If you have been trying to lose weight or tone up then you have likely been a part of the discourse surrounding “cheat meals”. Do I allow a cheat meal once a week? Once a month? Do I allow a cheat meal only when I’ve reached my first milestone or goal? Do I not allow any cheat meals at all? Well, I am going to give you a few truths, some of which might be hard to take. You ready?
- You are not a dog. You are a human. I don’t know when we got into the habit of
rewarding ourselves with food, but it needs to stop. It is like we’ve been training ourselves like we do our pets and using food as a reward for being good and following through with intended plans. This is not a healthy mindset to have. We should be fueling our body for energy and for nutrition, not to convince ourselves to do things that we want or need to do. We need to work on our mental strength and learn to follow through on our goals without using food as a reward system. Instead, use other incentives that appeal to you as a reward.
- Eating your feelings? Big no-no. Sometimes people take comfort in food and use it as an emotional crutch to help them get through tough times. This can become a never ending hamster wheel because you eat your feelings when you’re down, gain weight, get upset because you’ve gained weight, then you go eat your feelings some more to help you deal with the weight gain. This just goes on and on, believe me, I know because I’ve been there. A LOT. What I have found is that it is possible to get past this, you just have to find something else that you can do as a stress reliever and mood enhancer to replace the behaviour. For me, this happened to be exercise. Not at first, because at first it was brutal and I felt like I was dying every time I tried to do cardio, but over time I really came to love it. I started feeling more energized after workouts, I started to be in a happier mood over all because my body was producing endorphins, and it totally changed my outlook on things. Find something that takes the pressure off, and start investing yourself in that as a hobby to help you crush this nasty habit.
- When should you have a cheat meal, you ask? Never. For real though. Take the words “cheat meal” out of your vocabulary. Does this mean that you should never allow yourself to enjoy foods that aren’t healthy? Absolutely not. If you want to have a piece of cake for your birthday, go for it. If you want to eat pizza at a family outing, by all means. BUT – this does not mean that it should turn into a free for all. The question is are you eating bad foods that can mess up your progress in excess or too frequently, or are you using a food tracker and incorporating the “bad” foods into your daily food journal? That is the difference. We need to change our mindset around food. We were born to live our lives, and if we love certain foods (ahem* poutine, pizza, and ice cream*) then we should still be able to enjoy them from time to time without guilt. It is all in moderation. If you know you’re going out to eat, you can plan ahead for that and modify the rest of your day to accommodate the extra calories from that meal. The key is sticking to whatever you allotted in your journal, so if you made room for 2 slices of pizza, stick with that and don’t go beyond. The point here is change the language that you use when talking about food. Just like this image above – replacing the way you word things can have a powerful influence!
- Stop with the guilt. So many of us get down on ourselves if we cave to temptation. This is how cheat meals turn into cheat days, cheat days turn into cheat weeks, and before you know it you’ve gained back all the weight you had lost and then some. Weight loss is a process, and there are good days and bad. One healthy meal is not going to magically make you drop 20lbs, just like one unhealthy meal is not going to make you gain 20lbs. If you make a mistake and you unexpectedly give in to temptation with food, just get out your food journal and do your best to modify the rest of your meals for the day to realign your macros. Whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to say “well screw this, I already messed up once so I may as well go all out”. We need to move ourselves away from that kind of thinking entirely. This is how we end up with eating disorders, which can be very dangerous if not dealt with quickly.
- Want real results? Eat clean. If you really want to lose weight, tone up, gain muscle – whatever the case may be – you really should eat as clean as possible. I found that the only way that I could stay on track was to cut out unhealthy foods entirely. Over time I was able to gradually start reintroducing chips, cake, pizza, and other not so healthy foods that I enjoy back into my life using myfitnesspal to track my macros. It was a lot harder in the beginning, I needed complete separation from those foods. It’s like the chip slogan “you can’t have just one”, because I really couldn’t reign myself in if I started snacking. When you’re just beginning a weight loss journey, you really need to give yourself time to make that mental shift about food. You need to give your taste buds time to adapt and your body time to expel all of the gunk, sugar, and chemicals from the junk you’d been consuming. After a while you will find yourself starting to really enjoy the healthier foods you’re eating, and even to crave them in place of some of your old favourites.
- Food is an addiction for some, so treat it as such. If you’re like me and you use food to self-soothe, you need to realize that until you replace that addictive behaviour with healthy habits, you can’t feed the addiction. You should avoid going back to eating unhealthy foods in moderation until you’ve gotten to a place mentally and
emotionally when you are able to restrict yourself to that which you’ve allotted. It takes at least 3 weeks to make or break a habit – so you should wait at least that long before trying to incorporate unhealthy things.
- It IS okay to say NO to junk food. One thing that I have learned upon making some positive changes to my life is that others tend to take offence to those who make such drastic lifestyle shifts. It is like they know they should make the change themselves, but they don’t want to, so they subconsciously try to sabotage you and bring you back to their level. This happens with quitting drinking, smoking, and more. It is unfair, and it makes things harder for you when you’re trying to do the right thing but your friends, family, or coworkers keep egging you on and trying to tempt you to give in.When that happens you need to establish clear boundaries and let them know that if they value you and whatever relationship you have with them, that they need to support you as you make this transformation. If they are unwilling to support you on this journey to a healthier version of yourself, then they don’t belong in your life. It really is as simple as that.
- If you fail – try again. Honestly, I have failed so many times when it comes to proper nutrition that it’s a wonder I haven’t given up. I’ve failed with weight loss because I allow life stresses, heartaches, ailments, hardships, and more to get in the way of my progress. I’ve probably lost upwards of 200 pounds in total with all of the yo-yoing I have done when it comes to weight loss. The thing is, I know what I am capable of when I put my mind to it, and you can do it too. It is just a matter of changing the way you think about food and use past failures as a learning experience. You haven’t failed until you’ve given up, so keep trying. Get help if you have to. Email me if you need to talk or want an accountability buddy, I am happy to help. Just don’t give up on yourself, because you are capable of much more than you know.
Changing your mindset around “cheat” foods is one of the biggest keys to success. However, I’m living proof that this is easier said than done lol. It’s a process. As I wrote this blog post, I wrote the whole first point using “we” throughout, and I debated on changing it. Upon consideration, I realized that I am writing this from the perspective of someone that knows that this is unhealthy and that the mindset needs to change, but I am also still working on making that shift myself…. for the hundredth time.
This is something that you really have to work on consistently and build it into the foundation of your life. It needs to become a lifestyle and not just a weight loss routine or some kind of temporary diet, otherwise, you doom yourself to failure. I am a constant work in progress, and I accept that!
I WILL achieve my goals, and I would love to see you do it alongside me.