There Are No “Cheat Meals”

Do you ever use word “cheat” when it comes to food?

It’s a common thing to do these days. Certain diets allow “cheat meals” and some celebs have been known to allow themselves 1 “cheat day” per week.  These meals usually consistent of anything that is is not necessarily healthy or diet-approved.

I don’t have a problem with eating unhealthy meals, but I do have a problem with the word “cheat.”


To me, cheating implies being strict, restrictive and legalistic. Cheating leads me to believe there are rules to break. Cheating implies that there are certain foods that are okay to eat and certain foods that are off-limits.

If you feel like you’re cheating then you’re likely going to encounter feelings of guilt.

And if there’s anything you know about me by now, it’s that I believe guilt is often the one thing that stands in our way of living a healthy, free, balanced life.

Cheating also insinuates that you are forcing yourself to eat healthy foods because you HAVE to, not because you want to, which leads me to believe there is real work to be done in your relationship with what it means to live a healthy, vibrant life. But this is a topic for another day…

To be fair, I coach women through an online program where I encourage them to eat primarily from a meal plan of approved foods. Which means that if women eat “off plan” they may be led to think that they are cheating.

But rather than calling them “cheats”, I encourage myself and others to call them “mindful indulgences.”

It may be a subtle difference, but this reframing can bring a whole new level of awareness and fresh perspective on foods that are typically thought of as “bad.”

Mindful indulgences are special, they are recognized for being out of the ordinary, rather than a norm. Indulging can feel wonderful, without the feeling of guilt that follows.

To take it one step further, mindful indulgences are a part of a healthy, balanced diet.

I believe that sometimes it’s absolutely worth it to indulge. Food is meant to be enjoyed! It all comes back to how we frame the issue and relate to the choices we’re making.

healthy wine pairing

I indulge when it’s truly worth it. If I’m out on a date with my husband at a well-known restaurant, I am going to indulge in that signature dish and perhaps and a glass of wine.

But if I’m out with my family at a brewery on an average Tuesday night, the chicken strips and extra fries are rarely worth it. For me, that would be a time to choose a healthy option because the indulgence really wouldn’t bring joy or an experience worth savoring.

It all comes down to making conscious choices.

Becoming self-aware enough to know the difference between when something is truly worth it and when something is just tempting because it’s there, or because we’re bored, or because we’re emotional has the power to change our relationship with food.


And it’s important to keep in mind that what’s worth it to one person, may not be worth it to another. I can skip ice cream any day…but chocolate molten lava cake? Get out of my way. 🙂

So I’m curious, do you use the word “cheat?” Would you consider using the word “mindful indulgence” instead? I’d love to hear your thoughts.



PS – Are you a member of The Balanced Life Sisterhood yet?

  1. Whitney 6 years ago

    I’m in the terrible habit of having what I call “free weekends” I eat really good mon to thurs then whatever I want all weekend, which leaves me guilty and starving all day on Monday. I don’t necessarily eat unhealthy on the weekends, but I eat a lot MORE food than I normally would, enter peanut butter, my favorite indulgence! The REALLY bad news is I’m still on my post pregnancy weight loss journey and these weekends aren’t helping me lol! Any words of advice to help me stay on track through the weekends? Maybe a frame of mind I can get myself in to help me focus on my goals for my health when that peanut butter is calling me from the cupboard?!

  2. Miray 6 years ago

    You’re the best Robin! I’m so thankful to have found you! This post is spot on! We’ve tried the “cheat meal” or “cheat day” thing before, and it never works for me. It definitely would set me into an unhealthy/negative mind set with my relationship with food and my body. Keeping it all about Balance is the way to go for sure! Thank you again!

  3. Brenda 6 years ago

    Love love LOVE this! I believe you mentioned this before and I totally adopted it into my lifestyle! Calling it an indulgence makes me stop to think if it actually is an indulgence (will i take the time to enjoy the food), or is it something that i will eat and not feel satisfied afterwards – the conscious choices make all the difference 🙂 I love the positive feelings associated with the word “indulgence”, opposed to the negative ones associated with the word “cheat”. Thanks again for a bit of positive in my day 🙂

  4. Debbie Borthwick 5 years ago

    I had a ‘cheat’ meal one Saturday recently when we went out for dinner with friends. I had a cheeseburger & fries (this place has the best burgers and I’m a cheeseburger addict). I didn’t finish the burger and only had 1/4 of the fries. I gained 4 pounds that week…but lost 4 and 1/2 inches…made no sense to me but I swore off burgers. After reading this post, maybe I should rethink my thinking. I like “mindful indulgences” better than cheat…and it makes more sense. I won’t beat myself up when I enjoy a special meal, and I’ll allow myself to have it once in a while.

  5. Kelly Jarvis 3 years ago

    I love the idea of thinking through whether an indulgence is really worth it. Polishing off a can of Pringles wouldn’t be worth it but a really good cheeseburger and fries would be!

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