As a personal trainer my in home personal training and gym clients often discuss cheat meals. Are they okay, should I do them, and if so how often am I allowed to have one. The answers I get are ranged from none to several, and included many examples of cheat foods such as cake, ice cream, steak, and more.
Cheat meals or cheat days have been around for as long as dieting. Despite seeming logical, they rarely work, for several reasons:
1. Dieting doesn’t work, so cheating a diet is irrelevant. If you frame your attempt to lose weight as a temporary diet instead of a new way of living, then you will adopt a daily regimen that is too difficult and unsustainable. As a result, you will need to constantly cheat. Forget about dieting….think lifestyle change!
2. A single cheat meal can ruin an entire week of calorie counting. If you are trying to lose a modest half pound per week, all you need to do is create a 250 calorie deficit per day (1750 calories a week). A single cheat meal eaten at a restaurant can easily surpass that and ruin the other 20 meals and 14 snacks.
Here’s the math: take an appetizer (4 buffalo wings = 400 calories), main dish with 2 sides (lasagna + garlic bread + salad = 1200 calories), dessert (fudge cake = 600 calories), and 2 drinks (300 calories). Adding up the elements, we get a cheat meal with 2500 calories.
3. You’re only cheating yourself. If you’re going to the trouble of changing your lifestyle and losing weight, why in the world would you regularly schedule a sabotage session???
Don’t despair, here’s how you can lose weight without cheating.
1. Most important: do not restrict your calories to a point where you are suffering. It is simply unsustainable. It’s better to lose a small weekly amount over a longer period of time, than to try to lose too much weight all at once.
2. Don’t stock the pantry with junk foods. When you are having a weak moment or watching a movie it is too tempting to go grab a bag of chips. Stock that pantry with wiser and healthier choices.
3. Eating frequent, small meals has proven itself to be an effective weight-loss strategy by eating five small-portioned meals a day can help you maintain a healthy body weight by keeping you feeling full and satisfied throughout the day. This ensures you won’t end up feeling extremely hungry and overeating later on.
4. Understand the difference between an indulgence and a craving. There’s a difference between wanting a small treat and craving a specific food. Cravings, which often arise in response to environmental triggers, habit or emotions, aren’t great reasons to eat unhealthy foods. Learn to control cravings instead by first identifying them as what they are, and then recognizing that they tend to be short-lived – the more you can resist giving in to them, the fewer you’ll have. As I just said in tip 3 above you should also eat consistent meals throughout the day with plenty of fiber, fat and protein to help keep your blood sugar stable. And again, stop making certain foods forbidden by labeling them as “good,” “bad” or a “cheat,” and you won’t feel deprived, which will decrease your cravings.
5. Indulge mindfully. Mindful eating isn’t just for healthy meals; it should be practiced with treats and indulgences as well. When you do eat a treat, slow down and eat it without distractions. You’ll notice flavors that you may have otherwise missed, and will be more aware of feelings of fullness. Put the focus on how you are eating – not just what you are eating – and you’ll enjoy food more.
The bottom line here is don’t do cheat meals. make sure your regular food is tasty enough. That way, you will be much less tempted to have an indulgent dish or snack. And once in a while when you do, you won’t overeat, because it’s nothing special.
For more information on this subject or to find out more about Cronus Health & Fitness programs contact Eric Collier 256.509.9807 or click here to submit your question. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our FREE Weekly Newsletter!
Eric J. Collier
Cronus Health & Fitness