What is the definition of a "diet"? Let's consider two commonly used -- yet very different -- meanings:
So, perhaps the true definition of a diet referring, simply to the kinds of foods a group of people eats, has morphed into a less-healthy definition referring to restriction. This leads us to today's diet culture, defined as:
A set of beliefs that values thinness, appearance, and shape above health & wellbeing.
At Yes Health, we strive to go against the grain of this destructive and unhealthy definition of dieting. Instead, we support you in making small and sustainable changes that contribute to overall wellbeing in all senses of the word (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual).
We also try to avoid using the words “cheat” and “cheat days.” Why? Because cheating implies that some foods are inherently “bad.” We take a more holistic view when it comes to nutrition and diet: no one eats pristinely all of the time, it’s just not sustainable. (Who here is perfect? Not us!) Allowing ourselves a few well-chosen “treats” throughout the week is part of a healthy, happy, and balanced life.
The key is eating as healthy as possible most of the time, choosing your occasional treats wisely, and enjoying them without guilt or shame.
Cheat days create a “good/bad” diet mentality. They support the idea that when you’re “good” and stick to your diet during the week, you can have any food you want on the weekend.
Coach Julie notes that weekends make up 33% of our meals if you count Friday dinner through Sunday dinner. So indulging all weekend is a no-go when it comes to supporting a healthy lifestyle!
Cheat days essentially reward healthy behavior with unhealthy behavior. This may also result in inadvertently stoking cravings for certain foods, training yourself to ignore signs of hunger and fullness, plus physical discomfort, guilt, and shame that may be attached to overeating.
Instead, we encourage you to choose your indulgences (e.g. “treats!”) mindfully throughout your week–not as rewards, but as part of your overall meal planning.
One less-healthy choice here and there doesn’t undo all of the great progress you’re making to create new healthy habits–in fact, treats can be part of this progress.
“Enjoying a special meal out or slice of cake at a birthday party is no reason to feel guilty when you’re feeding your body nutritious, nourishing foods the rest of the time,” says Coach Rachel.
It’s important to feel satisfied and not suffer from hunger on a daily basis–deprivation only leads to overeating. The key is to get plenty of protein, healthy fats and fiber with each meal. The Yes Health Coaches are big fans of the 90/10 rule for weight loss and the 80/20 rule for weight maintenance. Coach Sara breaks the 90/10 rule down like this:
If you eat 5 times a day, the 80/20 rule would mean allowing yourself 7 small indulgences each week. The coaching team recommends exercising this approach once you’ve established healthy habits, are getting regular exercise and are already at or around your ideal weight.
Rather than permanently putting some foods in “treat only” territory, why not make them healthier by adding and subtracting ingredients? For example, whip up homemade salad dressings, opt for ketchup sans sugar, and substitute cottage cheese and/or plain greek yogurt for sour cream. (Just ask the Yes Health coaches for help if you need more inspiration.)
You can also occasionally blend a little bit of your “treat” with healthier foods. Coach Susan calls this the “dilution solution.” “I confess that I miss my Captain Crunch cereal,” she says. “Sometimes, I’ll sprinkle a small amount on my shredded wheat to satisfy my craving.” Here are a few other examples to get you started:
Remember, eating nutritiously can be an enjoyable experience, and "treats" can have a seat at the table.
"Intentionally choosing your foods and savoring most things in moderation isn’t just about weight loss or maintenance", points out Coach Miriam, "but also about self-care and feeling part of your community."
Balancing your eating choices with the health benefit of sharing experiences with others can limit feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out) and social isolation.
Breaking free from the diet culture and avoiding deprivation can prevent the temptation to eat so-called “bad foods” in private and bouncing from one fad diet to the next. Being truly healthy is all about finding balance.