I had a great dinner the other night when I caught up for beers with few mates. I ate beer battered fish and chips with tartar sauce and shared two massive plates of chilli cheese fries. I flushed it all down with four beers and two ciders. It was glorious. And although some people might call it a “cheat meal”, it wasn’t anything of sort. It was just another meal.
Sure, it was out of the ordinary and was made better by the company I was sharing the beers and the food with. But it was just a meal. I didn’t go home and eat less the next day because I felt guilt or shame for eating it. Once the meal was over I went on with my life, gasp!, as normal.
You might say the food I had was bad, but I can assure you that it was none of the sort. It didn’t taste bad at all. I didn’t feel I was being naughty for eating it. I mean, how could I, it’s food. The fries don’t know how to be naughty, they just lay there on the plate covered in cheese. As much as I try to find naughty thoughts in that scenario, I come up empty.
How about my wife then? Was I cheating her with food? She knew where I was and who I was with and she wasn’t upset when I got home with cheese on my shirt and beer on my breath. She didn’t start slamming doors and hurdling lamps at my way. So if I was cheating her with food she took it really well.
Labeling food is an easy way out
If you label every treat or a out-of-the-ordinary meal as a cheat meal, can I ask why? What or who are you cheating? Life? Yourself? If I’d be your coach would you be cheating me? No, to all of the above.
There is this messed up way in how we put labels on food and they don’t have the slightest stance in reality. Food either gets you closer to your goals, keeps you where you are at, or it moves you away from your goals. Food has no feelings or moral. It doesn’t believe in certain god or follow a particular political party. It doesn’t give a shit who’s running for the president. Because it’s food and it doesn’t know any better.
Food can act as a vehicle for great times with friends. But most crucially, food sustains life. It keeps you from not dying of starvation so you can do awesome stuff in life, with better quality and hopefully for longer. That is absolutely all that food is.
We put labels on food to help us deal with the fact that we don’t know how to eat a proper diet. We don’t like having loose diet ideas because it requires us to listen to how we feel, to get in touch with our hunger cues, or to make decisions whether this particular item is healthy or not. We want good and bad foods because it makes diets simple. It gives us clear cut lines to follow instead of thinking for ourselves. So we make eating a moral question, either we are being good, or we are being bad.
It’s the same reason why we are drawn towards meal plans, like they are the holy grail of body transformation results. Meal plans are like cheat meals, they both work. Until they don’t. And this “don’t work” moment strikes when something happens in life that forces us to get off the perfect, balanced, well-oiled rails of life. At that point we have no idea what to do because all we ever did was follow rules instead working on skills to help us when life is not perfect. And we all know that life is not perfect 99.9% of the time.
Unless you have some life-threatening allergies, or a real moral, spiritual dilemma and what not, every single food item has it’s place. Sure, some are meant to be had more often than others, such as carrots over fries. But neither is better or worse than the other.
In my suburban life I choose carrots more often than fries because I know it keeps me closer to my goal of being healthy. But if I’d shipwreck on a deserted island with no other food sources in sight, give me a box of fries over carrots any day. Fries will destroy carrots when it comes to the battle of calories for survival and that’s all I care about at that point. I couldn’t give two shits about vitamins and minerals when I am about to die of hunger.
What gets you closer to where you want to be. When you eat a diet suitable for grownups you do not need to worry about when to have a cheat meal. You don’t need to count the days from Monday until you can eat something delicious again on the weekend. Don’t rely on cheat meals, meals plans and other quick fixes to make it work or you’ll end up hellbent with the battle of good and evil foods.
Depending on your situation, lifestyle and goals, only you can make the decision on what you should eat. There is no universal, moral rules for good and bad foods.