Each new year, we scramble to find quick fixes to broken habits and food relationships. One approach I see repeatedly is the “cheat day” or “cheat meal” strategy. A cheat day is when you allow yourself to eat whatever you want for a specific timeframe. It’s traditionally thought of as cheating on your diet or giving yourself a “break” or “reward.”
Cheat days can be a slippery slope to an overly restrictive diet coupled with binge eating on the weekends, which has a detrimental impact on your metabolism, among other things.
FUNCTION VS PLEASURE MEALS
I want to share with you a different perspective on the cheat day mentality. Take the phrase “cheat meal” and replace it with the question “is this a function or pleasure meal?”
Your nutrition falls into one of two eating categories. Functional eating is using food as fuel with the ability to change your physiology for the better, perhaps, for example, to reach an external goal. Pleasure eating is enjoying food for its taste, memories, experiences, and connections in your life. Your nutrition needs both.
Function Food example
Pleasure Food example
Store-bought Chicken wings
Sweet potato fries
Regular wine at dinner
Halo Top ice cream
Functional meals and pleasure meals are not mutually exclusive. Functional meals bring lots of eating enjoyment and you can reap health rewards from pleasure meals.
The key takeaway is separating meals into two categories without referring to foods as “good” or “bad.” You are no longer cheating on your diet, but instead owning the choice you make and acknowledging consequences (both good and bad!).