Friday, July 29, 2016

Cheat days: good or coping mechanism?

During the last month I’ve been meaning to blog much more often. However, due to a bad lingering cold and long days made longer by a once a week class on job hunting, then subsequent readying of related materials, both my mileage and my goal to write more have suffered more than a bare booty sitting on a cactus. 

Fast forward to last week. I decided that it would be immensely gratifying to stop by the growth store after work and pick up some sushi and a few brownie bites for a cheat meal. I was standing in line to check out, and got into a conversation with the man behind me. He was buying two bags of Oreos and 5 or 6 small bottles of soda. He laughed  easily as we both agreed how glad we were that it was Friday, and he pointed to his stash, letting me in on his dirty little secret–it was his cheat meal. He very quickly mentioned that he would be hitting the gym bright and early Saturday morning, but this evening it was ON. Suddenly I didn’t feel too bad about my sushi and brownie bites. 

This brings us to the question, have cheat days been given free reign based on our justification on eating some chicken or a salad the rest of the working week? When is enough junk food enough? 

It seems that we, perhaps as a culture, have taught ourselves that in order to eat healthy we must have a reward- that reward being food that is unhealthy. This logic, while used by many, myself included, is not so much logic as much as a form of justification to “cheat” on our diets. 

Eating healthy should be considered less of a diet and more of a lifestyle choice. While the end goal is to continue a healthy way of life, considering a cookie or a brownie bite “cheating” is not something I wish to do. The word cheat fills me with a sense of immense guilt and shame. It’s as if I’m in a relationship with my food, and the carrots and tomatoes  from my salad will leave me for taking a bite of that cookie. I don’t want to feel guilty about indulging every now and then. 

On the other hand, when did a so-termed cheat meal grant us permission to go on an all night binge? Until recently, I didn’t realize how much cheat days or cheat meals have become their own beast. 

From now on I am setting a new goal. I am no longer using the word “cheat” to describe what I choose to eat. I am going to continue to strive for a healthy diet, but I am not going to deprive myself to the point when I need to binge on cakes, or anything else for enjoyment. Let’s not even get into where binge eating can lead. 

We are not perfect, and social media can not even begin to describe who we are, or what we go through on a daily basis. I’m a work in progress, and personally, cheat meals don’t make me a happier person. What does make me happy is not feeling like crap the day after having a sugary greasy meal. From now on, cheat day is not in my vocabulary, although random indulgence will still be.

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