Redefining the Cheat Day


I've always struggled with healthy eating. While I know a lot about nutrition, and I actually love the taste of most healthy foods, I've conditioned myself to think that a real treat has to be something that is bad for me - hence the "cheat day." With its own hash tag on social media, cheat day is the universal day (usually on the weekend) when even some of the most devout health nuts post indulgent picks of their weekend treats. But what are we really treating ourselves to?

When I set out to get back in shape after having my children, it didn't take me long to notice that these cheat days were turning into full cheat weekends, and those weekends full of bad food choices would leave me unmotivated and lethargic by the time Monday rolled around. This made it all too tempting to skip a much-needed workout.

I have tried the other diet practice of having a little something everyday to curb binge cravings, and during the week it totally works. But I still find myself wanting to treat myself come Friday night when I'm done with work and it's time to settle in for a good movie on the couch. All it takes is one little excuse, and I'm at the grocery store with sweets and something involving way too much cheese and/or fatty meat. No amount of cardio the following Monday could ever make up for the thousands of extra calories I kept consuming all in the name "rewarding" myself on the weekends. Something had to change.


Words have a lot of power over our thoughts and our actions, so I started with the word cheat. It's the perfect word for what I was doing; I was cheating myself out of the kind of health I deserve. I've made a conscious decision to stop using the phrase "cheat day" and have replaced it with "treat day." That doesn't mean I don't eat junk anymore, but I'm much more deliberate about what I eat and when. About once a week, if I'm craving dessert, I'll whip up a batch of brownies or a yummy brunch. I have a bit, my daughters have a bit, and that's it. I'm okay having those kind of treats about once a week now that I'm down to a healthy weight. And because it's a dessert that I've roughly planned into my week rather than a moment of weakness, I don't beat myself up about it. No guilt. No regrets. Though on a daily basis I stick with healthy options, like caramel corn rice cakes, for a sweet snack fix.

After a week of sticking to my guidelines and working out almost every day, I treat myself, but not in the way that you might think. I treat myself with things that are good for me - things that I know will motivate me to make better choices all weekend. To get that feeling of indulgence, I mix in other things that make me feel good - things that have nothing to do with food, like a little pampering or a new magazine. Even if you're on a budget, it's easy to indulge in healthier treats if you cut out some of the junk. What are some things you would treat yourself to that are good for you?


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