Are Cheat Meals Your Best Friend or Worst Enemy?

Are Cheat Meals Your Best Friend or Worst Enemy?

in Eat/Health/Nutrition by

There are two types of people in the world; those who look forward to their cheat day to eat everything under the sun and those who choose not to fall into the trap and don’t believe in the cheat/free meal concept. Whichever side of the spectrum you are on, there are pros and cons to each.

When we say cheat meals, we really mean meals and not days. So instead of having chocolate cake for breakfast, McDonald’s for lunch, and a 1,000 calorie dinner with soft drinks in between the meals you need to strategically choose one meal per week where you eat something specific that you are really craving. I often find clients purposefully making the unhealthy food choice over the healthy, not because they want it more but just because it is their ‘free day’, and that is one of the most for sure signs of an unhealthy relationship with food. To combat this, make a list of anything that you are craving throughout your clean eating week and choose just 1-2 items from that list to have on your cheat meal. That way, you are making a more mindful choice about what you are eating.

Believe it or not, cheat meals can actually help you reach your fat loss goals. When you are on a calorie restrictive diet for prolonged periods of time, your leptin levels drop as an adaptation mechanism, eventually leading to a drop in your metabolism and an increase in your hunger pangs. A calorie-rich meal once a week helps restore your leptin levels, therefore increasing metabolism and helping avoid that ‘plateau’ that eventually happens when you diet for too long.

Wondering when the best time to have your cheat meal is? I always recommend that clients plan their cheat meal to be during a social gathering, that way you won’t feel like the odd one out with your salad, and also because naughty food is much more enjoyable in groups. That being said, your body will burn your cheat meal most efficiently if you have it up to two hours post workout when it’s still in that fat-burning state.

How many times have you promised yourself to only eat salads for the next month, or to completely give up carbs until you fit in those jeans that are two sizes smaller than your current size? We previously discussed that health is not an all or nothing game, and being too strict on your body can have a very negative effect.

Just like one good meal won’t make you healthy, one bad meal also won’t make you fat. If you want to have the pizza with extra cheese every now and then, have it, and don’t ever feel guilty about it. What are your thoughts on cheat meals? Share with us what your approach is!

Donia Hilal is a certified nutritionist with a degree in Nutrition from King’s College London. Her work focuses on women’s health in the Middle East, wellness, weight loss, and optimal pre- and post-natal nutrition. Passionate about real food and evidence based nutrition advice, Donia welcomes and enjoys guiding clients throughout every stage of their journey towards a healthier, happier life.

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