Cheat meals – often quantified as the holy grail when it comes to dieting; they are foods eaten which would normally be forbidden or at least limited on a food plan; the foods you indulge in and consume to reward yourself for sticking to a food plan. OR perhaps, you didn’t stick to the plan, you fell off the bandwagon and are now going hell for leather. This article divulges the top tips on eating off plan with cheat meals – 5 golden rules.
Some of the best cheat meals that people enjoy include pizza, fry ups and burgers.
The regimented approach of eating strictly clean foods throughout the week can be taxing on the body, particularly when you decide to restrict yourself or tell yourself that certain foods are off-limits. Research has identified that people who commit to a diet begin to experience elevated cravings for foods. Here is where an off-plan meal can do wonders for the motivation levels and the soul!
Below are some golden rules for when it comes to treating yourself.
Did you know:
1 pound of fat = consumption of 3500 extra calories
1. Indulge in a meal not a whole day
There can be an enormous spike when comparing calories and macros consumed from a cheat day vs cheat meal. Many food plans designed by nutritionalists/personal trainers often advocate their client to have a cheat meal once a week, which should be perfectly fine, provided it’s done properly. However, all too often, people make mistakes and end up binge eating as opposed to simply indulging in a treat.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has justified a binge by thinking, “I’ve already broke my stride, why stop there”. If one of your tyres went flat, would you go and puncture the other 3 tyres? No. But for many reasons, many people adopt this approach when it comes to dieting.
Additionally, some people reward themselves with too many cheat meals a week. If this is the case, it then becomes part of your diet, and doesn’t really constitute a treat.
2. Calories still count
Unfortunately for us, calories still count, even on weekends, event for treat meals and yes, regardless of whether it’s 17:59 or 18:00!
A common mistake people make is overestimating the amount of food they should eat during a treat meal. Another factor they don’t consider is that meals bought in restaurants often have 2-3 times more calories than a home-made meal. Your side of potatoes are often saturated with butter and all that tasty goodness which is concealed within the mash. What’s more is that people experience difficulty estimating portions. It’s all well and good to weigh your food at home, but this can be hard to judge just by visually looking at food.
All of these factors considered explains why people overeat (and let’s be honest, we’re loosening the ropes a little so maybe we’re eating a bit more, even though we know in our heart and soul that it’s a much larger portion than normal).
For those of you counting. The best approach to take is to overestimate the amount of calories in a meal and make adjustments throughout the day if you intend to minimise the damage.
3. Go easy on alcohol
For anyone who has researched the effects of alcohol on weight, they may have encountered conflicting results. Some studies have observed higher weight loss results in individuals who consumed wine when compared with a placebo group who drank grape juice. Other studies have concluded that alcohol consumption indeed does lead to weight gain.
The effects of alcohol consumption on weight loss can be observed from a direct and indirect perspective. The direct effect of alcohol is an increase in liquid calories consumed.
Alcohol is metabolised in the body and decelerates the rate of oxidation of fat. So when alcohol is consumed, the body prioritises the metabolism of alcohol first; the body utilises energy from alcohol first and any excess glucose or lipids are stored as fat in the body.
The indirect effect of alcohol is the surplus food consumed. Let’s be honest, not many (if any) nights out end with a salad! Perhaps it’s takeaway/chipper after a bar/night club. The damage often doesn’t end there; the next morning often proceeds to the beloved hangover cure, of which there are many variations, from a greasy fry up to pizza for breakfast or perhaps a chicken/breakfast roll.
Let’s not forget to mention the missed gym workouts that pursue.
If you are going to drink, aim to stick to the ones with fewer calories, such as spirits and dry wines and limit carb-heavy drinks, such as beers and cocktails.
If you want to discover the facts about one of the biggest trends hitting the social scene, then have a read of the effects of alcohol on muscle growth – could low alcohol be a solution?
4. Plan your meals in advance
Adopting this strategy offers a number of benefits. For people tracking calories and macros, it allows them the opportunity to moderate food intake throughout the day to make increase calorie/macro allowances for their treat meal.
Psychologically, it gives you something to look forward to. It can be difficult to adhere to a food plan without any treats. So by planning in advance, it can aid your mental performance and increase your motivation to stick to your normal food plan for the rest of the week. Many people choose to plan their indulgence during the weekend or at a social event.
Personally, I love perusing the menu in the hours (ok maybe days) in advance if I know I’m going to a particular restaurant. Advanced planning also allows you to be more strategic with what you eat as opposed to consuming everything in sight.
5. Stop calling it a cheat meal!
If you are going to eat foods that are not in your normal food plan, please stop referring to them as “cheat meals”. The concept can instill mentally negative connotations which often induces an unhealthy relationship with food.
It’s an interesting concept really when you think about it; we are the only species that considers it cheating by eating a meal that doesn’t fit into our normal food plan. When did eating become considered cheating? It’s perfectly normal to crave less healthy foods every now and then.
People often indulge in a “cheat food” or even a “cheat day”, imagine!!! *queue looks/feelings of utter shame*. Such an indulgence would typically lead to an onslaught of guilt, followed by the binge eating recovery phase to address the damage by engaging in extensive burst of exercise (usually cardio of some format) in addition to periods of starvation/food restriction in an attempt to counterbalance the excess calories consumed.
The bottom line is, it shouldn’t be considered cheating if you only eat an off-plan meal every now and again. However, if you do find yourself constantly craving unhealthy foods, it may be time to evaluate your food plan and determine the root cause of the cravings.
What’s your comfort food of choice? Comment down below!
Flechtner-Mors, M., Biesalski, H., Jenkinson, C., Adler, G. and Ditschuneit, H. (2004). Effects of moderate consumption of white wine on weight loss in overweight and obese subjects. International Journal of Obesity, 28(11), pp.1420-1426.
Hill, A. (2018). Should You Have Cheat Meals or Cheat Days?. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cheat-meals#definition [Accessed 1 Feb. 2020].
Luo, E. (2018). Alcohol and Weight: 8 Ways Drinking Slows Weight Loss. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol-and-weight-loss#alcohol-and-weight-loss [Accessed 1 Feb. 2020].
Matthews, M. (2015). Do You Make These 5 Cheat Meal Mistakes? – Legion Athletics. [online] Legion Athletics. Available at: https://legionathletics.com/cheat-meal/ [Accessed 1 Feb. 2020].
Manejwala, O. (2013). Shame, Cheat Meals and That New Weight Loss Solution. [online] Psychology Today. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/craving/201305/shame-cheat-meals-and-new-weight-loss-solution [Accessed 1 Feb. 2020].