Ahhh… cheat meals! If you’ve dieted before you are probably familiar with them.
What are cheat meals?
They may have slightly different meanings depending on what type of diet you are on. For most people cheat meals are when you eat clean all week (or eat according to a prescribed plan). Then you go “off” that plan for one meal – aka, the “cheat meal.”
Cheat meals are so popular that there are many memes about them. In fact, I did a Google search for “cheat meal images” and here are a few funny ones I found:
As you can see, cheat meals can evoke many emotions. Most have to do with cycles of deprivation while waiting for the cheat meal to occur and excess when the cheat meal takes place. Obviously, by the number of memes, many people are struggling with the cheat meal lifestyle – whether they want to admit it or not 🙂
I WAS THE CHEAT MEAL QUEEN 🙂
I was the queen of cheat meals, especially in my efforts to create balanced-living. In a way, cheat meals DID bring more balance than simply trying to eat clean 100% of the time. To know you could have one night where you could eat pizza with your family and enjoy a hot fudge sundae once a week was much more balanced than trying to swear off those foods forever.
Sounds like a good mix of healthy eating and sensible splurging, right?
Yes, using cheat meals WAS a more balanced method than other hard-core diets, BUT I’m writing today to tell you there’s a lifestyle even better out there.
My views on cheat meals have evolved over the past couple years, to the point where I don’t do them anymore.
Now before reading further, if you have a weekly cheat meal and do well handling it, and do NOT have any of the 8 warning signs below, feel free to keep them if you’d like #DoWhatWorksForYou.
But for the majority of us (me included), I found cheat meals could unintentionally set us up for more struggles down the road. And to be honest, when you learn about this evolved way to handle cheats to create even more balance and satisfaction (while still reaching your goals), you may see the value in making the change too.
THE PROBLEM SOME PEOPLE HAVE WITH CHEAT MEALS
For some, cheat meals may work for a while, but they don’t help you practice moderation. You also get into that black-and-white thinking, which is a dangerous mindset to be in with fitness.
8 WARNING SIGNS CHEAT MEALS MAY NOT BE WORKING WELL FOR YOU
- 1) You aren’t maintaining your weight loss long term – or you’ve had rebound weight gain using the cheat meal method.
- 2) You fall into the cycle of losing weight during the week and gaining it back on weekends – causing you to plateau or not lose weight in a realistic time frame.
- 3) You feel deprived during the week and rely on willpower (which is hard to keep up) until you can splurge on your cheat meal.
- 4) You have trouble stopping at one cheat meal and the cheats may continue throughout the weekend or even into the next week.
- 5) You don’t know how to eat “cheat foods” or treats without going overboard (i.e. you can’t have a taste and stop at 1 or 2 bites). You feel like you have to get those temptations out of the house.
- 6) You don’t know how to eat the foods you love on vacation without going overboard the whole time. For example, you go on vacation and come back gaining 10 lbs because you used that as a reason to splurge the entire time.
- 7) You’ve never been able to master the idea of “moderation.” It’s either all-or-nothing when it comes to nutrition and treats.
- 8) You feel anxiety about the cheat meals ending.
SO, WHAT DO YOU DO INSTEAD OF CHEAT MEALS?
You cheat daily! I know, confusing – right? Read on.
MY INTRODUCTION TO MODERATION AND #NoBannedFoods WEIGHT LOSS
So, I was having a cheat meal each week, in my efforts to stay balanced, enjoy life, but get results too. Truth be told, though I was struggling with a few of the 8 warning signs above. Then one day, a couple years ago, I was read a post by fitness blogger, Jill Coleman, about how why she quit cheat meals. Could have been this post HERE or a similar one.
As I was reading her blog about giving up cheat meals, and using moderation instead (what she calls, “moderation 365”) – I had to STOP reading it. This was all about eating the same types of foods 365 days per year! Not high carb one day per week, not a cheat day, not eating differently on vacation or holidays than you would in your daily life. It freaked me out. I was like, “NO, I CAN’T UP MY BIG CHEATS, and how the heck do I allow all foods 365 days per year and live a life of moderation?!
But, over a period of a couple weeks I kept thinking about that blog post about giving up cheat meals and went back to it and read it again. Something inside of me knew this old way wasn’t working as well as I’d hoped and there may be something better out there.
After I finally finished reading the blog post and opening myself up to the idea, I spent the next few months practicing moderation (and using a lot of patience), and slowly started creating a new way of eating.
With a little practice, I toned up more and finally felt completely balanced around food. I started my #NoBannedFoods lifestyle. In addition, I presented the idea to many of my clients who were still struggling with balance, and they started seeing better results too.
Best of all, we didn’t even miss our old weekly cheat meal anymore 🙂
Ready to try a new way to eat too? Here are steps to giving up cheat meals & start a #NoBannedFoods weight loss lifestyle:
- 1) You stop having the “assigned” cheat meal once a week.
- 2) You stop labeling foods as “good” or “bad.” Yes some are healthier than others, but labeling foods as “bad” automatically gives the impression you should be ashamed or not eat those food.
- 3) You say you can eat those “cheat foods” any day of the week. I purposefully build small portions of foods I love like chocolate, wine, tea and more into my daily diet. I do this so I feel satisfied all week before most of the cravings even begin.
- 4) You enjoy those treat foods as a small portion of your day. Still have satisfying healthier foods as the bulk of your meals each day. Example: have a piece of pizza and a side salad, instead of 4 pieces of pizza.
- 5) If you do have an occasional meal that’s full of completely “unhealthy foods,” you don’t label it a cheat meal. You just eat it and move on. No guilt.
- 6) Extra credit: As you practice, if you want to see how the small portions of these foods fit in your day from a nutrition standpoint, you have the option to log them on My Fitness Pal. This is helpful to see the impact they make to your calories. I often “work in” some of these treats and still keep my total calories for the day where they need to be. This will also help you ensure calories are still in line for fat loss. I do this many nights my husband wants unhealthier foods for dinner. I’ll still track it on My Fitness Pal, but modify my portions to stay close to calorie goals.
GOOD FOR YOU!
If you made it to the end of this message, you got further than I did when I first read about giving up my cheat meals 🙂 I applaud you! Even if you are not ready to give up your weekly cheat meal yet, but you know you have some of the warning signs, I encourage you to start thinking about these new strategies and learning how to create even more balance in your fat-loss lifestyle.