Who’s with me?
Before I go any farther, let me take you back to a time in my life where I lived and breathed fitness, where cheat meals were a cornerstone in my diet, and where I mistakenly thought that all of this was healthy.
For years, I went through diet cycling; I would go on a diet (though I would never call it that, instead claiming it was time to “get my ish together”) for a month or so until I started seeing some changes in my body and couldn’t bear to force feed myself another bowl of chicken and rice.
I know I’m being dramatic, but just bear with me. I’d allow myself a “cheat meal” which turned into a “cheat day” which, in turn, led to me binging on forbidden foods for about a week until I noticed I began to notice my new body slip from my grips.
Similarly, I’d use going out with friends or family as an excuse to gorge myself. Since I never allowed myself foods I actually enjoyed and felt deprived, as soon as I had an excuse to eat them I went crazy. I couldn’t control myself around food, and these “cheat meals” turned into blowouts. Rather than actually enjoying the food and the time with the people I cared about, these outings turned into Last Supper-like gatherings for me in which I was unable to be present in any productive way.
This, my friends, is the restrict-binge cycle. And by no means is it healthy, no matter which way you spin it.
“Cheat meals” are a diet-mentality construct; they simply do not exist. Food is food, and though it may have different levels of nutritional value, at its core it is energy and will provide you with nourishment in some way, shape, or form.
To deprive yourself of nourishment and satisfaction when it comes to food is actually absurd. Food brings people together, it creates memories, and it keeps us alive; why in the heck would we want to feel so crazy around it? The short answer is, we don’t but we can’t help it because of the guise society puts on. We are taught that we can’t eat certain foods because they will make us “fat” and that if we do eat them, it’s not cute.
“Cheat meals” (yes, they continually deserve quotes around them) only perpetuate diet culture and compartmentalize food into good and bad. They allow people to deprive themselves in order to save up for their one forbidden food per week, which typically goes beyond that single meal and turns into a binge episode. Perhaps there are some out there who are actually able to be satisfied with that single meal or single treat, but for the vast majority, this isn’t possible.
You can only hold your breath for so long underwater before you need to come up for air; the same is true in food restriction. You can only deny your cravings for so long before you “give in” and break your diet.
This is not to say that you should be eating burgers or pizza for every meal, but it does mean that you should allow yourself these foods without restriction. And by that, I mean you should eat them whenever you crave them and until you are satisfied. The first few times, you may eat more than you mean to and end up stuffed and groggy; that is okay and it is normal. After long periods of deprivation, you may not know how to handle yourself around forbidden foods but you must first eat them before you can nurture a positive relationship with them.
These are the steps to intuitive eating and food freedom. I know it may sound ridiculous that you have to nurture a relationship with food, but often times we don’t even realize how broken ours have become. Forcing yourself to eat foods you don’t enjoy isn’t healthy. Eating to an uncomfortable level of fullness because you feel you have to clean your plate isn’t healthy. And feeling like you have to label a food as a “cheat” certainly isn’t healthy.
Let’s break the cheat meal mentality and begin living our lives, shall we? I don’t know about you, but I think feeling crazy around food is even less cute than eating a burger or ordering dessert. Yes, it’s a process, but it’s important. You deserve to eat what you want, and you can: #stopcheatmeals2k17.
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