I’m on a one woman mission to get the term cheat meals out of our vocabulary. Read why on todays Wellness Wednesday post.
Don’t you just feel awful when you cheat on your diet? The guilt can be overwhelming. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some simple strategy that could stop you from cheating? Well guess what? There is.
I never cheat on my diet and you don’t have to ever again because I’m spilling the beans on my top secret strategy today!
Stop calling it cheating.
The term ‘cheat meal’ is like nails on a chalkboard to me. When a client comes in for a session and confesses to cheating, they’re always shocked to realize I’m disappointed in their terminology, not in what they ate.
When it comes to eating, semantics matters. Cheating is full of negative connotations. Whether in school, sports or in a relationship, cheating is wrong and cheaters are bad people. Does it not seem absurd to use the same term for committing adultery and eating too many cookies? By calling it ‘cheating,’ you’re essentially telling yourself you did something wrong and you’re a bad person for it. This, of course, will lead you to feel quite guilty.
One problem with feeling guilty about eating unhealthy food is that it inevitably leads you to eat more unhealthy food. You think “Welp. I’ve blown it. Might as well give up.” I call this the ‘to hell with it’ effect. It’s your greatest enemy in making real lifestyle changes, and the main culprit behind yo-yo dieting.
Another problem is that it distracts you from examining the situation objectively, figuring out why you overdid it, and developing a plan for next time you’re in a similar situation. Failure is an opportunity to learn and grow, but that’s hard to see when you’re overwhelmed by guilt.
I beg of you, stop saying you cheated on your diet! If you ate something unhealthy that you truly loved, own it. Do you really expect to go the rest of your life in a monogamous relationship with salads and green smoothies? Of course not! Instead of saying “I cheated and ate a slice of cake” say “I ate a slice of cake and dammit it was good!”
If you ate something unhealthy that also wasn’t satisfying (ummm, the crappy pizza I lived off for a couple days when I got real behind on meal prep), there are other phrases that don’t carry the same emotional load as cheating:
- I struggled
- I slipped
- I overate
- I had a rough day
- I binged
And for goodness sake, please stop planning cheat meals. The idea of planning your indulgences in advance is a smart one – it helps limit unplanned indulgences which usually aren’t quite as satisfying (hello stale donuts at work!). Instead of calling it a cheat meal, I prefer the term ‘splurge.’ The term has positive connotations, implies getting the maximum amount of pleasure (aka SAVORING it) and that it’s an occasional thing. Isn’t that a much nicer term?
Cheating stems from an all-or-nothing approach to eating. It’s a hard mindset to break. If you need help breaking up with dieting and getting started with a healthy lifestyle that will help you achieve your happy weight, feel free to contact me for individual nutrition coaching, or checkout my guide 20 Days of Joyful Eating.