Nowadays, it’s fairly common to hear the phrase “cheat meal” in relation to a diet plan. A “cheat meal” is supposed to be a meal that is not within the parameters of the prescribed diet or meal plan, and allowed at a certain interval, say once a week. This is supposed to help combat “over eating” or binging on something [bad] because you’ve given yourself a small bit of chips, sweets or whatever it is. I think the concept has its heart in the right place, but I think the name can be framed in a more healthy,and positive way.
“Cheat” vs. “Treat”
The word “cheat” to me conjures up all these negative thoughts or words. Cheating isn’t looked at positively in sport, in education or in relationships. How then do we justify that “cheating” is good in the framework of food? It makes it feel like a betrayal by the word itself, and instead of it being something that brings us joy – it’s laced with all this negativity.
Now, to me “treat” sounds like a better choice. We “treat” someone else to something nice as a gesture of thanks or appreciation, we can have a “treat” once in a while for a special occasion, so why wouldn’t “treat meal” make more sense? A treat is more often understood as “special” and “intermittent” by the nature of the word, and makes the situation seem more inviting than shameful.
For anyone who is struggling with their own health or diet battle, there are enough layers of shame, guilt or unhappiness to work through already – without the added weight of making something that should be a moment of reprieve, or joy turn negative by just a label. Those “treat” meals should be a time to enjoy food, not loathe it; it should be a time one can share with family or friends without guilt or fear. Those meals should refill the motivation to continue and gives someone something to look forward to again, not just a weekly chance to “break the rules”.
The words we use, and the phrases we speak (to ourselves) truly shape us, whether we realize it in the moment or not. Choosing words that empower us, bring us happiness or hope, or let us re-frame a situation in a positive light are the words we should be using.
What do you repeat to yourself on a regular basis that can be re-framed? What can be looked at as an opportunity instead of setback? Do you believe in the power of a misplaced word?