Eating clean has its perks, but we’re all humans. When we’re changing habits like going from unhealthy eating to clean eating, it takes a lot of willpower and hard work. Controlling our impulses and staying good week after week with no rewards or incentives becomes torture in this way.
But a cheat meal may just be your answer if that’s the case.
What Is a Cheat Meal?
A cheat meal is a single meal where you get to indulge yourself as much as you want as a reward. Well, not totally indulge yourself and go on bingeing, but yes, you get to eat what you like basically. This includes pasta, pizzas, high-calorie foods, desserts, and those chips you’ve been craving for.
How Is Cheat Meal Different From Cheat Day?
A cheat meal is not a cheat day – and that’s the difference between cheat meal vs cheat day. It’s just a single meal and it doesn’t mean stuffing your face throughout the whole day. Cheat meals also don’t fully reverse the work you put in but cheat days have the potential to.
Benefits of Cheat Meal for Your Diet and Fitness Routine
Here are a few cheat meal metabolism benefits or reasons why it works in various fitness and weight loss routines:
1.Prevents You From Going on a Binge
We’re serious here. A cheat meal is more about satisfying your psychological needs than physiological. You just feel the ease after giving yourself a little bit of slack after the hard work. All we can say is that works and you end up not bingeing since you look forward to your next reward again later.
2.Helps You Get Over Weight Loss Plateau
When you eat clean for too long without having a cheat meal, your body’s metabolism sort of stabilizes and you end up facing difficulty losing the extra weight. This is when a cheat meal metabolism break helps. It gives it a jolt and revs your hunger and satiety (leptin and ghrelin) hormones up for a change, helping you burn more calories and lose that stubborn fat.
3. Helps You Stop Worrying About Calories
Unlike cheat days where you have to track calories, a cheat meal for fat loss doesn’t set you off far behind. You don’t have to worry about calories when you’re indulging in a small meal and also, it gives you a break from the stress and discipline of being hard on yourself.
4. Makes You Eat Cleaner
Yes. It does. Indulging in that cheat meal makes you realize you’re not perfect and that’s okay. You move forward and start eating cleaner. A few hiccups here and there are needed in life for those big wins.
5. Teaches You More About Food
This is a side benefit, but some people report making their own cheat meals instead of indulging outside in the processed stuff. This ends up teaching you more about healthier ingredient substitutions and nutrition, in general.
When Can You Go for a Cheat Meal?
You should ideally go for a cheat meal at the end of every week. One to two cheat meals a week doesn’t hurt; and if you’re enjoying them using natural and not processed ingredients, you may indulge a bit. A cheat day once a week works too, provided you track your calories and don’t go overboard. We usually recommend cheating meals since you can sometimes get away with it even if the calories are on the higher side.
Few reasons you shouldn’t have cheat meals are –
- If you’re facing severe nutritional deficiencies
- If you’re already exceeding your planned-out calorific intake
- You’re allergic to ingredients in processed foods or have specific food allergies associated with your cheat meals
Dos of Cheat Meal
Here are a few cheat meal rules or the dos of enjoying your cheat meal to the fullest.
- Have Small Portions – If you can’t handle the idea of waiting a whole week for your cheat meal, you can try making your own healthy version of it at home. Use natural ingredients and healthier substitutes for refined sugar and oils. Make the portions smaller and enjoy them at home at the end of the day. Eat smaller sizes but mindfully, so that you don’t binge but rather truly enjoy it.
- Eat What You Like – That is the point of a cheat meal. Don’t avoid that pizza, pasta, burger, brownie, or whatever else you’ve been craving for. That little indulgence is good for you and even dietitians would swear by it. Denying what you like would just mean you’re ignoring your cravings and that’ll just make them worse in the long run. Have that bite, it won’t hurt and healthy cheat meals keep those hunger calls at bay.
- Track Your Calories – To plan your cheat meals right, make sure to note the calories. Your macros and micro-nutrients don’t matter when it comes to your cheat meals, but the calories do. The occasional cheat meal won’t put you in any nutrient deficiencies, but if you ignore the calories and eat how much ever you want, then it becomes a problem.
- Use A Food Diary – Writing on a food diary is not only a fantastic way to keep an eye out for what you’re eating, but it also helps you plan your indulgences. Feeling like having dessert this Tuesday? Leave some room for it in that!
- Go Easy and Slowly – Going from an unhealthy lifestyle to a cleaner one takes time. You have to give your body and mind time to adjust. So don’t go cold turkey or beat yourself up if you fail a few times at first. Enjoy your cheat meal and keep room for them because that’s what helps make the progress. It’s not cheating, it’s giving yourself a break and going back to work again.
Don’ts of Cheat Meal
Here are a couple of don’ts of cheat meals below.
- Don’t Go On A Guilt Trip – One cheat meal isn’t going to backfire on your progress. And if you’re using healthier ingredients like coconut sugar instead of refined white sugar and hormone-free grass-fed lean meats instead of the processed stuff you get in fast food chains, you’re already doing yourself a favour. Don’t label the voice inside you. Just dial it down and give yourself a gentle reminder that you back to healthy eating soon.
- Don’t Binge – Have a cheat meal, sure, but don’t extend it to a cheat day or week or a month. If you’re going out with friends for the Saturday brunch, have a banana or some fruit before heading out. Pair your cheat meals with a cocktail, beer, or glass of wine since it helps keeps your indulgences in check and enjoy yourself.
- Don’t Starve/Fill Yourself Prior to It – Don’t starve yourself before going for that cheat meal; it might make you overeat. Similarly, don’t fill yourself up before indulging in the meal. That just means you won’t be able to enjoy the day when it’s right around the corner.
Everybody has questions about how to make your cheat meals perfect. Truth be told, the type and kind of cheat meal you have will have fully depends on your personal health and weight loss goals. There’s no right or wrong way of having a cheat meal. Here are some frequently asked questions that tell you how to not cheat on your diet overall but just have that meal guilt-free.
1.How Often Should You Cheat on Your Diet?
There are no rules when it comes to cheating on your diet. But if you need a guideline, if you plan to eat out, stick to one or two times a week. If you’re making your very own customized cheat meals at home, you can cheat as much as you like. But make sure to reserve cheat meals after you’ve met your nutritional requirements for the week and day and track those calories.
2.Can You Fast After Cheat Meal or Cheat Day?
Yes, you can. Fasting helps you create that calorie deficit and get rid of that water weight you gain too. Water fasting works well and if you’ve gone on a 10,000 calorie binge, try 3-day water fasts and pick up those weights. You’d be surprised how fast you bounce back. But don’t give in to the false hunger during your fasting window and if you absolutely need something, go for herbal teas.
Cheat meals aren’t bad for you and work in your favour when done right. Don’t hesitate and try them out. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results and stick to your diet better too, that way.