YOU DON'T NEED A CHEAT MEAL
WHY YOUR CHEAT MEAL MAY BE SABOTAGING YOUR PROGRESS
The week-long anticipated cheat meal has become a staple in the ritual of many dieters. It looks a little something like this:
It’s Monday and you’re ready for a solid week. Your meals are planned and you have a goal to get to the gym daily. Your food choices this past weekend weren’t great, but you’re ready to make this week better!
By Wednesday, you’re a little tired of eating broccoli and chicken but determined to stick it out because you know get a cheat meal you soon. Friday rolls around and it’s all you can think of. You’re hungry, you hate chicken and broccoli, and you’re sore and tired from dragging yourself to the gym each day, but it’s ok because your cheat meal is coming!
You deliberate on when you will enjoy this glorious meal. Maybe Friday night to reward yourself for a week of hard work? Or Saturday when you’re out with friends?
Refusing to look at another chicken breast, you go out for a big burger and fries on Friday; a celebration of a diligent week working towards your health goals! Dinner is accompanied by a drink or two and you toast to getting leaner and fitter. The next day you go out to lunch with friends. Your cheat meal was last night but you make an exception and order a sandwich, even though you’ve sworn off carbs (except for last night’s burger and fries). You have a few more drinks that night, and then you go out for brunch the next morning. Your cheat meal has turned into a cheat weekend, and now it’s Monday again. You feel guilty for indulging all weekend but you swear you'll do better this week.
The concept of a cheat meal may seem like you’re allowing yourself some flexibility, but the idea of “cheating” on your diet really only implies that guilt and shame should accompany our food choices. It throws a wrench in any health goals we may be working towards and gets us stuck in a cycle of restricting then overeating.
Successful fat loss is dependent upon creating a calorie deficit - or eating fewer calories than you are burning on average. Just one cheat day, and sometimes even just one cheat meal, can be enough to eliminate a full week’s hard earned deficit. If your specific diet causes you to dramatically restrict your food during the week or cut out entire food groups, it’s common to see a cheat meal spiral out of control and turn into a cheat weekend.
You can see from the images above that a spiraling weekend can throw off your whole week of progress by eliminating your calorie deficit. It can leave you frustrated and confused at why your hard work isn’t paying off. On the other end of the spectrum, being flexible and consistent with your week - addressing cravings when you have them but focusing on mostly nutrient-dense whole foods - can leave you satisfied and can allow you to see progress without restricting yourself.
There is a solution to breaking this cycle: Focusing on balance and moderation rather than relying on restriction and willpower is a huge key to creating successful, sustainable changes.
We often think we need to suffer in order to earn our goals, but that is not the case. While it may not seem as fun as a highly anticipated cheat meal, embracing the concept of moderation means that you can not only eat the foods you enjoy more frequently, but it also means that you can improve your relationship with food and reach your goals more efficiently and in a more sustainable manner.
We don’t condone cheating on our partners or on tests, so why cheat on our health?
You can learn more about Flexible Nutrition by reading more here!