Treat Not Cheat

The term "cheat day" is common, but is it the right way to describe indulging every so often? Reframing "cheating" as "treating" can be a better approach—here are some tips to treating yourself while you pursue your health and fitness goals.

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One of the questions I am asked very frequently both on social media and at live events is how I handle cheat days. I have one very simple answer for that: I don’t cheat, I treat! Let’s start just by looking at the connotation of the two words. Cheat has a very negative undertone to it, whereas treat has a positive undertone. Just the simple switch in verbiage changes the entire landscape of this question. So, what are my tips for treating yourself? Read below to find out more:

  1. You have heard me say this before, but I follow a 85/15 rule. I eat 85 percent foods that are healthy and 15 percent foods that are fun. Don’t overanalyze this! Start by getting out a piece of paper and drawing a line straight down the middle. On the left hand side write down all the healthy foods that you like. On the right hand side write down some of the fun foods that you love. Make sure you are eating more from the left than you are the right, and don’t beat yourself up when you choose food from the fun category.
  2. Treating yourself doesn’t have to be a weekly occurrence or a giant occasion. I hear a lot of people reference their “cheat days” and I think to myself, “why do you need a whole day of bad eating?” Treating yourself doesn’t have to mean that every Saturday night you go buck wild and have a pizza and fried chicken extravaganza. It doesn’t have to be scheduled either. Just have a treat when it’s something that you really want and can do in moderation. For example, I love donuts…but I don’t eat an entire dozen by myself every Saturday. I have a donut occasionally when I simply can’t resist it—but I also know when to stop so as not to upset my stomach or cause unnecessary guilt in my brain!
  3. Work out!!! We have all seen the posts on social media that tell you exactly how many burpees it takes to counteract French fries, and in all honesty there is no better method I can think of to help with your treating than with an amazing sweat session. But I want you to go into the workout with the mindset that you are doing something positive for your body, not trying to make up for doing something not-so-positive for your body. Make sense?
  4. Drink more water! Water heals all things…and it absolutely helps when we are treating ourselves. Make sure to drink lots of water—perhaps more than usual to ensure you stay hydrated, especially if those treat foods you are eating are high in salt.
  5. Treat slowly…yes, you heard me, slow down! Instead of inhaling that treat meal, enjoy it slowly. This will allow you to feel full. When you eat too quickly, your brain and body haven’t caught up to each other. Thus you will often continue to eat when you are actually already full, but your brain just hasn’t gotten the message yet. If you treat slowly, then you will wind up eating less of that treat and will avoid overindulging.
  6. Treat and move on…basically, don’t allow yourself to get derailed. The whole idea of having that occasional treat is to keep you motivated to continue moving toward your goals. Don’t let that treat you have take you off course—next meal get right back to the nutrient-rich foods that fuel your body for optimal performance.

Don’t cheat. Treat. Treat on occasion and in moderation. Treat because you love your body enough to know what’s good for it. Treat your body with love and care and remember that food is your friend, not your foe.

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