A cheat meal is a time where you stray away from your usual healthy diet with some form of eating or drinking that your "usual" diet wouldn't condone. This will be to a different extreme for each of us.
Perhaps you don't usually eat gluten although you are going to have that creamy carbonara pasta you've been longing for.
Or perhaps your weekly cheat is to leave your strict eating habits behind and to go out and drink some wine and cocktails.
Or maybe you have cut dairy out of your diet although you've just arrived at your friends house and there is a cheese platter.
Whatever your cheat meal or cheat day consists of, they are completely unavoidable if you are restricting your diet or calorie intake. When you are following a strict diet or counting your calories, you are eating from the mind, and the pendulum always swings the opposite direction eventually.
Let's start here when it comes to our diets....
Your body will not be the same moment to moment, day to day, week to week.
We are cyclical by nature so your bodies needs are always in flux.
On a particular day your body will ask for heavier food and on another day you'll feel like eating lighter food.
The key is to tune into what your body is asking for, as there is information being provided to you although we've learned to rely more on our mind rather than tuning into the needs of our body.
This is why following a specific type of diet that tells you what to eat throughout the day will always lead to either binge eating or an overly indulgent cheat meal later in the week. Because by restricting yourself you are creating imbalances which will need to be satisfied later.
This doesn't have to be a negative experience.
Yes, eating something unhealthy or a food that you are intolerant to is going to make you feel sick. Although the negative internal dialogue where you beat yourself up about it is going to make you even sicker.
I am here to help you change that dialogue.
How can we see this as a positive experience?
Cheat days can be extremely productive, although you must consider yourself an active participant in an experiment, working to find out what your body can and can't tolerate. Look at the experience as a learning experience and you will be reaping many benefits from the splurge.
Here are 4 steps to turn an episode of unhealthy eating into a positive and enlightening experience.
First, you want to watch the symptoms that come up.
If you've eaten some dairy and you've noticed a few new pimples come up, or you've eaten some gluten and your stomach has been hurting... these are indicators that you have some level of intolerance to this food.
Your body is sounding a small alarm that you should be steering clear of this food. If you continue to eat this food and you suffer from symptoms like headaches, stomach pains, constipation, diarrhea, acne or bloating then you should look into a substitute for this type of food because it's a sign that your body doesn't know how to break it down properly which can lead to further health problems down the track.
The key ingredient here is to eliminate any negative feelings about the experience. If you've had one too many glasses of wine or you ate the irresistible sticky date pudding... so be it. You are human. We are here to enjoy and sometimes this means indulging.
My rule of thumb is as long as you are putting nutrient dense food into your body 90% of the time, your body will be strong enough to support you 10% of the time when you slip up or want to indulge.
Remember, your body is a miraculous detoxification vessel that works 24 hours a day to clean out the bad stuff and use the good stuff to generate new cells.
If you've just had a big night of drinking or eating unhealthy food, then you will want to support your body on a physical level with a detox.
For most of my clients, especially those who are hormonally imbalanced, I would recommend a solid foods detox (also referred to as a cleanse). Our blood sugar needs to remain as balanced as possible which means fasting or juice diets aren't the best idea. You will gain all the same benefits from a whole foods cleanse.
Start your day with a juice:
For the remainder of the day you want to be eating as many whole foods as you can.
This means, no processed breads, pasta, chips or anything that comes from a packet or made in a factory.
You want to be eating foods that resemble the form they were picked or plucked from the ground.
This means a lot of fruit and vegetables. Incorporate dark leafy greens into each meal as they purify the blood and get things moving in the intestines.
Ensure you are drinking lots of water and herbal teas. We want to alkalinise the body with food and hydrate with lots of liquids.
In addition to a physical detox, you want to be doing a mental detox.
I want you to observe your thoughts after you've eaten something outside of your diet. Are you thinking something negative about the experience? Whenever you hear a thought come up that's saying:
"I shouldn't of eaten that, it's going to really effect my weight and health, I'm truly regretting this decision, I'm so stupid for giving into my temptations"
...replace these thoughts with...
"That is exactly what my body needed, I have learned so much from this experience, I am so grateful to be a human and indulge from time to time, I enjoyed every second of eating that meal and I will remember it for years to come. I am learning each time I eat something that is out of alignment and coming closer and closer towards a balanced diet that nurtures my body."
Negative thoughts and emotions can have a far worser impact on your body than the actual food.
Give yourself a mental detox and change your internal dialogue to thoughts of love and appreciation. This will help your body to restore and replenish itself.
When you are tempted to eat a piece of food that you have been craving, allow yourself to eat it on a rare occasion. Whilst you are eating the food, digest it with all of your senses. Observe the food. Taste it's deliciousness in every single bite. Eat it slowly and consciously.
During the experience, rather than beating yourself up with guilty thoughts, rewire your thoughts to something like this...
"I am so blessed to be experiencing this wonderful food. I am enjoying this so much. I am so grateful to be a human with taste buds that allow me the pleasure of eating yummy foods. This is not going to make me feel sick as my body knows exactly what to do with it. My body is strong and will flush out anything it cannot absorb for energy."
Your body will digest and assimilate your food completely differently when you change the internal dialogue.
Give this a go - it works!
Below is a video exploring this topic in more depth.