Should you have cheat meals or cheat days? What do you eat then? Will it affect your diet greatly? We're here to answer those questions for you.
Ever tried being on a diet and failing multiple times? You're not alone. Most diets fail because you attempt to go cold turkey on your favourite foods. Diets are a lifestyle change and it can be difficult to change instantly, because let's face it, humans are naturally resistant to change.
So, much like a smoker trying to quit, a diet change takes time too – and that is where cheating within a diet helps.
“Cheating on your diet can prevent you from growing to resent your diet and giving up on it completely, says Wesley Delbridge, R.D., a spokesperson for the US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The question is, should it be a cheat meal or a cheat day?
Cheat meal vs. cheat day
Cheat diet methods vary and how they are implemented depends on personal preferences and fitness goals. The type of foods that you eat also vary due to personal tastes, but one thing in common is that they are high-calorie foods that are usually not permitted on your diet.
There is no one guideline for how you should take your cheat meals or days as it really depends on your willpower and weight loss goals. But we suggest cheat meals instead of cheat days. This is so that it will prevent you from overeating for a whole day, which might undo your efforts from dieting during the rest of the week.
Do make sure that your diet allows you to cheat as well. Some diets such as the ketogenic diet, allows no room for cheating at all. So it is best to check with your personal trainer or nutritionist on the best diet for you.
What's in a cheat meal?
Usually when you go on a diet, it's for weight loss, or more accurately, fat loss. This means, the amount of calories you consume must be less than those that you are expending. But during cheat days, you are allowed to consume a little more.
So, just because you are allowed to eat a little more, does not mean you can head straight to the arena of processed and non-nutritious foods. There is nothing wrong with a burger, just make sure the patty is made of natural, grass-fed beef, sandwiched between two wholemeal buns and a whole stack of fresh vegetables. Perhaps, you are craving some ice-cream; just go slightly out of your way and look for one that uses natural ingredients.
These minute details play a huge role in maintaining your gut microbiome, health and weight. Look at it this way, you clean your entire house and maintain that cleanliness for a week. Then you just get a little tired from cleaning it everyday and want to take a break. Are you going to just pile the rubbish in the bins and make a huge mess of the whole place?
When should I have my cheat meals?
Humans are easily tempted. If you don't plan your cheat meals out, you are most likely going to cheat whenever a craving strikes.
"Just one bite won't hurt" and "I'll just work it off later", are some of the most common excuses Benchmark Theory has heard. It does not work that way.
Schedule and plan your cheat meals once a week. That way you will make sure your cheat meal is really worth it and gives you something to look forward to.
On that note, we suggest focusing on that one food you have been craving for the entire week. For example, if you are craving some dessert, maybe it's time to get that moist and rich chocolate cake. But don't stray away and have that lasagna or beer as well, just because you can.
Exercise some self-restraint and control and plan it out for your next cheat meal. You will find that these things will be easier to give up as time goes by.
Your gut is arguably the most important contributor to your body composition. Listen to it and care for it properly. Dehydration and hunger feel very similar. So if you feel that tingle in your tummy, always reach for a glass of water first. Down it and wait for about 5 minutes. If you are still hungry, proceed with caution to attack your solid foods to satisfy your gut.
Experts also suggest having cheat meals earlier in the day as eating later in the evening can result in a small weight gain. But if you are not too bothered by that, then cheat meal any time of the day.
It is also important to note how you feel physically and emotionally — whether your cheat makes you feel overly stuffed or guilty. Sometimes that heartburn or stress is not worth it. At the same time, once you have your cheat meal, try not to overthink about the number of calories you consumed. If anything, just gear up and work harder the next time. It will make the next cheat meal much more worth it.
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