On my online program, 28 by Sam Wood, I am continually reminding my 28ers that nutrition and training are of equal importance. Inevitably, in our many discussions about nutrition I get asked about cheat meals. We all love the idea of a cheat meal. It sounds naughty yet acceptable but the problem with thinking about it as a “cheat” is there can be a guilt response that is detrimental in the long term. So this leads to my first and most important point…
1. Treat, don’t cheat
I like to look at my not-so-healthy snacks and meals as treats, not cheats. I’m not ‘cheating’ on my normal eating regime, I’m just enjoying a treat. For me, referring to these indulgences as treats reminds me that there’s nothing wrong with listening to my body and satisfying that craving every now and then. This allows me to enjoy a guilt free pleasure whilst maintaining a healthy relationship with food which is paramount for long term success and sanity.
2. Have a treat meal, not a treat day (or week or month!)
I hear it all too often, “Sam, I was only going to have one biscuit... but then once I started I thought I may as well keep going because I’d already ruined my healthy eating!" I always say to my clients, “If you drop your phone on the ground and it cracks, would you pick it up again and smash it into the floor?” The answer is always no. You should apply the same logic when it comes to eating. At the end of the day you need to know yourself. If a treat meal is going to be the beginning of a slippery slope or the beginning of the end then perhaps you need to show more willpower. If you are in a comfortable place where you know you can enjoy a treat and go back to your healthy eating with ease then by all means treat away.
3. Find healthier swaps
You can treat yourself without going to the local drive through. Many of your traditional treats (pizza, pasta, burgers etc.) can be made healthier with a little tweaking. There are so many incredible recipes to be found online, get googling! Let’s be honest though, the reality is a treat meal is likely to be something that you eat out or order in but it’s important to remember that just because it’s not a great choice doesn’t mean it can’t be a better one. Healthy burger options, woodfired pizzas… the options are endless (especially if your city has UberEats!).
4. If planning works for you, go for it!
If you find you’re able to eat better during the week by having your treat scheduled, go for it! Sometimes if I know I have a big event on a Saturday I’ll eat a little better and train a little harder during the week so that I can relax over the weekend. As long as this doesn’t cause you to restrict Monday to Friday and binge on the weekend, this can be a great option.
5. Work for it
I love the feeling of finishing an epic week of workouts and then enjoying some delicious takeaway with my family on a Friday night. A treat tastes so much better when you know you’ve been sticking to your guns and working hard most of the time.
The key things to remember here is that treats are to be enjoyed on occasion without going overboard. Food should always be your friend and never bring on feelings of guilt or anxiety. Savour your treats, enjoy them guilt-free and don’t forget to get back to healthy eating at your next meal. Never forget that a bad meal or a missed workout is just that, a bad meal or a missed workout. Nothing more.