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You’ll see that I’ve put “cheat” in quotations in the title of this post, that wasn’t an accident.
I hate the term “cheat meal”, it demonises food which can be disastrous for people that already have a poor relationship with food.
But for the purpose of this post I’m going to stick with it so that I everyone knows what I’m talking about.
“Can we stop calling them ‘cheat meals’ and start calling them ‘meals’ please? Eating food you enjoy isn’t cheat, it’s living.”
I’ve been asked to give me opinion on “cheat meals” etc, so here goes;
Cheat meals. Just no.
I see so many people attempt to lose weight and fail. A huge reason for this is cheat meals.
Many people diet for 6 days and then on the 7th day they have a cheat meal and it completely undoes the 6 days of dieting.
I’m going to use an example here to prove my point.
We all know that you need a calorie deficit to lose weight right?
Calories out > calories in = weight loss (Very basically put)
So let’s say that we have a client who puts herself in a calorie deficit of 200 calories a day by eating 1,800kcal per day. (2,000 Maintenance level kcals - 200Kcal = 1,800Kcal)
Over a period of 6 days she would be in a calorie deficit of 1,200Kcal (200kcal deficit per day x 6)
Then on the 7th day of the week she has a cheat meal and consumes 3,200Kcals.
This means for the week she would be in a calorie deficit of 0. No calorie deficit. No weight loss.
If she was to take the cheat meal even further and eat more then she would actually put herself in a calorie surplus for the week. Calorie surplus = weight gain.
So despite having worked hard and eaten well for 6 days, our client has either maintained bodyweight or gained weight. This is due to the cheat meal.
Now a lot of you will bring up the point that you could wait more than a week for a cheat meal. Yep, agreed. However the longer you wait for a cheat meal then the more you’ll be craving these “cheat foods” (Hormonal affects due to dieting) and the more likely you are to go all out on the cheat meal.
Admittedly you would struggle to undo 6 weeks’ worth of dieting in 1 day but you would maybe undo 2 weeks of that. So you’ve dieted for 6 weeks for 4 weeks worth.
So what do I propose as an alternative?
How about eating like a normal human?
Don’t deprive yourself of the foods that you enjoy and then there’s no need for a cheat meal.
Use a flexible dieting approach so that you can incorporate the foods that you enjoy into your diet whilst still staying within any calorie and macronutrient goals.
As always, eat mindfully and train hard with resistance!
An afterthought – There have been studies to show that a cheat meal can give a quick metabolic boost and help bring hormones back to pre dieting levels etc but this could also be achieved by having a slightly higher carb day instead of a cheat meal.