What are Cheat Meals?
Cheat meals comprise foods that won’t help you achieve your weight-loss goals. These meals are considered cheats because you aren’t sticking to your original meal plan.
A cheat meal does not have to comprise foods considered unhealthy. A cheat meal can be a meal that is too indulgent or comprises only one or two foods that you consider indulgent.
Overall, cheat meals encourage excessive food consumption. The emphasis on overeating is one of the reasons why a cheat meal philosophy might lead you down the wrong path.
It’s also worth noting that cheat meal dieting is different from yo-yo dieting. Cheat meal dieting refers to the periodic over-consumption of meals, not on your eating plan.
Yo-yo dieting, on the other hand, refers to cycling your weight up and down.
Many experts, including dietitians, recommend cheat meals on occasion, but is there any scientific proof to back indulging in these meals?
In this review, we’ll look at the cheat meal philosophy, how these meals work, who they are meant for, and how often you should cheat on your diet.
In the end, you might find that cheat meals do more harm than good.
The Cheat Meal Philosophy
The cheat meal philosophy similarly highlights diet and exercise rewards (‘good’) and forfeits (‘bad’). As a result, we begin to think of nutritious foods as unappealing and cheat meals as a reward.
This focus will hamper long-term wellness or lifestyle improvements.
Instead of focusing on punishment for eating a less-healthy meal, consider focusing on something positive: how to eat less-healthy foods more consciously.
Slow down and see “unhealthy” meals for what they truly are: a source of calories and a delightful flavor.
Perhaps we can learn to enjoy cheat meal foods for what they are and embrace them as long as we consume them thoughtfully.
As weight loss progresses, some people might look for meals that give them more satisfaction.
This need for satisfaction is natural and expected throughout a person’s weight loss journey.
However, many people want to concentrate on how to handle this instead of looking to cheat themselves out of success.
So How Do You Cope When Eating Comfort Foods?
Embrace a Cheat Meal Alternative
Focusing on conscious eating and not overdoing any one meal, even if it’s considered a cheat meal or a less nutritious meal to you, is an excellent lifestyle objective for weight reduction.
Follow the Quarter-a-Plate Rule
When looking for comfort food, use the quarter-a-plate rule. Your plate should have no more than a quarter of a food item that you know won’t lead you toward your objectives.
Recreate Your Favorite Comfort Food
Make a healthier version of your favorite guilty pleasure dish. For instance, if you like fried foods, try baking or using an air fryer instead of deep-frying (see also keto french fries recipe).
If you enjoy baking but have a sweet tooth, consider replacing half of the sugar with stevia or sweetening the recipe with a fruit replacement such as applesauce or mashed banana.
Try and share your comfort food with a friend; the main aim is to reduce your portion size and add to the fun and experience of eating cheat meals.
How Do Cheat Meals Work?
The general idea is that eating cheat meals boosts your metabolism, improves appetite hormones, lowers stress hormones, and helps you keep muscle – all in the hopes of better dieting results when you go back to dieting.
The main hypothesis behind cheat meals and their effectiveness is leptin. Leptin is a hormone that controls how much you eat and how much energy you expend.
Because leptin is produced by fat cells, the more fat you have, the more leptin your body produces, resulting in more calories burnt and reduced appetite.
Carbohydrates tend to boost leptin levels more than fat; therefore, cheat days, cheat meals, and diet breaks are likely to be more successful if carbohydrate intake is increased first.
Leptin levels rise dramatically in response to a cheat meal.
What’s not to like about cheat meals? You eat delicious food, increase your leptin levels, and become shredded. Well, it isn’t that straightforward.
Who Are Cheat Meals Meant For?
According to studies, professional bodybuilding athletes have a lot of success with cheat meals.
Given that this group of people knows how to get shredded, it’s safe to assume that they can employ cheat meals effectively.
Effectiveness is not the same as excellence. While cheat meals can help you lose weight, they’re usually best left for experienced dieters (e.g., bodybuilders) and/or those with a specific short-term objective in mind, for instance, landmark events or photoshoots.
Chances are, a cheat meal is likely to be helpful only for individuals who have a lot of experience dealing with the after-effects of such a meal.
However, in most instances sticking to a more constant deficit will yield the same, if not better, results.
How Often Should You Cheat?
From a purely scientific standpoint, it’s difficult to make a case for using cheat meals to improve your overall body composition.
From a practical and sustainable standpoint, cheating on your diet is unavoidable.
After all, we are humans, not robots. Cravings tend to come up on special occasions such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, and life is for the living.
Sometimes it’s necessary to embrace the human experience and enjoy blowing off your diet. It’s impossible to stick to a rigid diet forever.
Rather than trying and struggling to be perfect all of the time, it may be more beneficial for you to be consistently decent rather than irregularly perfect.
As a result, rather than calling occasional high-calorie indulgences “cheat meals,” simply refer to them as “life.” When the opportunity presents itself, take advantage of it, and move on.
To sum it all up, cheat meals aren’t a weight-loss miracle. Seasoned dieters with a high dedication to their diets can have a cheat meal and recover just fine.
But most people will succumb to the desire for more junk food. This isn’t to say you can’t have delicious meals; it’s possible to fit ice cream into your daily calorie count to curb your junk food craving.