Around five years ago when I wanted to start eating healthier and exercising more, I knew that, for me, I would need to have a meal or a day each week when I could eat something more indulgent. You see, as someone who struggles with over-eating and not eating the right things, I know that if I don’t indulge once in a while, I’m likely to slip and binge eat — a vicious cycle I was trying to rid myself of.
Enter the “cheat meal.” I’ve found over time that a cheat day is just too much for me, but a cheat meal allows me to eat something decadent while not ruining all the healthy meals and exercise from the week.
Lately, however, I realized I needed to change my tune even more.
Now, it’s a treat, not a cheat.
As I’ve said, my relationship with food is a complicated one. To get to a place where I can think of food without thinking of words such as “guilt” or “bad,” I need to reconsider my view of food in general.
That’s why I choose to think about treat meals … my friend Sherri encouraged me to write this post after I said “treat” around her once and she told me how much she liked that term instead of “cheat.” Cheating has a bad connotation that I don’t want to relate to food. Food is something that nourishes me, gives me energy and strength. I don’t want to keep associating food with bad feelings. Instead, I want to think of it positively.
And that includes foods that may be higher in fat and calories, because as long as I am eating foods that are more nutritious and filling the bulk of the time, a treat doesn’t have to be seen as such a bad thing. If I generally eat a low-calorie, high-protein breakfast of something like a Special K breakfast sandwich followed by a snack of Greek yogurt and fruit, then to have a treat once a week or every other week — like my favorite cinna-stack pancakes at IHOP — then it doesn’t have to feel like a cheat. It doesn’t have to make me feel badly or guilty.
The words we use when we talk about food are just as important as the words we use to describe ourselves. All words with negativity need to go out the window.
If we want to repair our relationship with food and make it a healthy one, then we need to start with how we think and speak about food. It’s not an easy process — I still find myself thinking and saying, “This is so bad of me to be eating this.” But it will change with time.
So the next time you have a small indulgence — like a little ice cream or a slice of pizza — remember that it is a treat, not a cheat.
Do you find you use bad words, or think badly, during or after eating certain foods? How do you think that affects your relationship with food in general?