I believe that 'cheat meals' are okay. In fact, indulgence in moderation isn't 'cheating' at all. It helps keep you sane, and won’t ruin all your hard work in one go if you’re healthy most of the time. Just as you won’t get healthy by eating one healthy meal, you won’t gain unwanted fat or slow your fitness progress by eating one unhealthy meal!
When we use the word cheat, we associate it with being bad, and this leaves you feeling like you failed. Cheating goes hand in hand with dishonesty and deceit, so when we do eat a 'cheat' meal, we make it into a bigger deal than it is, and end up feeling guilty. This shouldn’t be the case: we are only human, no diet is ‘perfect’ and we are allowed to treat ourselves to food that we love!
My Choc-Coconut Raspberry Squares are treats that don't take you off track.
Extreme diets and fad food trends don’t work in the long term as you are usually depriving yourself of food, which leads to a cycle of craving and bingeing. These diets are hard to maintain, can have a negative impact on your mental health, and often end in failure. The best way to reach your fitness goals and maintain a healthy lifestyle is to eat a balanced and nutritious diet that isn’t too restrictive, one that allows for a treat now and then. Treats help to reduce the psychological effects of cutting back on processed or unhealthy foods, which can feel a lot like deprivation. If you tell yourself you are allowed to have a treat on a certain day a week, or that a piece of chocolate after a healthy dinner is okay, you will become less tempted to get off track and more focused on sticking to your goals.
Of course, eating whatever you want, whenever you want it can have a negative impact on your fitness goals too. Try these general guidelines to keep your nutrition on track without depriving yourself:
Plan your treat – If you want to give yourself a treat meal, it’s a good idea to plan it. Choose a day or night once a week where you allow yourself a 'break' and are more relaxed with what you eat. Make it into a date night on a Friday, or a Sunday roast. However you choose to have your treat, schedule it in. It's easier to stick to your nutrition goals when you know you have treat time coming up.
Control your portions – Eating impulsively and mindlessly for a whole day won't leave you feeling very good. A treat should still be that: pleasurable and out of the ordinary. Keep it minimal and enjoy small portions.
Don’t feel guilty – If you do have a treat, even an unplanned one, don’t beat yourself up over it. It isn’t a failure if you have something that is less healthy than your usual food. Feeling guilty over something you’ve eaten only leads to an unhealthy relationship with food. A treat is meant to be pleasurable, so enjoy it! A balanced lifestyle means you can enjoy an occasional treat and then get back to your healthy eating routine.
Remember, life is all about balance. Don’t deprive yourself of too many things and set aside time to treat yourself. Work hard, and give yourself a break now and then. It keeps you sane, and motivates you to keep going. Plus, chocolate is delicious!
Emily Skye is a strength training expert and the face of FIT, the digital fitness app that helps women worldwide build strength and confidence, stay active through pregnancy and rebuild post-pregnancy. Emily holds a Certificate IV in Fitness and Master Trainer qualification from the Australian Institute of Fitness. She is also co-founder of James Cosmetics and a mother of two.
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