Health and fitness extraordinaire, Emily Skye lets us in on how a better approach to ‘cheat meals’ can help us keep up a diet in the long term.
I believe that ‘cheat meals’ are ok. In fact, at Emily Skye FIT, we believe 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 just by eating one healthy meal, you won’t gain unwanted weight or slow your fitness progress by eating one unhealthy meal!
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Don’t call it a cheat meal – instead call it a treat
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 about eating it.
This shouldn’t be the case: we are only human, we are not ‘perfect’ and we are allowed to treat ourselves every now and then.
Extreme diets and fad food trends don’t work in the long term as you are usually depriving yourself of food, which leads on to the diet cycle (which is why I don’t do fad diets!), craving and bingeing on bad foods. These diets are hard to maintain, ending in failure and undoing all your hard work and even your weight loss progress.
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 small 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.
But that doesn’t mean you have an excuse to eat whatever you want, whenever you want it. You need to have some guidelines:
Plan your treat
If you want to give yourself a treat meal, it’s a good idea to plan it. Maybe 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.
This way you won’t be tempted to stray beforehand. If you know your treat day is coming up, you will be motivated to work extra hard at the gym, or eat super healthy for the days leading up to it.
Control your portions
A treat isn’t a free pass to an all you can eat buffet. Going wild and binging the whole day won’t leave you feeling very good. A treat should still be that: pleasurable and out of the ordinary. Don’t make it normal to eat unhealthy food every day. Keep it minimal and enjoy small portions.
Don’t feel guilty
If you do have a treat, don’t beat yourself up over it. Tell yourself 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 if you let yourself have one, and enjoy it! It is easy to get back in the swing of it when you have a positive attitude.
Go straight back to healthy eating
As above, don’t let yourself get hung up about eating bad. It shouldn’t change the rest of your day’s eating habits. You end up thinking you’ve ruined your healthy streak so you may as well continue eating badly. But don’t! A healthy balanced lifestyle means you can enjoy an occasional treat and then get back to a healthy meal afterward.
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 personal trainer and mother of two who founded health & fitness program – Emily Skye FIT – the culmination of years of hard work, self-discovery, entering motherhood and realising that the best thing you can be is strong and happy. Follow her on Instagram.