I often hear people use the term ‘cheat meal’. This has a negative connotation and sets you up for a negative mindset. When you are making wiser choices on your nutrition to improve your health, get leaner, and/or build muscle, it is recommended to continue to enjoy food you love that may not have as much nutritional value. This increases compliance for your more nutritious food, but also means you don’t feel deprived or feel like you are missing out. This leads to long lasting healthier habits to give you long lasting results. There is nothing wrong with having a variety of food.
What is wrong is putting a moral stance on food. Food is neither ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and neither are you, when you make the choice to eat something. Food is either nourishing, or not. When you classify food or your behaviour towards food, as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘cheat food’ you are putting a negative spin on it, leading to guilt and emotional badgering. The 80/20% rule puts an end to this guilt and negative thought process, as does changing the term ‘cheat meal’ to ‘treat food’ or ‘fun food’.
Choose nourishing nutritious food for 80% of your meals and include 20% of your meals that may not be as nutritious or nourishing. What does this look like in real terms? If you eat 4 meals per day, over 7 days, you consume 28 meals. That means 20% works out to about 5 of those being fun food or treat food. If your goal is to lean up sooner rather than later, you simply reduce that to say 1-2 treats meals per week.
Be careful with your language around food. Food is simply fuel for your body, however it is also one of the simple pleasure of life. You don’t want to dampen this pleasure by putting a negative spin on your thoughts about it. If you call it ‘cheat food’ you are subconsciously setting yourself up to not enjoy that food due to the negative connotation of the word ‘cheat’. You are not ‘cheating’ you are simply making a choice to eat something fun. When you use a word like ‘fun’ or ‘treat’ it is far more enticing and you subconsciously enjoy it more, with no guilt and no emotional badgering.
Life is for living, not beating yourself up. Enjoy lots of nutritious, nourishing food to help you look and feel better, but don’t forget to have fun too; that includes with your food. ‘Treat’ meal, not ‘Cheat’ meal.
– Coach Terri