Food is not just meant to keep us alive as some would like us to believe. Food is also meant for pleasure, it’s used for cultural experiences, and can be a big part of a family dynamic. Saying no all of the time isn’t just unsustainable but also not really very much fun.
Most often eating your favorite foods while on a ‘diet’ is considered a ‘cheat’ meal. Here’s the thing about that label. According to Webster, to cheat is to act dishonestly or unfairly. Synonyms to cheat being fraud and deception. In relation to food, to describe a meal as a cheat meal makes it seem as though incorporating an indulgence here or there into your diet is behaving badly. It sets up the mind to believe that if you’re ‘cheating’, you’re eating a bad food. There are no good and bad foods when eaten in moderation and with portion control. Not to mention, using the term ‘cheat meal’, indicates that one is not happy with their diet. I want you to be happy with the choices you make! It is the only way this thing we call a ‘diet’ will work and be sustainable.
Changing the word ‘cheat’ to ‘treat’ can make all the difference in how we perceive the way we think about food and can prevent the potential for disordered eating.
Incorporating Planned Indulgences helps give one something to look forward to, especially is you are following a super strict weight loss plan. Whether it’s a juicy cheeseburger, a slice of key lime pie, or a trip to Handel’s Saturday after dinner, scheduling in your splurges and planning for them can help break up the monotony of restrictive eating. In the long run this will help you to stick to your plan for the long-term.
By giving yourself the permission to eat something you enjoy, it is no longer off the plan or “bad”. On the flipside, if you constantly forgo your favorite foods on a regular basis it could lead to binge eating and a further downward spiral. Ultimately falling off the bandwagon all together.
Choosing to plan in treat meals, as well as how often and what to eat, can vary from person to person.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when doing so:
Number one. Lose the guilt. Feeling bad about what you are eating not only takes away the pleasure of doing so, it also can lead to emotionally driven eating. From there, weight gain and being further set up to have a bad relationship with food. A single treat or meal will not derail your diet, but your response to eating the treat can cause you to lose control and fall off the wagon.
Number two. How you time out your treat meal matters. For some, starting a brand new diet plan by incorporating a daily or weekly treat meal totally works. But for others, they may rather hold off until an initial goal is reached.
Number three. Don’t turn a ‘cheat’ meal or snack into a ‘cheat’ day. While planning in a treat meal is a great way to practice moderation, adding in an entire cheat day can really derail success. While you’ll still lose some initially, eventually weight loss will come to a halt because your strict diet all week long is simply making up for that one cheat day. For some, just having a few bites of an indulgence each night or every few days works and keeps them on track the rest of the time. For others, that throws everything off and its better to just aim for one meal a week. Know and identify your triggers.
Last but not least, try to make your meals healthier if possible. For example, people can be made healthier by ordering a whole grain crust, if available, and loading up with veggies and half the cheese. Ice cream can be a better choice if you eat a healthy meal first or perhaps op for frozen yogurt or sorbet. There is almost always a better version of any ‘cheat’ meal.
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