A year ago when I first started reading PH, there was lots of discussion about cheat meals. Since safe starches have hit the scene, there's no longer any discussion of cheat meals. Are we more satisfied now that we can have potatoes, etc.? Were cheat meals really about comfort food and are starches the ultimate comfort food?
I'm not a heavy starch eater but I don't consider it a cheat meal. If I throw a sweet potato into a stew and decide to add a handful of (soaked,drained) white rice, it's just food.
Now, that Cherry Garcia I had at Christmas--THAT was a cheat meal!
Since you used the term "safe starches", I look at them as connected with Perfect Health Diet. Starches are integral to the make-up of the diet on a daily basis. There are also an awful lot (or so it seems) of rather high carb eating paleos at PH. I think putting the term "cheat" on starch per se is wrongheaded. Rice, potatoes, etc. are not cheats to me. Chinese fried rice from my fave restaurant (still haven't managed to come close at home) and french fries ... those are cheats.
People losing weight should stay away from too many non vegetable carbs, and those who need the fuel should eat according to their needs.
Potatoes aren't "safe" even if you take off the skins, actually the highest concentration of toxins in in the 1-2mm under the skin.
Wild potatoes can literally kill you. Governments and farmers must assay the amount of toxin in potatoes before marketing them because every once in a while the production of toxin kicks in and you'll get a bunch of normally edible potatoes that are horribly not edible.
For me, I do treat them as a cheat. I am VLC otherwise, and will rarely have starches. If I find myself with a craving for something sweet, which is rare, I will allow myself a few bites of a sweet potato. Usually I'd say it ends up being a couple tablespoons worth off my hubby's plate, and I'm good. I have done this maybe once a month. I stay VLC, as I have some weight to lose, but hubby is RIPPED and can certainly afford the starch.
"Cheat meal" was a bit of a misnomer, or at least overused. The word cheat implies that you're breaking the rules. A real cheat meal would be, "I know I shouldn't eat pizza, but I was out with my friends last night, and after I had a couple drinks, I just couldn't pass it up anymore. I hope I don't feel like crap today or have trouble getting back to eating right."
But many people also used it to mean, "an occasional high carb meal that I include in my diet for a leptin reset" (or whatever). I guess that's because it kind of felt like cheating: "Ooh, I haven't had potatoes in so long, this is so good it can't be healthy." But if you choose to do it for a reason that you think will have positive results -- even just giving yourself a mental break from the stress of sticking to a diet -- it's not a cheat. There probably should have been a better term for it -- reset meal, break meal, my-neighbors-offered-me-free-potatoes-from-their-garden meal -- but it doesn't seem like any other term ever caught on.