So, you want to cheat on your diet. If I had a nickel for every time I have been asked, “How do you get abs like yours?” while eating a Double-Double burger, fries, and a vanilla shake, I’d have long settled into the most luxurious villa on Easy Street. The questions people ask about cheat meals are often fraught with confusion, and sometimes desperation.
First, a cheat meal is when you consume a greater amount of calories during that meal than allowed while you’re following a calorie deficit program. A cheat meal can serve two purposes. It’s a reward for working hard all week long as well as something to look forward to; however, and more importantly; it can actually allow your metabolism to fluctuate and your energy to increase.
When starting to lose weight, a cheat meal should only be once a week. As weight starts to come off and you become mentally stronger, you can increase your cheat meals to two meals per week. Once you’re at your ideal weight and fit, you could, as I do, use one entire day to cheat — in that I don’t worry what I’m eating that particular day.
The problem that can occur with cheat meals is when they turn into entire cheat days! Cheat meals are to satisfy your cravings, not to gorge at some all-you-can-eat buffet. So you need to plan out your cheat meals as you plan out your diet. Here’s how . . .
Do: Cheat at the end of the day
Eat your cheat meals at the end of your day. This may sound counter intuitive, but making your cheat meal the last meal of the day reduces the risk of cheating afterwards. When people cheat in the morning or afternoon, it’s harder for them to stay on their scheduled meal plan because of elevated insulin levels, filling full and bloated, and may skip their next scheduled meal.
Do: Make your cheat meals rich in carbohydrates
Every successful diet eventually reduces carbohydrates in order for your body to rely on fat as its fuel source. During this process, your muscles are drained of valuable glycogen. Eating cheat meals that are rich in carbohydrates will replenish your muscles’ glycogen levels and speed up your metabolism. It’s natural for your metabolism to slow down during dieting, but a good carbohydrate meal can kick it into a higher gear.
It’s better to cheat with complex carbs (whole grains) and stay away from simple carbs (sugary foods and drinks) because simple “sugars” will cause you to be hungrier quicker.
Do: Schedule your cheat meals
Failing to plan, is planning to fail. Remember, cheat meals are to add extra calories to your dieting program. Skipping your cheat meal could backfire on you, causing you to become ridiculously hungry and to go overboard when you do cheat. Remember that a cheat meal is still a tool in your dieting program bag.
Do: Know your cheat meal tolerance
Cheat meals can have a positive effect on your metabolism, energy, and even your soul, but for some people, cheat meals can do more harm than good. If you find that your cheat meal is moving towards a cheat day or you’re having cravings that are becoming unmanageable, it’s probably a good time to reassess your cheat meals. Sometimes increasing your calories from your regular dieting program can satisfy your cravings without self-sabotage from eating a Double-Double burger, fries, and a vanilla shake.
Now for the Don’ts . . .
Don’t: Cheat with the foods that caused you to become overweight
Most people on a diet are generally trying to lose body fat and get a little healthier so they need to form new habit. Taste is an acquired habit. If you crave certain foods all the time and keep giving into those cravings, that will just make the cravings even stronger. Avoid cheating with the foods that made you overweight and the craving will diminish over time.
Don’t: Binge or gorge
I cannot stress enough that a cheat meal is to satisfy your taste buds while increasing your calories from your scheduled diet meals and not for binging or gorging. Binging or gorging goes beyond a cheat meal. This is where a cheat meal moves into a cheat day and all your efforts can be derailed.
Don’t: Feel guilty after a cheat meal
Okay, let’s say you do gorge or eat foods that caused you to gain weight during your cheat meal, do not get depressed and think you’re a failure. We all make mistakes, the idea is to get over it and get right back on your diet wagon. Try to remember and write down what lead up to going overboard on that cheat meal so you can reflect back and try not to let it happen again.
Don’t: Make cheat meals your life
Remember why you’re dieting, to live a healthier lifestyle. The natural process of creating a healthier lifestyle gets pushed aside if you focus too much on your cheat meals. Cheat meals are just a tool build the shape you want.
The intention of your cheat meals are to aid your dieting process, and this is a process that you’ve decided to follow. Cheat meals become a problem when they start to turn into cheat days, or even weeks. A cheat meal should not last more than thirty or forty minutes in duration. Keep to the rules and your cheat meals will be an added value to your dieting process.
About Chazz Weaver, M.A.
Dieting Counselor Fitness Coach, Chazz Weaver, M.A., is the Founder of ChazzLive.com, a streaming health and fitness video network. Chazz holds both a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree from UCLA and Syracuse Universities and is a PhD Candidate in Psychology, pursuing his interest in the mental health aspects of weight loss. With over 30 years’ experience in fitness training and weight loss coaching, Chazz Weaver has been interviewed by ABC News, Fox News, The Los Angeles Times, CBS News Radio, GoodMorningAmerica.com and many others.
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