I was gone last week at a family camp in Nebraska. It gave me a good bit of time to think about all the lessons God has taught me over the past few years. These are lessons about abiding in Him, resting in Him, and worshiping Him in everything, including body image and food and exercise. Out of those thoughts, I wanted to share a particular and somewhat popular (in my opinion: hurtful) part of the dieting/healthy mindset that made my recovery especially difficult.
I dislike the term ‘cheat day’. To me it seems to be one of the buzz terms that is often tossed around in the dieting and healthy living world. For me, the idea of the cheat day was far from healthy. In fact, cheat days became one of the most unhealthy parts of my recovery.
When I first began to pursue the road to recovery, I was afraid of going ‘all out’ with my eating. I wanted to eat enough, while still eating in a generally ‘healthy’ manner for most of the days. I selected one of those days to be the day to ‘break the bank’ before I got back to my routine.
However, the idea of a cheat day erased ‘moderation’ from my mindset. I would eat a huge bowl of cereal, even though I wasn’t hungry, just because it was a cheat day. Often, I wasn’t even grateful for the food I ate. Instead, I would be depressed about ‘eating too much,’ and I would make plans to start anew the next day. The cycle continued over and over and over.
I knew that I couldn’t continue this way, because food consumed my life just as much as it did before recovery. The problem was that I was still focused on food. I didn’t think about God providing the food for me. I didn’t think about enjoying food over fellowship with my family and friends. I could not think about anything else. Food continued to rule my life instead of Jesus Christ, and it kept dragging me down. I didn’t listen to my body and the hunger cues God gave me. Instead I focused on my ‘food’ idol, and it greatly stunted the recovery process.
What happened to stop this? I guess you could say that I became so sick of feeling ‘overly full’ all the time, and I learned how much more satisfying it was to have a small bowl of ice cream every day instead of 3 bowls on one day of the week.
I finally learned and am learning that it’s good to have your cake and eat it too. Do I consume whole cakes and pies on a regular basis? No. But I don’t go days without dessert just because I’m trying to be ‘healthy.’ I’m not obsessed over the idea of having a salad or a dessert every day, but if everybody else is having icecream, and I think it sounds good, I’ll have a bowl and thank God for it!
This is why I love the hashtag, #balancednotclean, that accompanies many of the recovery posts on Instagram. That is how I would describe my eating today. It’s fairly balanced. Are there days I don’t eat very many vegetables? Yes. Yet, I love eating vegetables, and I usually won’t turn down the opportunity to craft a giant salad as well as an icecream sundae. I can eat macaroni and cheese and salad and thank God for the carbs, proteins, and fats that He gives my body to fuel it everyday for His work!
(I couldn’t switch the photo. It wanted to stay sideways, so I guess you have to tilt your head to enjoy the macaroni and cheese and salmon I had on Saturday)
Food is just that. It’s fuel. It’s fellowship with my family. It’s not my idol, because Jesus is the one whom I worship. He is the one who makes me, molds me, protects me, and loves me, and it is in Him that I live and move and have my being.
Cheat Days? Love ’em or hate ’em? Why or why not?