Cheat: (as an intransitive verb)
1a : to practice fraud or trickery
1b : to violate rules dishonestly
2: to be sexually unfaithful
(Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
Cheat meal seems to be a commonly used phrase in the world of dieting and weight loss. I go out to eat and I see people saying they are having a “cheat meal” as they proceed to order something unhealthy or highly processed from the menu. For the past several months I’ve been wondering why Christians are comfortable with the term “cheat meal”; since when is it acceptable for Christians to schedule or make time for cheating. I don’t use the term “cheat meal”, instead I say “treat meal”. When you say that you are cheating during a meal or worse, having a day of cheating; who exactly are you tricking or whose rules are you violating dishonestly?
For myself, I’m not yet at the stage where I can claim something to be a treat meal. If I eat chips, cookies, or drink pop it means that somewhere during the day I had given into food temptation. People who are well disciplined with their healthy eating lifestyle are those who have actual treat meals. The occasional unhealthy meal or snack is not going to harm a person, but when these treats become a regular part of your eating plan, they are no longer treats. If unhealthy foods are a regular part of your eating plan, I would ask why you need to refer to it as a treat.
My main concern isn’t about what people are eating for cheat or treat meals; my focus is on the terms that we use when we know that we’ve given into temptation. Cheat, bad, mistake, fail, slip, etc. Words like these are terms used to describe a feeling of defeat. As believers we need to feed our minds words of strength and encouragement. Our journey of healthy living produces resiliency over time when we learn not to label ourselves with self-defeating words.
Everyone who struggles with eating well has at least one food item that is a problem. These are the foods where once you start eating them, you feel as if you can’t stop. Once the food item is gone you end up being more vulnerable to overindulging again. I do my best not to bring pop into the house and second on my list is cookies. For others they will have a different list of foods that they need to abstain from.
Dear fellow believers, we are not cheaters; let’s stop using that word.
My hope is that we can find a more positive term to use, one that is not self- defeating. I have become more comfortable with the following two terms: treat meal and break meal (meaning a break from your usual eating choices). Regardless of what you choose to call these times of indulgence, what you feed your body and how much of it still matters.
For further reading, linked below is a great article about cheat meals from Nia Shanks of Lift Like A Girl. http://www.niashanks.com/the-dark-side-of-cheat-days/
Here are other article about cheat meals: