The key to a lasting lifestyle plan is balance. You want to develop a way of living that complements your daily routine, wants and needs. Many wellness programs suggest following a strict diet then allowing yourself a cheat day here or there. While I agree with the concept, the labeling is misplaced.

A cheat day implies that you are doing something wrong, like when you were a child and sampled from a few candy bins at your local grocery store. It insinuates that you are trying to hide something or get away with it. This concept of shame has absolutely no place in a healthy lifestyle plan.

Instead, I suggest looking at it like this. Food is not good or bad. We have a tendency to assign foods certain qualities that they do not possess. For instance, chili cheese fries or a hot fudge sundae are not evil. You are not a horrible person because you enjoyed one. Having said that neither is the best choice from a health perspective.

Thus, look at selecting your food as making choices. 80 percent of the time you want to make whole food choices that are going to be beneficial to you and your body. The other 20 percent of the time do what you will. This is where you place the foods that hold meaning to you. Things you love, crave or enjoy around your friends and family. For example, if your family has a tradition of enjoying Friday night pizza, eat clean all day long and then have a healthy breakfast the following morning (bonus points if you included a salad at dinner or got a workout in). The trick is to practice balance and moderation. It’s not cheating; it’s part of a healthy lifestyle plan.

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