Although I love this quote from Micael Pollan, I have struggled with this image with the croissant because of my relationship with gluten. Yet, somehow it seemed an appropriate image for this blog on cheat meals.
I have written before about how trying to be perfect is both an illusion and unrealistic. Yet, sometimes I have clients or patients say things like, “I can’t be perfect like you.” Or “We are almost perfect paleo like you.”
It always strikes me as interesting because although my life is “perfectly imperfect” I certainly don’t strive for perfection in any aspects of my life. In fact, I actually practice allowing for imperfection in my life. You know…like letting the kids do their version of fold the laundry or cleaning up and being ok with whatever they actually do and assist only when necessary.
One of my favorite quotes is,
“Done is better than perfect.” – unknown
Certainly a parenting gem to live by….. in my opinion.
In terms of health and nutrition, how does the imperfect diet fit in the form of the “cheat meal”?
There are many fitness folks out there who also like to preach about how they exercise so they can have a cheat meal. Like the exercise somehow negates the cheat meal because they burned the calories. Or they had a tough week and need to de-stress with a cheat meal of pizza and beer. Or even that the cheat meal is in fact them “living real life”. There is always a qualification for the cheat meal or the lack of a perfect diet. There are diet gurus whom are proponents of the 80:20 or 90:10 rule. This supposedly allows 1-2 “cheat meals” for sanity during the week with an overall 80-90% perfection of paleo-low carb-atkins-mediteranian-vegetarian-or whatever diet you are following.
The word, cheat, doesn’t work for me.
Cheat as a verb means to act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage or to avoid something undesirable by luck or skill.
There is a lot of guilt and shame that goes along with the word cheat. I have enough parenting guilt and shame already….who needs more when it comes to what I eat????
What the “cheat meal” really is, is a CHOICE that is owned….not earned, not defended, not explained, not guilted, not an unfair advantage nor dishonest.
When it comes to my nutrition, I actually DO NOT CHEAT. It isn’t perfect, but I do NOT cheat.
I make a specific CHOICE with known consequences because I have done the work in the form of elimination diet to know what my body will do in the presence of certain foods. I won’t apologize for it or punish myself later or do extra work outs to make me feel better. Why? Because I really consider it a CHOICE MEAL!
As a rule, I am gluten-free. Recently I CHOSE to have a friend’s homebrew beer. I didn’t consider it a cheat meal at ALL. I knew exactly what I was getting into and the dose that I could have that wouldn’t make me feel bad later. I enjoyed it. No, I didn’t need much to find the enjoyment. I won’t apologize to anyone including myself. I didn’t gain some unfair advantage because of it. I wasn’t dishonest about it either. My only advantage over others is I have done the work to understand my body’s limits.
Let’s call the CHEAT MEAL what it is, a CHOICE MEAL.
A CHOICE meal can be as often as you want for health so long as you do the work to understand how your body responds. All the truly healthy people I know don’t cheat….they make choices based on their understanding of their own body. This way, and only this way, can it be healthy.
Have as many CHOICE meals as you want.
Your health or sickness is in your control…no apologies, no unfair advantages, no shame, no guilt, nor explanation.
As Gretchen Rubin says:
Remove. Replace. Restore.
Remove the shame filled cheat meal.
Replace with choices free of guilt, explanation nor apologies.
Restore control over your health
Eat Well. Move Well. Sleep Well. Soar On.
Dr Carolyn Dolan DPT, Cert MDT, MSHN
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