All of us need to treat ourselves sometimes — even personal trainers. Actually, I’d say especially personal trainers. When it comes to nutrition, they are some of the most regimented professionals out there, and they could use a break!
Many trainers agree. They find that continually abstaining from all unhealthy foods isn’t the best for the body or the mind. It can lead to overeating and food guilt instead of enjoyment. Clean eating does not equal perfect eating.
Speaking of eating . . . This post is part of a new series on what personal trainers eat. I interview trainers from all over the country (and beyond) about their eating habits, nutritional philosophy, and how these relate to their roles in the fitness world. (You can find the first installment of the series here.)
As you’ve probably guessed, this post focuses on what trainers eat for a treat or a “cheat meal.” You may be surprised by a few responses. One trainer even emphasizes her indulgences apart from food. You’ll see!
I believe it’s important to indulge a little here and there because you’ll simply be happier. Eat the doughnut or the slice of pizza, and learn to enjoy food GF (and I mean guilt-free, not gluten-free). But let’s be clear, to indulge doesn’t mean that you overdo it. I’ll never endorse binge-eating. However, I will promote keeping that palate awake and satisfied.
Eating well doesn’t mean depriving yourself of what tastes amazing. It means making smarter choices.
We have an entire center in the brain dedicated to feeling good. Think of an indulgent moment as a means to a sense of balance.
What my moments look like:
- Gourmet doughnuts – My weakness, which only happens a few times a year
- Pizza – (Who doesn’t love Pizza?!) Truly a guilty pleasure I allow myself to enjoy with my daughters from time to time
- Ice cream – Halo Top, which is a protein-packed ice cream that competes with the best creameries around (only 240 to 360 calories per pint)
Dr. Raye Mutcherson is a certified fitness and wellness educator, consultant, trainer, and founder of Flexmechanics in West Hartford, CT. Flexmechanics designs personalized programs and fosters a sense of community among clients.
As a nutritionist and trainer, I believe in practicing what I preach! I can’t demand a client to eat a certain way if I am not willing to myself. So for most of the week, I eat well.
But on Saturdays, I allow myself a cheat meal.
- Baskin Robbins – One scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream
- Starbucks – One slice of pumpkin bread
- Jersey Mike’s – A mini turkey and provolone sub on wheat without mayo
Shantea Johnson is a nutritionist, a certified trainer, and the owner of DHW Nutrition and Fitness in Georgia. She educates women on how to eat healthier, balanced meals and helps them meet fitness and weight loss goals.
At the end of the day, I need to choose my food wisely and consciously. I am not a perfect eater by any means, and it can be a struggle to eat well sometimes. But I need to feed my body the best I can.
If I splurge, it will be for a small handful of dark chocolate raisins, or I’ll split a dessert with a friend one time per week. If I eat out on weekends, I typically go to restaurants that offer “healthier” food items.
If I truly indulge myself, it will be with something I enjoy other than food, such as a massage, pedicure, good movie, sharing a trip to the city with a friend, or hiking. I also love what I do, so I will take an advanced training class every month or attend a seminar in my chosen field of healthcare.
Ginny Erwin is a certified personal trainer and registered dietitian in Sausalito, CA. She also teaches a weight management class and works in a local hospital as an exercise counselor and facilitator of a diabetes prevention program.
I tell clients to stop saying they’ll never eat something again. Can you give up pizza on a regular basis? Yes. Are you planning to give up pizza for the rest of time? No.
When you take things away completely, it actually makes you want them more. So I stress moderation, not elimination.
I stick to the 80/20 rule. 80 percent of the time, I eat clean, and I indulge for the other 20.
My 20 percent sometimes looks like this:
- Friday nights in – Mediterranean chicken kabob with veggies, rice, and pita with hummus
- Sweet snacks – Stan’s Pistachio Donut or Halo Top’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream
- Once a month – Pizza and a Dr. Pepper
I try to spread out my indulgences over the week or month. Because I eat well and cook most of my food, I allow myself the ability to “cheat” — mostly outside of my home. I don’t keep any of my favorite treats in the house because then instead of having one doughnut, I would eat every doughnut until they’re gone.
Caitlin Akey is a NASM certified and insured personal trainer and the owner of Personal Training with Caitlin in Chicago, IL, where she strives to empower women by educating them on strength training, nutrition, and body positivity.
My cheat meal is either a Quest protein bar or a sandwich. (I used to be more strict.)
For a kind of “dessert,” a staple around the house tends to be popcorn. My son loves popcorn; everybody in our house does. When you smell it, you just feel like you’ve gotta have it, you know? I don’t need to eat it that late, but sometimes I do.
Jeff Thompson is a certified personal trainer, TRX specialist, Tabata Bootcamp instructor, and founder of T48 Fitness, which provides high-quality training to empower communities in Baltimore, MD to live an active lifestyle. He also runs 10:12 Sports, a nonprofit that uses athletics to create mentoring opportunities and job training for Baltimore’s youth.
NOTE: These responses have been edited for clarity.
Lauren Smith is the Managing Editor of Exercise.com. She is passionate about nutrition and holistic health (how the body, mind, and emotions intersect). She lives in Baltimore City, where she writes, plays music, embarks on long power walks through the park, takes contemporary dance lessons, and enjoys healthy, flavorful cuisine.