I had totally planned to do a video on this topic. I had it sorta scripted out, and planned to sorta fly with whatever came to mind. After my first attempt failed, I felt like I just couldn’t really do it right. So, I’m writing it all instead!
I don’t like the term ‘cheat meal.’
It sounds so negative. Being able to have ‘treats’ and celebrate the special occasions – or cravings – we encounter in every day life is NORMAL. And absolutely crucial so we don’t go off the deep end and eat ALL the cookies and cake.
You go to a birthday, and have a slice of cake.
You go out on date night, and split a bottle (or two) of wine with your significant other.
You have a random hankering for Oreo’s – the double stuffed ones – and grab them at the store along with a Redbox on a Friday night.
Just because we have a healthy lifestyle, doesn’t mean we CAN’T do these things from time to time.
The difference? We don’t do them every night of the week.
So, we should ask ourselves,
Why do we call these cheat meals, and automatically make ourselves feel bad about these choices?
Instead, let’s call them lifestyle meals.
In my challenge groups, I usually teach about practicing a ‘lifestyle meal,’ where you plan to have one meal during the week where you’re adding extra calories to your meal plan. This works in my challenge group scenario – because clients come to me for support and accountability in losing weight and getting fit in a short period of time. And if these are two of your main priorities in changing your lifestyle – especially in a shorter period of time – well, you do need to be very conscious of the food choices you’re making. And not necessarily just the food choices, but the caloric intake. Follow a simple ‘calories in, calories out’ plan for quick results.
Not all ‘splurge’ food choices are going to sabotage your weight loss plan. You could choose to have a bowl of Lucky Charms for breakfast, and it may be the same caloric intake as your normal breakfast would be. It’s when you have too many high calorie ‘splurges’ that aren’t captured food diary that you need to start considering whether it fits your weight loss plan.
To be 100% honest, I don’t hold myself accountable to just one ‘lifestyle meal’ during the week. My goals are NOT to lose weight in a short period of time. But I do try my best not to OVERDO it – where I binge eat and make excuses to do it for days in an row.
It’s important to make choices with moderation in mind, so we don’t let our ‘lifestyle meals’ take over and become ‘lifestyle weekends.’
I feel like it all sounds conflicting. It kind of annoys me talking about it. Like, how do you decide what is ok to eat and when? I think your decisions need to be based on your ultimate goal, which could simply be broken down into two options.
- Wanna lose weight quickly? Well, then skip the foods that you aren’t making yourself. Eat only whole food ingredients. Don’t even eat any ‘lifestyle meals’ because you can make delicious foods with whole ingredients.
- Looking to change your lifestyle, and make gradual changes? Well, then the occasional back-to-back ‘lifestyle meals’ aren’t going to kill you. Just make sure you don’t fall into a trap where you can’t get back on track.
I also understand that it’s extremely annoying to decide how many, when, what, and where you’re enjoying a lifestyle meal. It kinda defeats the purpose, right? We don’t need to go through life worrying about what we’re eating, and whether its a good choice or not.
Personally, it can make me feel even more guilty. Say I schedule my own lifestyle meal for Saturday night when we’re going to a party. But what if Kyle comes home from work on a Friday and really wants to take me out to dinner, where we will enjoy some good food and have a couple drinks. Am I expected to say no? No.freaking.way. I’m going to adapt and make it work for me. We can’t always plan our own lifestyle meals. We just make the best possible decisions as we roll along in life.
We also have a tendency to make our favorite ‘bad’ foods with better ingredients. I think this is part of why I no longer feel guilty about choices I make. Although some people might think impromptu fries on a Sunday are ‘bad,’ Kyle and I had a lot of fun spiralizing potatoes and frying/baking them in bacon grease. And it was delicious. The same goes for our pizza nights – it’s made with healthier ingredients so I know we are putting better qualify food in our body than if we ordered Pizza Hut.
For me, I started seeing progress in my own fitness/healthy living journey when I stopped worrying about all the guilt. This has happened very recently, I must say. I let it go, knowing I do the best I can and will continue to make choices I feel good about.
And so, in the process of trying to write this post and make this video, I’ve decided I need to re-evaluate my lifestyle meal approach in my challenge groups.
I am not a ‘hardcore’ clean eater. I love both healthy, whole foods and I love foods that are cheesy and sugary. And I love adult beverages. I also love water. And I don’t think any of those are bad things. I’ve been able to find my own balance and successfully feel great, both mentally and physically, coming out of my weekends. I wasn’t always able to do this, but now I can.
So THIS is what I want to try and teach. Or, what I want to support. It’s not a skill you can really teach someone. I can be there to guide and support people trying to make decisions to better themselves.
My positive, healthy approach to cheat meals is to just not have them. Instead, we just live.