Why I don’t do cheat meals anymore

Today I went to dinner at 4 Rivers. For those of you who have not been there before it is a DELICIOUS barbecue joint. You feel like you win the jackpot every time you go because the meals are around $7-$10 and you get so … much … food!

I was eating my dinner at one of their high tops when a very nice young gentlemen who worked for 4 Rivers came up to us to see how our meal was. Instead of opening the conversation up with just that, he said with a big smile on his face, “must be a cheat meal for you guys today huh.”

We were both in gym clothes (my favorite wardrobe of choice), and I take his comment first as a compliment because a lot of people wear gym clothes around town, we must actually LOOK fit. So that was kind. We chatted with the staff for a few minutes about our gym and our programs and then he went on his way.

As soon as he left my skin was crawling. I didn’t realize just how much I dislike the term “cheat meal” until it was assumed that I was having a “cheat meal” by a total stranger.

My delicious dinner started out as something I was looking forward to and enjoying to the fullest extent. I may have even cracked a smile after every bite. But his comment irked me, there were so many people in there eating dinner, why was MY meal a “cheat meal”? I made me feel so icky, like a stranger just caught me doing something bad. After that, all of that positive and happy energy surrounding my meal dwindled and I felt just how negative and damaging just using the phrase “cheat meal” could be to someone’s struggles with healthy eating.

You would think I had all this on my plate . . . . which I did not.

If you have ever tried to lose or gain weight the biggest challenge in your path is not necessarily the food itself, it is the behavioral and psychological factors that make or break us.

So many of us have a horrible relationship with food (whether we admit it or not). We constantly feel like we are failing. Either we ate too little or too much, we ate clean, but not clean enough, or we were strict . . . until the cheat meal.

We are way too hard on ourselves. Who ever said you cannot look good, perform better, and still enjoy the tasty things in life? It has taken me a VERY LONG time to have a healthy relationship with food. I am type A all the way and for many years I would try to stick to a crazy strict diet (that wasn’t sustainable long term) and would fail after having one not even satisfying “cheat meal”.

We beat ourselves up (which does not help the process) and then negotiate with ourselves. “I already cheated, might as well get back on track tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day”. When in reality we should have said “Wow that cookie was delicious” then just get back on track the very next meal.

The most ironic part is . . . one cookie is not going to derail the whole week of good I just did, but I felt so shamed for “cheating” or “failing” when all I want is to succeed and get results!

Life is full of delicious cookies, but it is also full of delicious grilled chickens with sweet potatoes and green beans. It is all about balance, happiness, and accepting that our eating habits don’t have to be perfect. They are beautifully flawed. As long as your eating serves a purpose it does not 100% of the time have to have the purpose of weight loss. It is okay to eat something you love for the mere fact that you enjoy it. It is all about balance.

Back to my dinner . . . My said “cheat meal” was pulled pork, sweet mashed potatoes, and corn bread. The meal was not much different from something I would typically eat throughout the week. The biggest difference was the way it was cooked, sauce, and corn bread. Before my meal was dubbed a cheat meal, I was ecstatic, and didn’t think it was too bad other than the sugar content. There were much worse things I could be eating for dinner, but this is what I really wanted. I have a great relationship with food these days, and my meals were healthy all week. The purpose of this meal was not for my performance, but for my sanity.

I do not even consider this a “cheat meal”, I didn’t fail or do anything wrong. This is my balanced life, great relationship with food, and you know what. . . my health and performance goals are still on track. Nothing was derailed by this meal.

Remember goals can be attained so many ways through balance. You are more likely to succeed at your goals if you are enjoying the journey with a positive mindset.

I told you this meal was DELICIOUS!!