Should you have a "cheat" meal?

First you should know I don’t love the term “cheat” meal or labeling food as bad or good. In my experience it only creates fear, deprivation, and restriction, which usually leads to overeating or bingeing on the foods you were trying so hard to avoid.

Putting foods on a bad list only adds a charge to them, making us want them more. It’s why my clients tell me they can’t trust themselves if there’s ice cream in the house.

They’ve told themselves they can never have it again and now it’s the only thing they can think about.

The problem with this is, eventually they allow themselves a “cheat food” but it turns into a whole day or weekend of eating “bad.”

The actual food is never the problem, feeling like it’s the last chance to have it and overeating is.

Luckily there’s a way to find balance and it all starts with how you’re thinking about your current diet.

Here are some questions to get you started:

Do you see this as a lifestyle; a way of eating you can maintain long term?

Are you counting down until the 30 days are up and planning all the things you’ll have on day 31 that you can’t have now?

Do you know how you want to feel physically after meals, during your workday, and at workouts?

How important is to you to feel energized, nourished, and alert after eating? Do you know what types of foods make you feel this way?

When you’re clear about how you want to feel after eating most of the time, then you don’t need a good or bad food list. Instead it comes down to deciding in the moment if you want to feel good or if you’re okay with the crash that comes when you have donuts.

There isn’t a right or wrong answer here, the only thing I suggest is you take full responsibility for the choice either way.

From my experience personally and working with people most of us feel tired, lethargic, and/or bloated after eating too much of most foods but especially pizza, burgers and fries, ice cream, cinnamon rolls, etc.

If your top priority is to feel alert and light after lunch then you won’t think twice about having a fast food burrito. Being clear on what’s important to you when it comes to fueling your body makes deciding what eat so much easier.

Here are 5 tips on how include fun foods into a healthy way of eating:

1. Stop thinking that you’re on diet that has an end date. If you can’t see yourself eating this way in another 6 months reevaluate what needs to change to make it a lifestyle that includes fun treats.

2. Decide how you want feel throughout the day and after eating. Does the food on your plate align with that most of time?

3. Plan ahead when you’ll have a treat or fun meal and how much. This helps with not reacting in the moment to a fleeting craving. You’re also more likely to follow through on tip #4 when you’ve planned ahead.

4. Enjoy it without distractions, eat slowly, and make sure you taste every bite.

5. Stop eating when you’re satisfied not stuffed. This isn’t the last chance you get this food so no need to stuff it down like you’ll never see it again.

When you become more mindful about your eating and implement the tips above, you won’t have to white knuckle it all week or month. Knowing you can have any food at any time actually makes them less appealing and when you do you eat them, one serving is enough.

If you still feel fear or anxiety around eating certain foods, reach out to a dietitian to help you repair that relationship and feel back in control of your nutrition.

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