There are a lot of different sites and professionals all over who are ready to advise you about health, “healthy eating”, and all sorts of health-related things. When I hear “healthy eating”, my original first thought is about those cardboard-crisp 100 calorie snack packets, the Special K commercial about the flavoured desiccated rice items, and general thoughts of sad food. And if you’ve been around long enough, you will have heard all about diet-culture, the language that goes along with it, and the always-popular “cheat day”. You’ll see lots of brutally strict diet programs promising varying types of results, but they sometimes will build in a day to “cheat” the program, essentially to help you maintain your will to live in the barren wasteland of diet food. Now, I’m just going to preface this article with a few reminders:(1) I’m not selling any kind of diet-type things. 2) These are my personal opinions based on my education, experience and personal practice. 3) It is completely possible that you will disagree with me. That’s ok!)
Ok, so to start off, I don’t ascribe to any fad-driven diet schemes or programs, and I don’t work in the weight-loss industry. I do, however, have some background in healthcare, and I also live in Canada, where is it essentially impossible to live for any length of time without encountering something about body image, weight, healthy eating, “heart healthy”-stamped stuff, and general paranoia about how we look. Really, unless you go to a food co-op or grow everything you eat in your back yard or buy it from a farmer’s market, you can’t escape the grocery store without seeing something about “healthy options”. This is a more in-depth topic than can be dealt with appropriately in one article, but there is one aspect of eating to live well that I do want to talk about.
You’ll see in other parts of the site some talk about an 80/20 approach to eating, and if you want to hear more about that, you can check it out here. Food isn’t the point of your life, it gives you fuel to remain alive. It’s good to enjoy food. It was made to be enjoyed, but it’s also very helpful to have a balanced approach to it. Part of this healthy relationship with food can be influenced by how we talk to ourselves about food. Sometimes we don’t listen to the thing we are telling ourselves, and so things can get into our thinking that sneakily attempt to undermine us. (I’m looking at you “cheat” day….I’m looking at you).
I try to plan how I’m going to treat my body, even in the arena of food. People plan what to wear, how to get physical activity, when to spend time at work, etc, but a lot of times, we forget to consider how we are going to eat. Now, I’m not talking about those very dedicated people (with more wherewithal than I have) who each week plan and cook everything for the entire week on Saturday. I’m referring to I’m-at-work-and-didn’t-bring-anything-to-eat-I’ll-just-have-vending-machine-lunch-itis. It’s a rampant condition. I’ve had flare ups of it too from time to time. We just didn’t plan anything, so we end up eating reformed sawdust meal from some vaguely Greek-inspired chain restaurant. Now, I’ll be honest. When I eat like a goat, I don’t feel so well. So when I set out in advance to eat foods that help my body work the way it was intended to, I have sometimes fallen into the “cheat day” trap.
What is a “cheat day”, you may ask. Well, let me tell you. When you are trying to eat well(lots of good-for-you foods are delicious!), you sometimes build in one or two days each week when you get to enjoy eating the treat foods you really like, that is a “cheat day”. Like granola full of secret white sugar, or cookies(I love cookies), you get my drift. And this isn’t a semantics issue. I strongly dislike referring to this day as a “cheat” day. It has such strong negative associations. Like, I’ve specifically planned this day to enjoy a few treats, I’m not eat icing straight out of the container with a spoon! (*cough*I’ve never eaten icing from the tub *cough*), and now I spend the other days of the week feeling guilty because I “cheated”?! What!? This is silly. If I planned this, how is it cheating?! I would submit to you that this planning is not cheating. Historically, this is referred to as “balance”. I mean, if I’m going to a birthday party or special family thing, I definitely plan to eat the food. So, not cheating.
“Cheat” day is a misnomer! Call it something else. It can be anything, even “treat day”….(is that bad that this was the first name I came up with because it rhymed with cheat day?).
So, with that in mind, I encourage you to look at how you are talking to yourself about food. When browsing the site, keep that in mind too. Some things will fall into the 80%, and some will fall into the 20%. Living well hinges largely on balance. It definitely is good to treat your body well so that it can do the things you need it to for a longer period of time, but it’s also really great to take part in those great moments when you have something special with loved ones too.
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