A cheat meal is a term used when dieting. It’s the meal that goes against your dieting plan, offering a way to enjoy your lifestyle and stick to the diet in the long term. It’s a meal that many dieters look forward to, without fearing the worst for their weight loss efforts.
However, to use cheat meals effectively, you need to follow this guide. There are certain rules and tips that will help you make the most out of your cheat meals and always have something you can look forward to.
This all-in-one guide to creating cheat meals will also look at the benefits but the downsides to them. You’ll get all you need in one place, so you can make the most of your eating habits.
What Exactly Is a Cheat Meal?
Cheat meals are there for dieters to literally cheat. They don’t stick to their diet for one meal a week, allowing them the freedom to eat what they want. It’s only for a meal—although some dieters will opt for a full day of cheat food.
The cheat meal can be any meal that you want. The majority of people will choose their dinner one night a week, but you can opt for breakfast or lunch depending on your schedule for the week. You can also choose the day of the week you want, although it is best to stick to the same night each week to help the body get into a pattern.
With a cheat meal, you don’t need to track your calorie intake, worry about weighing out food or concern yourself about the amount of dessert or type of food you eat. This meal is there to give your brain exactly what it needs: a break and a feeling that you’re eating for enjoyment. This can be a good way to give into cravings without damaging your overall health or your weight loss efforts.
The cheat meal is that meal so many people look forward to. It can be your chance to try out the newest restaurant in town or you can get your favorite takeout from the local Indian. There’s the chance to make a new dish that just doesn’t fit in with your meal plan or enjoy the dessert that you’ve been eyeing up all week.
However, there are a few rules to follow. This isn’t a case of just eat whatever you want for a full 24 hours or ignore that feeling of being satisfied. You can also make a cheat meal that is actually good for your health and your weight loss efforts. We’ll go through all that in this guide, but first, let’s look into the pros and cons of cheat meals.
The Benefits of Opting for Cheat Meals
The biggest benefit is your diet becomes something that you can stick to for the long term. While you have this healthy eating plan, your brain starts to miss the food that you would usually eat. You can be left disappointing that you’re saying no to all your favorites and you can soon start suffering from sugar cravings and negative feelings.
This is especially a problem when it comes to restrictive diets. You say no so much that your body starts rebelling. That often leads to you giving in when you’ve had a bad day or see a bad weighing result one week.
When you opt for cheat meals, you don’t have this as much. You know that each week you’re allowed what you’re craving. It’s a day to look forward to, helping you stay on track for the rest of the week.
One bad meal doesn’t lead to a bad result, just like one good meal in a week of bad won’t help you lose weight. There’s no need to feel guilty for these cheat foods, especially when you make sensible choices with the cheat options.
Your cheat meal can be adapted to your specific diet. For example, if you’re on an extremely calorie-restrictive diet, you may actually get away with two cheat meals a week, spaced out. This is because the calorie-restrictive diet can be negative on the mind for longer periods of time. If you’re focusing on reducing the calories slightly throughout the week, your cheat meal will be less regular. The cheat meals become entirely adaptive to your diet.
The whole process can stop you binging. It’s possible to make a plan to have one meal that you really want. The next week, you can have something else and so on. There’s no need to try to consume it all within a short space of time, leading to a binge and sometimes completely falling off the wagon.
You also get rid of the guilt. After all, you’ve planned for this meal and you’ve allowed yourself to have it.
The Downsides of a Cheat Meal
While there are certainly plenty of benefits, there are also many downsides to adding cheat meals into your weight loss program. One of those is if you have an addictive personality. If you do struggle with binges, you can find yourself eating more than you should. Or you may find it harder to stop with just one meal.
It’s important to still have a meal plan. This cheat meal needs to be added to the meal plan and you only want to get the ingredients (or the order) for it. Avoid everything else until the next week.
Many people also forget about actually planning for the cheat meal. Without planning, you don’t really know what you’re looking forward to. This can lead to your thoughts changing from one day to the next over what to have. By the time it comes to the cheat meal, you pick one thing but then feel dissatisfied because it wasn’t quite what you wanted after all.
If you don’t plan, there’s also a chance that you eat the meal at the wrong time. You run the risk of eating it a day early, just because you felt like it. If you start doing this, you’ll find it easier to give to others in the future.
Then there’s the downside of the lack of nutrients. While your cheat meal will be off the plan, it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be absolutely everything. Focusing on food that is possibly on the “no” list but still nutritionally beneficial is the best thing you can do. When you opt for nutritious cheat food, you can support the health of your body and will possibly find it easier to lose weight.
Tips for Adding Cheat Meals to Your Diet Plan
Plan your meal ahead. Start by planning. You likely already have a meal plan for your dieting, making sure you stick to the yes and no of your diet plan. You’ll want to make sure you stick to all the allowed foods, so you increase the chances of losing weight. But this also means you need to plan your cheat meal ahead.
Give yourself an idea of what you want to look forward to. Will you make burgers for the night or tuck into a delicious korma? What about enjoying a pizza or shrimp fajitas? When you start planning ahead, you’ll find it much easier to follow through with the meal plan that you set. This cheat meal is something you have motivating you through your hard work and efforts. It’s that reward at the end of a long week.
Don’t miss out on the exercise. A cheat meal is just one meal. You can’t spend the whole day cheating. Make sure you follow through with your plan of attack. That includes adding your exercise to the day.
Exercise is extremely beneficial for your weight loss routine. You’ll not just burn calories, but you’ll burn muscle. The burning of muscle will then help you tone and burn extra calories, so you end up in a win-win situation. Plus, you feel good when you exercise. This helps you stick to the diet plan that you’ve set and avoided the cravings.
Set up a system to help avoid binges. Cheat meals don’t work for everyone, because of the temptation to binge. Something that you need to do is set up a system to avoid binges. What will you do when you feel that need to keep eating after your cheat meal? How will you control the temptations during the week, while you look forward to the upcoming cheat meal?
Create a plan of attack. Set out your steps and make sure they are placed somewhere, so you always remember what you’re going to do. You’ll also want steps to take when you’ve had a bad week. How are you going to control that need to binge afterward?
Set a day and stick with it. One of the best things you can do is set your cheat day and make it the same one every day of the week. You may be tempted to change it every now and then, usually when you’ve had a bad day and you just want the cheat meal now. However, your body needs to get used to the new routine.
Stop giving into the temptation. Find a way to manage those expectations that you can just switch your cheat day around. While you can still be a little flexible (maybe one week you have a party on a Friday whereas every other week for six weeks your cheat day is Saturday), you don’t want to keep changing the day or the time of the meal. The best way to do this is set the day you usually eat out; the one that most of your social events take up. This will help you quickly become consistent.
Listen to your body and your results. When you do decide on a day of the week, make sure you listen to your body. Is the cheat meal agreeing with you? While you are eating, make sure you’re satisfied and not over-full. While you can have a cheat meal, you still want to put your body and health first.
You’ll always want to look at the results you get on the scales each week. Are you losing a lot of weight in a short space of time? This isn’t healthy and could be a sign your diet is too restrictive. You may get away with adding another cheat meal. What about if you’re not losing weight? Then you need to start assessing whether the cheat meal each week is working for you. Is this something you need to reduce to once every two weeks or once a month?
The benefit of a cheat meal is that it’s flexible for your diet. But you need to be willing to make changes to your plan if you see the opposite results of what you want. A cheat meal isn’t for everyone.
Skip the poor nutrient foods. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with having sugar every now and then, you want the majority of your cheat meals to be as nutritionally sound as possible. Cheat meals get to be higher in carbs and calories than your normal meals, but you should still focus on health.
There are a few benefits of opting for nutritionally dense foods. One of those is that your cravings will lessen. If your brain doesn’t get the sugar, it doesn’t start carving it more in the future. The second benefit is that you feel satisfied after the meal and this will help the positive feelings in the brain.
Using Cheat Meals in Your Diet
It’s time to consider adding cheat meals into your diet. They are extremely beneficial when used correctly. However, do keep in mind that they’re not for everyone and they do not mean a whole cheat day. You will still need to listen to your body and focus on foods that are nutritionally beneficial for your health. Then you get something satisfying, tasting and beneficial for your whole system.