Cheat Meal, Cheat Day or Cheat Weekend?

Have you ever been guilty of converting a cheat meal to a cheat weekend, carried away by the happy holiday mood? You can be sure that the recent Easter Weekend must have made for an ideal pretext for many to give in to their temptation by letting the holiday cheer prevail over better sense as they find themselves indulging in all the sinful goodies that they had sworn to keep away from. The question becomes – How long can I be strict on my nutrition for? If I am strict for too long will I end up falling off the wagon completely? Is a cheat meal good for the mind?

The simple fact of modern life is that human beings have not evolved to be able to deal with “too much” food. We have evolved over millions of years of dealing with times of starvation, drought and times of abundance. The fact is, there was never normally a consistent amount of time with so much choice of food, in particular bad choices of food and so much opportunity to make the wrong choices. A report from the WHO recently was quoted stating that for the first time in human history, there are more health issues caused from “over” indulgence than under nourishment, which is a scary thought. So with that in mind, are cheat meals “good” for you???

The alleged benefits of cheat meals

• Offsets the metabolism: Advocates of cheat meals argue that the body quickly gets accustomed to consuming fewer calories and after an initial change, it gets into the plateau mode and stubbornly refuses to shed any excess pounds. It’s here that cheat meals play their role as they help break the pattern the body has settled into. Once the cheat session is over and the individual resumes eating clean again, the body is re-stimulated into weight loss once again. This is something proffered by many as reason to make sure you include cheat meals in your routine.

Essentially this approach has been developed by those who are already at relatively low levels of body fat and in most cases for those starting out attempting to eat clean and lose weight, not the right option. Those with very poor insulin sensitivity, will not benefit from this approach and the idea of beginning a phase of eating well and allowing a cheat meal in the initial phases is wasteful to a degree and will impair results and create too much opportunity to indulge. There are more than enough tasty and healthy food options out there if you look for it to keep you motivated and on track on your nutrition for up to 4-8 weeks for the strong willed. If you cannot go than more 7 days without caving then it is the mindset that needs to be addressed, not your food cupboard.

• Psychological benefits: Many people vouch for the emotional and psychological high that certain favourite foods like cakes, chocolates and burgers give them. This can easily be explained by the fact that foods loaded with sugar and additives have been compared to being as addictive as cocaine, creating intense cravings that are difficult to resist. Bingeing on sugary foods produces a surge of dopamine that induces a feeling of well-being, very similar to how drug abuse lulls the brain into an artificial euphoria. Having a meal where you eat foods you enjoy should be enjoyed from time to time, try not to make it a ritual and keep it to one meal when you do.

What constitutes a cheat meal and what doesn’t.
A cheat meal is:-
• Only one meal – not a day
• Not a “free to eat as much as you can” buffet
•Try to have a protein based meal

It won’t come as a surprise that few would be able to adhere to the above parameters of cheat meals as once we allow ourselves some leniency it’s very difficult to keep within limits. Most people get completely carried away and do not realise how and when the stray cheat meal extends into a long cheat weekend.

A frequent cheat diet may slowly lead to habitual overeating and weight gain which in turn prompts people to resort to unnatural yo-yo diets and exaggerated fitness routines. Its about finding out what works for you, don’t listen to those who preach about the massive benefits from cheat meals, they often don’t tell the full story and over exaggerate the physiological benefits.

Cheat meals can mean many different things to different people and their appropriateness should be considered by fitness professionals relative to each client. Facts about cheat meals are banded around without hesitation by many without any consideration to individual situations. Many talk about them as if they are essential to progression, some plan and schedule them into a plan. Essentially it comes down to the person’s relationship with food, their tendencies to binge or overindulge, their ability to resist poor quality foods and their emotional attachment to that meal. Food is often a control mechanism for many in a world that is very hard to have any control over. We all have different relationships with food, and imposing your will on those with emotional frailties is irresponsible and often damaging. Food is not just an energy source, it is much more to our social being and should be treated as so. A calorie is not a calorie and what one food means to you, may not mean the same to another. Where do you stand on cheat meals? We would love to know your thoughts?

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Love Fitness Education

Love Fitness Education is a London based Fitness Training Provider delivering Personal Training Courses, Fitness Instructor Qualifications and CPD’s to budding fitness professionals in London. We have extensive experience in delivering fitness qualifications both in the UK and internationally and we pride ourselves on our reputation as the industry experts.