I’ve been thinking a lot about cheating lately. We talk about it all the time. It’s constant.  Waiting to cheat. Planning it. Thinking about it days in advance. We already know what we want to happen. The anticipation is brutal.  Then, before we know it. It’s over.  We’re left alone, probably sweating, and with a tinge of regret and guilt about what just happened. Even so, we know…deep down…we are going to do it again.

Don’t get all bent out of shape, now. Get that head of yours out of the gutter! I’m not talking about a secret meeting with a sweet side piece. I’m talking about that thing we’ve all grown to love:

The cheat meal.

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A deliciously simple wonder called the Angry Burger at Mills Tavern in Hoboken, NJ. Beef, Bacon, Cheese. Yes please.

Why, you ask, has this been on my mind? Well, as we get into the start of the 2014 Whole Life Challenge, people are all a twitter about what their cheat meals will be and when they have cheat days planned. It’s not out of the ordinary.  Even without the challenge happening, we’re all constantly going on about our next cheat meal.  I always plan my cheat meals. They are circled in bold red sharpie on my calendar.

This got me thinking…why do we call it a cheat meal?  When you really break it down, it doesn’t make any sense.

Let’s talk about what it means “to cheat” in the first place. To cheat is to “act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain advantage, especially in a game or examination”, according to the good ol’ dictionary.

The most important part of that sentence is this: to gain advantage. This exact idea is what got me pondering, ever so thoughtfully, about cheat meals.  When you cheat in a game, you still win, in the technical sense- clear conscious or not.  When you cheat on a test, you still get the good grade even if you don’t actually know the material.  When you have a cheat MEAL, however, that whole pizza and six pack now dancing happily in your belly are not magically null and void.  You’ve backtracked yourself.  You can’t “cheat” nutrition.  You’re not really “cheating” when you have a cheat meal.  The food was still eaten, the beer still drunk. It’s not undone because it was called a cheat meal. It still counts.

Now, don’t get it twisted. I am in no way shaming you for having these meals.  I have them weekly.  I look forward to them for days at a time and sometimes am thinking about my next big meal DURING the one I’m currently having.  I often look at menu’s of restaurants I will visit in the future while sitting there stuffing my face at another one.  I’m sitting on a plane to Colorado right now counting down the minutes to 4:00 pm when I will be at Oskar Blue’s ChuBurger with a hamburger in one hand and a beer in the other.

I’m saying, I think it’s time to come up with something else to call these days when we drop our inhibitions like a teenager on prom night.  I saw a tweet from Robb Wolf a while back where someone asked him what his cheat meals are.  His response was something along the lines of, “I don’t have cheat meals, I just eat.”.  I found this statement rather liberating.  Maybe it’s the thought process of being “on track” and then cheating that makes it so all-consuming. Maybe we need to dumb it way down and do just that…simply eat.

We know what foods are good for us: lean meats, fruit, veg, and nuts.  We know which ones are bad: sugar, grains, alcohol, and chemicals.  Why not just eat the good stuff, and when we occasionally eat the bad stuff stop making such a stink about it?

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A pint of Russian River Blind Pig IPA at the famous Falling Rock Tap House in Denver, CO.

So what to call them? I’ve heard a few variations but my favorite, I think, is one I heard on a PodCast I’ve been listening to lately called Barbell Buddha hosted by Chris Moore. He has what he calls ‘Vice Fridays”, and it is exactly what it sounds like. They often consist of multiple pints of ice cream, pizza, almost always Guinness, and a collection of other forbidden items.  I like this take on it the best because it’s not lying about what they are. Vices. “A weakness of character or behavior. A bad habit.” I know, I know. None of us like to say that we have weaknesses. If we didn’t though, this whole cheat meal nonsense would be a non issue. You’re not a bad person because you want a burger WITH the bun and covered in melty gooey cheese.  You’re a human being with taste buds. It’s fine. Just maybe don’t make it a daily thing.  Make it something you do for yourself every now and again to keep yourself sane.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? So when you want that burger or pizza, make it a GREAT burger or pizza.

Finishing up a rope climb during the Go Ruck Nasty in Virginia...before heading to get a post-race burger.

Finishing up a rope climb during the Go Ruck Nasty in Virginia…before heading to get a post-race burger.

As my blog name would imply, I am all about balance. Eat well, drink well, and move well. If I went full force strict nutrition and two-a-days heavy CrossFit, I would likely eventually snap.  If I went gung-ho into all of my favorite foods and beers, my insides would probably deteriorate.  that being said, all three of these things make me very happy, so I’m not willing to remove any of them from my life.  So that means I need to experiment and find my best balance.

Last event (for me, at least!) in the Tri State Games 2013. Triplet with box jumps, burpees and ball slams...and a beer after.

Last event (for me, at least!) in the Tri State Games 2013. Triplet with box jumps, burpees and ball slams.

So, go out there and take on your WODs with veracity. Be intense for the hour that you are there. Get every second you can out of it.  Fuel your body with quality, whole foods. Eat what makes you feel your best.  When you sit down to have one of those Vices, take a breath, relax and enjoy the moment. You can be good again tomorrow.