Eat or Skip - Cheat Meals

 

Cheat Meals. There is something so alluring and tempting about cheat meals that it becomes a craving. This becomes truer when we start following a healthy lifestyle. To put a comedic twist to Shakespeare’s quote, “To eat or not to eat” is what comes to mind. This happens when we are trying to eat healthier and avoid processed junk, but we do crave for the latter, as sometimes - it just tastes so good. The more you try to control this impulse, the more you feel like eating it.

So, there is nothing to be sad about missing out on your favourite food, which falls into the “unhealthy” box. Cheat meals are your excuse every once in a month or after a specific duration where you can relish in your favorite fast foods and then continue with your diet until next time.

Here are three ways to do cheat meals:

  • You cheat any meal as per your choice making sure your energy and macronutrients are balanced.
  • You can follow your diet for specific days and then allow one full day of cheat day as your reward.
  • You can cheat your diet with snacks so that it does not affect your calculations much.

The theory behind cheat meals is to reward yourself by allowing a specific period of indulgence to avoid binge eating and to bring a feeling of satisfaction to mind.

Food in cheat meals will vary from person to person as we are all different. There is no specific guideline to follow a cheat meal; it is a very individualistic approach which depends on a person's health, goals and dietary preferences.

Weight loss and metabolic changes

Leptin is the hormone responsible for hunger. With weight loss, leptin may decrease. Thus, you are not satisfied and you over eat resulting in more weight gain. Thus, a balanced cheat meal (yes, that is a thing too!) within a certain calorie limit might work well for you.

Using a consistent and planned cheat meal

Another way of including cheat meals is allowing yourself to cheat with foods that are not permitted in your diet so that you have the motivation to stick to your planned diet most of the time. 

However, It should be properly planned as it cannot be a free ticket to over indulgence. No one would want to throw away weeks of careful eating by binging on a few pizzas at once.

Food, French Fries, Burger, Meal, Lunch, Chips, Dinner

‘Treat’ rather than ‘Cheat’

The word “cheat” is associated with feelings of guilt overall giving negative feelings to some of the people who believe in discipline. However, a three-month study noticed that people who associated chocolate cake with celebration had more success with their weight loss goals than those who linked this food to feelings of guilt. Thus, it is advisable to remove the stigma attached to the word ‘cheat’ with ‘treat’ to have a positive approach.

Here are some tips when you are including cheat meals:

  1. Do not indulge in binge eating. Maintain your frequency and quantity of your cheat meals very carefully. Keep a note so that you are aware. If you know that you have any social event coming up plan your cheat meal on that day.
  2. Burn those extra calories after cheat meals to avoid weight gain. Doing cardio and other exercises for a week or two might help get rid of the calories stored from the cheat meal. 
  3. Focus on quality of food as well or else it will affect your physical as well mental health. Eating just simple sugar like cakes, candies while staying within calories will make you stray further from your fitness goals.
  4. Be mindful of how to incorporate your cheat meals. If you love sweets, try not to indulge in too much and eat smaller proportions.
  5. Enjoy your healthy lifestyle. At the end of the day, working toward a healthier diet or lifestyle should be about making sustainable changes that meet your unique needs and tastes. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. If you’re unable to make this work on your own, consider consulting with a dietitian or other qualified health professionals, who can help you build an effective and enjoyable diet plan to reach your health goals.

The bottom line is that cheat days or cheat meals can effectively motivate some people to stick to their diet but are not recommended for those who are suffering from eating disorders or have a history of doing so. This strategy may be more successful alongside other tools, such as mindful eating and self-control practices.

Sources: 

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23801147
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195666313004698

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