I don’t believe in cheat days.
Goodness knows I’ve done my fair share of challenges in the past (paleo challenge, pescatarian challenge and shoot, I was a vegetarian for 5 years). I found them useful to experiment with my diet and learn what felt good for my body. I am not knocking dietary self-exploration, but I’m grateful that the days of constantly monitoring my diet are behind me.
Remember when healthy living blogging was largely composed of sharing what the person ate all day long? I know I blogged that way for a while. Then I hopped on the What I Ate Wednesday train. But have since fallen off of that too. While I used to be fascinated with what people ate all day long, it has mostly lost its appeal to me. I’m guessing it’s because now that I’ve found what makes me feel good, I’m less concerned with how others are eating (outside of my constant quest to find new recipes to try). I no longer feel the desire to emulate others because I know what works for one person, won’t necessarily work for another. Health is so personal.
Still, I’m pulling out visual food diary of what I ate on Tuesday to help illustrate why cheat days aren’t my jam anymore.
Two egg scramble with onions and mushroom, mixed baby greens with avocado and balsamic and grapefruit
The way I see it, in order to believe in a “cheat day,” you must therefore believe in non-cheat days. If a cheat day is a day where you let loose and eat what you want, then by definition a non-cheat day would be a day that you ate exactly what you “should” eat and not deviate. That definition borders on restrictive and I’ve learned over the years that I don’t do restrictive very well.
Red pepper turkey and chicken sausage with sauerkraut with mixed baby greens, cucumber, tomato and hemp seeds on the side.
I know that for me personally, my body has the most energy and feels the best when I focus largely on eating unprocessed foods. Vegetables, lean proteins, potatoes, grain/psuedograins like rice and quinoa, fruits, nuts, eggs, avocados, etc. Therefore, I focus on those. But if I were put a label on it, then sticking my hand into this bag a few times throughout the afternoon (which I did) would be considered cheating.
And cheating has a negative connotation. To me it says, you failed. And I don’t believe that a few handfuls of potato chips equals failure.
By focusing on eating what makes me feel good physically, but allowing myself to enjoy what makes me feel good mentally, I’ve taken all power away from food. And that is where I think the secret lies.
When I restricted myself in the past, for whatever dietary experiment I was trying at the moment, I’d be ready to go all out on cheat day. I’d chow down on whatever forbidden food I couldn’t have and eat things I didn’t even want because I felt like I had to get it in on THAT day. If I didn’t have wine/pasta/chocolate/whatever on THAT day, then when would I get to have it again?
Have you ever felt like that?
Glass of pinot noir.
I think the secret to my version of healthy eating is actually counter intuitive. I spent so many years focused so intently on food when what I really needed to do was to take the focus off of it.
Once I stopped categorizing food into good and bad, my body was free to tell me what felt good and what didn’t. My mind felt free to really decide for itself what I wanted, and I was surprised to find out that I didn’t really want those “forbidden” foods as much as I had tricked it into thinking I did. My habits naturally aligned with the law of diminishing returns and I realized that a handful of chips or a few bites of chocolate actually satisfied me just fine.
Adora chocolate follow by a few spoonfuls of Ben & Jerry’s Milk and Cookies ice cream.
So maybe you can say I believe everyday is a cheat day? But I don’t really view it like that. Cheating implies shame and I have no shame calling myself a healthy living blogger while eating a handful jalapeno potato chips. Instead, I’ll call it moderation.
Healthy eating doesn’t mean perfection, restriction or guilt. It means fueling your body in a way that makes it feel good and helps you to further enjoy all life has to offer outside of food too.
Taking my health coach hat off now because I hear Kaitlyn is up. Mom hat time. But tell me,
How has your view of healthy eating evolved over the years?
Are you happy with your current relationship with food?