Treat Don't Cheat: Shift Your Diet Mindset
What follows is an article I wrote almost 15 years ago, and I'm revisiting it and sharing it because I still believe it's accurate and relevant.
For holidays, weddings and special occasions, many of us are still desperately trying to lose that bodyfat and get the six pack for the beach, or squeeze into that favourite dress again. Now dieting is hard for the best of us, so most of us tend to look forward to the 'cheat day' or the 'cheat meal' which most people tend to have once a week or so.
The idea behind a 'cheat meal' is fairly simple really, generally it keeps us sane, keeps us focused on our diet by allowing the odd craving to be satisfied, and helps stop your metabolism from getting too accustomed to the lower calories you're consuming, therefore giving your metabolic rate a little kickstart. If you follow The Rock on Instagram, you'll be amazed by the enthusiasm he throws into a weekly "cheat". You'll be amazed by the size of his meals too!
But, most of us, dare I say none of us ... Are anything like The Rock, and for this reason, I have to say, I'm not entirely comfortable with the 'cheat meal' philosophy. In fact, I'm almost against 'cheat meals!'
If any of you fellow dieters are still reading, let me explain why! It's quite often reported in the popular press, that one of the issues with our eating habits in the Western World, is that we tend to encourage our offspring to 'eat your greens, or you don't get dessert'.
There is then an association created, at a young age, that eating veg, or healthy choices are a 'bad thing', but is tolerated in order to get the 'good thing!'. It then follows, that many of us see our healthy / clean / diets as a unsavoury thing to follow, with the burger and chips or Indian take-away on a Saturday as the good thing you are allowed for 'suffering' all week! This thinking may mean a lifestyle of healthy eating is unsustainable as we are always seeking a 'cheat'.
It may not be the most relevant metaphor, but telling a dieter it's ok to have a takeaway on a Saturday as part of a weight reduction diet plan, is almost like telling someone who is giving up smoking, that as they have gone a few days without one, they can then smoke at the weekend!
Maybe I'm just the odd one out, but I am trying to encourage a train of thought where we re-evaluate our views of food, and rather than have a 'cheat meal' lets have a 'treat meal' instead!
I do whole-heartedly support the re-feed theory in having the extra food or calories, but I am trying to educate my taste and pallet by making my 'treat meal' something other than a poor nutritional choice. All week I tend to eat on a budget; tinned tuna, frozen veg and apples as a part of my diet, but how about once a week having a 'treat meal' of fresh tuna steak, fresh, organic and more exotic vegetables, followed by fresh pineapple, or mango! Sounds much better doesn't it? A fantastic, tasty meal, with extra calories and taste, as well as being nutritious! And it really is a 'treat meal' in my eyes! This is of course a very simple example, but treating ourselves to better quality, healthy food has just got to be a better option than larger portions of what is generally nutrionally poor, junk food.
I'm sure it will be deemed a little controversial, and if The Rock gets to read the Sunday Shakedown I could be in line for the People's Elbow, but I truly believe we need to educate our minds, as well as our taste buds in how we view our foods and our eating plans. Food for thought maybe?