I had a client ask me an interesting question recently, and I wanted to share it.
And also, how I messed up my response!
“Could I consider every meal I eat out to be a cheat meal?”
Now, let me preface my response by saying she caught me off-guard by asking me during a training session. Consciously or subconsciously, maybe that was by design? Because I always prefer to separate training and nutritional guidance in my coaching.
My off-the-cuff response was, “I suppose that depends on how many times a week you eat out.”
“Let’s say two,” she said.
Two cheat meals a week seems excessive. But I rattled off something to the effect of, “If it’s a post-workout meal, you have more room for error … and can indulge a bit more.”
“So, earn it?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
Man, would I like a do-over for this coaching moment.
Can you see where I went wrong here?
As we know, our actions and behavior are determined by our thoughts, which create feelings. And a lot of what we think and feel is directed by the language we use.
Concepts like “earning” food with exercise can be problematic, because this type of thinking assigns values to the two things involved.
Exercise = good
Food = bad
That’s not the best way to look at it.
Similarly, referring to a meal as a “cheat meal” assigns a negative connotation to it. If it’s cheating, it must be bad. And in order for the meal to live up to the meaning we’ve assigned to it … well, then it’s going to have to be extra bad.
Pun intended … this kind of thinking is a recipe for disaster.
Rest assured, I’ve since had a do-over conversation with this client to express what I’m about to express to you here.
Don’t demonise food. Instead, make choices that are in alignment with your goals. And if you’re going to indulge, do it intentionally … but don’t assign a value or emotion to it.
Don’t treat exercise as a punishment for making poor food choices … or an excuse for doing the same.
Be Switzerland. Remain neutral.
Live on the continuum, instead of at the extremes.
Rewarding yourself with food is a bad idea. So remove the term “cheat meal” from your vocabulary.
Once you’ve got that cleared up, shoot me a reply and let me know how liberating that feels.
And enjoy how much better your nutritional decision-making becomes when you remove guilt from the equation.