Reexamining the Cheat Meal

By: Coach Mitchell

The "cheat meal" question comes up a lot – it seems to be a major focus of anyone who is starting a new nutrition plan. "How many cheat meals am I allowed each week?" It's an interesting question to examine and should probably be looked at a little differently by most folks as it implies that all the other meals of you week are not enjoyable. It's also likely that the cheat meal becomes a major blowout, and sometimes even a setback, to reaching your goals. There are a couple easy ways to reframe your plan, and your cheat meals.

Focus on Eating the Things You Like

In order to be successful with, and excited about your nutrition plan, it must include things you like to eat! Think about it, whether it's with nutrition or anything else you're trying to implement, how likely are you to adhere to something that you find unpleasant, painful or even disgusting? Not at all likely.

Instead of focusing on what you "can't" have or getting your nutrients in with things you don't really care to eat, instead make sure your plan includes things you DO like to eat but still fall under the guidelines that you and your nutritionist/coach have determined will help you reach your goals.

One thing that can help with this is to determine WHY you like what you do. Is it the flavor, the texture, the saltiness, the sweetness, or the feeling you get from the food because it's a "comfort" food for you? Once you determine that, you should be able to find options that fill the desire you are looking to satiate with that cheat meal. It might mean experimenting a little, but you might be surprised at what you get excited to eat.

Implementing the "Cheat Meal" in a Positive Way

So now that we understand that a "cheat meal" can be a positive in our nutrition plan, what is the best way to approach implementing it? Here at CrossFit Greenville, we like to implement the 80/20 rule when it comes to nutrition. The 80/20 principle means that 80 percent of the time we are on track, eating nutritious and high quality foods and the other 20 percent of the time we are eating things that we enjoy but may not be the most high quality foods (think burger and fries, a couple slices of pizza, a bowl of ice cream).

This 20 percent leeway is a great opportunity for us to go out to eat with friends or bake some cookies to enjoy with the family and not feel pressured or guilty about these choices (a common obstacle with any nutrition plan). It is a fantastic way for us to make sure we give ourselves these opportunities to enjoy those decadent foods we may not get to on a regular basis.

I always like to remember and remind clients that extreme restriction is not conducive to long-term success. We need to be able to enjoy these foods while still maintaining a positive mindset around our nutritional plan and our long-term success with that plan.

So, let's start this week! Begin to consider those times and places where you can have those meals or foods that fall into your 20 percent. Think about those foods you enjoy the most and give yourself an opportunity to truly enjoy them pressure-free!