How do you feel about Cheat Meals?
Generally the idea of a cheat meal fills people with joy, that meal where, after being good for however long, you can let go and eat whatever dirty foods you desire.
Most of us probably absent mindly refer to meals as cheat meals or cheat days when we don’t track or monitor what we are eating without really considering the problem with this way of thinking.
So what is the problem?
To clarify I don’t see a problem with eating the food. I love a massive burger, pancakes covered in all the sauces and basically all and any type of cake.
The problem is with the ‘cheat’ mentality.
The issue is two fold.
Firstly – The issue it creates with your relationship with food. The idea of good and bad foods and that when you eat ‘bad’ food you are being ‘bad’ and that you are only doing well if your sticking to your ‘clean’ diet. This type of mentality will both make you a bit miserable and will make your food intake feel restrictive, ironically this is more likely to make you want to ‘cheat’ or binge.
Secondly, if you are trying to create a calorie deficit, eating a massive unaccounted for, cheat meal will effectively wipe out any calorie deficit you’ve managed to create that week.
Say you are trying to reduce your calorie intake by 500 calories a day to create a deficit, that’s 3,500 calories a week. Now say you’ve hit that every day Monday- Friday so you’ve hit a calorie deficit of 2,500 calories. Then on Saturday you have your cheat meal. You don’t track this because it’s your ‘cheat’. Then you again hit your 500 calorie deficit on Sunday. Yet you don’t see any progress, you don’t get why- you had a 3,000 calorie deficit last week and just one cheat meal. Something is wrong with your body, there has to be.
Had you tracked your cheat meal you’d have realised you ate 2,500 calories in that meal (maybe even more).
In reality that week you hadn’t created a calorie deficit – your cheat meal meant you’d hit your TDEE instead. Now the lack of progress makes more sense. Essentially that cheat meal has sabotaged your progress.
Does that mean not having the food? Of course not, but you need to be aware of what your consuming at every meal. That way you can have that takeaway on Saturday but know you are still in a calorie deficit – this is how you can start seeing results.
Once you accept that labeling a meal or day a ‘cheat’ doesn’t mean it has not calories or impact on your diet you can start to see results.