So I wanted to do a post on “cheat meals” for a while now because I think that everyone has an opinion about them and I would love to hear how others feel about this topic. Personally, I feel that everyone should have the ability to ‘treat’ themselves every once and a while, especially when they are following a slightly restricted diet the rest of the time. Of course, when I say “slightly restricted diet” I don’t mean that everyone should be dieting. We are not all fitness models so there is no need to follow a rigid routine. Rather, what I mean is that although we may all feel like eating something a lil bit less ‘clean’, we often put these cravings aside and let them fizzle out. For example, when I hear the word gelato I get a craving for it. Does that mean I go out and eat it every time I hear the word? No. Therefore I’m technically restricting myself. Make sense? Okay, so despite believing in occasional treats, I still struggle with guilt after having my weekly cheat. Let me explain…
On a day to day basis I eat based on a plan that I have made for myself. This ‘plan’ is something that I have come up with through trial and error and has worked pretty well for building some muscle definition. That being said, I still continue to tweak it for my goals, which at the moment is to hopefully put a lil weight on my frame and to grow more muscle! I will have a page dedicated to this very soon 🙂 Anyways, what I’m trying to get across is that you could say that I go a lil bit beyond the restriction I mentioned earlier as I follow a set of guidelines (read: macros) that I need to hit when planning out my meals for the day. This type of lifestyle is indeed similar to any typical body builder or fitness model. You eat to fuel your body. I know this probably sounds horrible…and robotic…and restrained, but I’m being honest when I tell you that I actually really enjoy my diet (…my food, not that I’m dieting)! I like the foods that I eat. I like the way that my food works with my body, helping it to push through my workouts and performing daily tasks. I just like this lifestyle…
That being said, I’m no stranger to cravings. Sometimes I even dream about certain things…mmmm gelato…..I also know in my heart that I can take things to the extreme. Can’t have this, can’t have that, etc, etc and no, this is no way to live, but I easily fall victim to these tendencies because once I see progress I don’t want to loose it. Control freak much? Okay, okay, I’m a crazy person. Where am I going with all of this and how does this relate back to the topic of this post?
Well, because of my control freaky-ness I tend to have quite the list of ‘off-limit‘ foods, most of which I’m perfectly content with not eating (chips, cake, fried anything, etc) because one, they do not interest me and two they don’t sit well in my lil belly. There are however a few foods that I would like to be able to have and not feel like I just ruined everything or have had a break in my discipline as the first picture in this post suggests. This is where ‘cheats’ come in.
So now that I have said it multiple times, what the heck do I mean by ‘cheats’? Well this can be rather difficult to truly define because what people consider a cheat is very different. I myself would say that a cheat is something like going out for dinner or more often, enjoying a dessert like gelato. As another example, I used to have a peanut butter (natural), banana and honey sandwiches for lunch a few days a week just two years ago because I absolutely adored them. Now, I would consider them a ‘cheat.’ So as you can see, my knowledge has grown and my goals have changed over time and therefore so has my diet. For other people, having a single piece of bread or a glass of wine may be considered a cheat. To each their own. The point is that these are foods that the person considers a ‘no-no’ most of the time…
I know what you’re thinking….Deprivation much? Maybe or maybe not. How I see it is that I can enjoy my ‘cheat’ once a week, while eating normally (for me) the rest of the time because the foods that make up my lifestyle are those that do amazing things for my body (nutrients, amino acids, healthy carbs, etc) and help me work towards my goals. Trust me, if I could eat gelato all the time and still reach my goals I would be faceplanting into a bowl of that every night. Realistically though, I know that this would not happen because although gelato is swoonworthy it contains mostly sugar and fats that are not particularly helpful to building lean muscle. So, to have my cake and eat it to, what I do is plan a day where I will have one meal of whatever I want and the rest of the time I can enjoy my regular diet. I find that when you don’t consistently give into your cravings the particular food item is much more enjoyable (because there is much less guilt!) and is truly a treat. Of course, this is my own personal opinion and how I do things now.
Before I continue, I want to explain why I keep placing cheat in asterisks. I’m doing that because a lot of people would have a problem with me calling these foods cheats. Instead, many would say that I should be calling them treatmeals or reward meals….I’m not sure I like these terms anymore than I like the word cheat. The latter I really have a problem with.
- Why are you rewarding yourself with food?
- What do you feel you need a reward if this way of eating is a lifestyle?
Ultimately, rewards make it seem as though your lifestyle is hard and needs to be constantly reinforced for you to continue with it. This is wrong on many levels. Food should be a lifestyle that isn’t hard to maintain. You should not feel that every meal is a drag or boring. Although I do believe that food is fuel, I certainly will not accept food being bland or inedible. NO! Experiment a lil bit and find what you truly love and makes your body feel strong. All bodies are not made equal and thus do not run on the same ratios or nutrients. We all are unique and therefore need to take the time to learn what our OWN body needs.
So, I will continue to use the word cheat because it’s not the title that is the topic of debate here, its the deed itself. That leads me back to my own qualms with cheating. I mentioned that I enjoy my weekly cheat. Well, this is true for the most part. I definitely enjoy it while it’s going down, but once it’s gone I often have to deal with both physical and emotional issues. I often struggle with these meals because I don’t like to deviate away from what works from my perspective. It’s actually quite frightening sometimes. This may sound silly, but I’m just trying to be open and honest here. Not only do emotional difficulties come up (read:guilt), but the physical issues that arise (ie. bloating, irregularities (TMI), fullness and just feeling off) often feed back to your mind and fuel the emotional ones! Think “Omg I’m so bloated, maybe I shouldn’t have had that…” Although some physical side effects are often normal to experience if your cheat is something way out of your norm (perhaps something you have an intolerance to) or if you gorged yourself, I do not really do either of these (I will take precautions with dairy) and still get these symptoms! 😦 Due to this, I sometimes get a lil bit concerned that my body is beginning to reject foods that aren’t part of my normal diet. Is this possible? Take my cheat I had two weeks ago (second picture), although it was dairy free ice-cream (coconut based) it took me about 3 days to fully “recover” from that indulgence. The day after, my morning workout felt a lil weird because my pre-workout wasn’t digesting properly, I didn’t really feel hungry that day at all and I felt like I had a rock in my stomach the entire day. Talk about negative reinforcement! Due to this, I told myself that maybe I should wait 2 weeks before having my next one….
….and this is my problem. I said that this meal should be guilt free because it’s only a once and a while thing and it’s a food that I truly enjoy BUT if one thing goes wrong, I back off of things completely. Perhaps it was only a fluke and now I’m swearing myself off of any deviance’s for an extra week. I shook myself a lil bit and decided that I was being irrational and letting my mind talk me out of things that I enjoy, so the following week I ate the food served at the wedding for my cheat and the last weekend I had my sundae creation once again. I wanted to try it again to see if it was in fact the ice-cream that was giving me a problem. That being said, I didn’t go into that challenge empty handed! 2 digestive enzymes and a lactaid later and my cheat was devoured and I was content. The ‘army’ I brought with me to have my cheat did help with the digestive problems, so maybe that’s what causes some of the pain and suffering last time. Despite this, I still have to work on timing though because I wake up too full for my liking, so perhaps the cheat must be pushed up to dinner rather than before bed to ensure that my workouts the next morning aren’t deterred by excess food weight. Ice cream for dinner anyone? 😀
So I just got real personal there, but I wanted to bring forth my own thoughts and challenges with cheat meals so that I could give you some background before I told you why I think they are important for anyone and everyone to include in their lifestyles. For me, cheats are important for:
- Challenging myself-> I should not feel guilty for eating something that I enjoy! If you forever restrict yourself you will go NUTS!
- Keeping that temperamental tummy in check-> I don’t want any intolerance’s developing here…
- Socializing! When people get together, the event is generally focused around food, so I want to be able to keep my social life and enjoy my time with the people that I love. Often my own food will be carted with me, but sometimes it’s okay to have food that is cooked by someone else.
- Extra calories-> this is a controversial topic. Many believe that giving your body that one special meal a week (which often pushes your daily calories higher than a normal day) throws your body off its regular routine and confuses it. This is supposedly a good thing because it fires up your metabolism and keeps it from plateauing. Now I don’t want to loose weight, nor do I have weight to loose, but this can be a great thing for someone like me as I gotta work that metabolism so that I can keep up with all those eats that my lil body needs to grow. (more muscle pwwweeeze)
- Because I enjoy them and shouldn’t be afraid of them.
Overall, I think the biggest challenge I have right now is variety. Well, as you can see, I lack it. Yes I should have my frozen goodies because I love them, but I also should try new things (that I have a craving for) to beat down that fear and guilt factor because as of right now gelato and my sundaes have slowly been placed in the safe cheat zone (mostly). What I mean by that is that I don’t get overly anxious about them as long as they are planned. On the other hand I have a lot of foods that I think about trying, but when it comes time to make my move, I chicken out. Cookie dough ice-cream anyone? I need to work on those…
Top cheats I would love to try but haven’t had the courage to yet…
- Cookie dough ice-cream (as mentioned)
- a Cinnabon (that smell…omg)…even a cleaner homemade one would rock my socks off
- Real pancakes or waffles with REAL maple syrup
So I just threw a lot of personal stuff at you along with some things you may have a different set of thoughts on and that’s okay because I want to hear what you think too! Overall, to conclude this whole post, I just want to say that I believe that cheat meals are important for not only for providing a lil something sweet (if that’s what you fancy) in your life but also because I truly believe that we SHOULD NOT be afraid of food. Yes we all have our own goals, and yes we all have our own lifestyle, but what we all share in common is the right to have some spontaneity and enjoyment in our lives, which can sometimes come from food related things. I do want to make a big note about the fact that this post is based on MY OPINION and the way I live and in no way do I believe that everyone should do as I do. I’m slightly more restrictive than your average person not only because of my fitness related goals but also from fear. The latter is something that no one should have to experience and is a battle that I am trying to slowly get over, but it takes time.
Another thing that I want to quickly mention…and this is very important… is that a cheat meal should be YOURS. What I mean by that is that they should be something that YOU love and you WANT rather than something that you feel pressured to have because everyone else is having it or because it’s something others feel you should be okay with eating. There are a lot of things that I will probably never touch again and I’m okay with that. These are things that, first and foremost, I don’t gain pleasure from eating and, secondly, I feel very anxious about having (probably because I didn’t even want them in the first place). For example, I’m one of those people who doesn’t drink much at all. Champagne may tempt me once every two years, but other than that, I feel like its a waste of a cheat. On top of that, despite only having a couple slurps, the effects linger into the following day. My point with this example is that if I drank alcohol it probably wouldn’t be for ME, it would be for someone else and that isn’t the way it should be. Do what is best for you! This is especially important if you are like me and struggle with post-cheat guilt.
Anyways, that’s my blurb on cheat meals. I hope it was somewhat coherent! I tend to go all over the place when I have a lot to say or when the topic has some personal importance to me. Please feel free to comment, I would love to hear your opinions and experiences with cheat meals.
Do you believe in cheat meals? Why or why not?
What do you think about the word ‘cheat’ as opposed to ‘treating yourself’
What is your favourite way to ‘cheat/treat’ yourself?
Do you fear any foods?
People don’t always have to understand your struggles, they just have to be there for you when you need a lil extra support. -Lil Ol’ Me