We are talking today about cheat meals. Such a problematic word to use. And people use this all the time.
“This is my cheat meal.”
“Today is my cheat day.”
These are problematic for a number of reasons. And a lot of celebrities tend to advocate for them. You keep seeing photos of celebrities sharing their cheat day photos, cheat meal photos.
And people feel that it is completely normal to think of food in that way. That:
“I’m sticking to my diet for this particular timeframe. And then I deserve to go out and treat myself and have a cheat day.
That is how these fit celebrities must stay in shape.”
But that’s not the case.
The term “cheat meal” has many negative connotations to it.
When you think of cheating, you think of someone cheating on their partner; doing something that they should not be doing.
When you think of cheating, you think of someone cheating in their exam. Again, something they should not be doing.
And then you think of cheating on your regular diet.
You feel that these are the foods that you should be eating; the good foods.
Then once in a while, you deserve to cheat on your diet by eating foods that you should not be eating; the forbidden fruit.
You can see how this creates a negative bias towards certain kinds of foods.
But the reality is this is a false dichotomy. There are no good foods. There are no bad foods.
Food is just fuel for our body. Some of them have high calories. Some of them have low calories.
Some of them have high micronutrients; vitamins and minerals. Some of them have low vitamins and minerals.
You can incorporate a combination of all of these into your diet on a regular basis.
And you’d be able to reach your goals. That’s how it should be. It should not be the case that you have to restrain yourself from enjoying certain kinds of foods, because they’re bad for you.
And then go all out once in a while because you feel the need to “cheat” in your diet as a way to treat yourself or reward yourself.
You should not be using food as reward anyway, but that is a topic for another day.
So cheating in general. It just ruins your relationship with food. It makes you think of food in terms of good and bad, which is not the reality.
So if you keep seeing certain celebrities promoting cheat meals, please ignore them. Because that kind of thinking, that kind of mindset, is not good for your fitness. Or for your relationship with food.
And it will not let you get sustainable weight-loss results.
You may also like: Confidence, Extroversion, Authenticity— Feeling Comfortable in Your Own Skin
The reason being that every time you cheat, you self-sabotage your own progress.
This is why people get caught in a cycle of not being able to lose weight. Because they stay very disciplined for a certain number of days.
Then they go all out in the name of a cheat day. Which then offsets all the progress they made over the days leading up to the cheat day.
This keeps on happening over and over. And all they do is self-sabotage their progress.
If you just stopped thinking of certain meals as cheat meals, certain days as cheat days. This will stop happening. And you will actually make long term progress.
I’ll give you a few tips on how to go about this. But before that.
Another perspective that I wanted to share is if you think of cheating in terms of going off track from a discipline diet, then what is your definition of a disciplined diet?
Is it when you are tracking all your calories? Tracking all your macronutrients? Tracking everything and sticking to a very well-defined plan?
Is that your definition of a disciplined diet?
Then think about it in this way. How many days in the past month were you able to adhere to a discipline diet? Think about it.
And if you were not able to adhere to a discipline diet for majority of the month, then does it mean that you were cheating on those days?
If that is the case, then every single day that you were not able to do that. Not able to adhere to a very well-programmed nutrition plan would be a cheat day.
So you don’t need to schedule a cheat day or a cheat meal separately in that case. I hope I’m making sense.
If you are someone who has been struggling with weight loss for long, it would mean that most of your days, you’re not able to stick to a disciplined way of eating.
So would that mean that every single day of your life leading up to the point you’re in currently was a cheat day? Is that the case?
Think about it in that way.
It doesn’t really make sense, right?
It could not be that every day’s a cheat day.
That is why this concept of this concept of cheat meals and cheat days doesn’t really have much substance. Because if you think of it.
If every day’s already a cheat day, then you cannot really cheat anymore beyond that.
So it’s just a way of way people use to justify their poor eating habits. To self-sabotage. They let themselves lose control and find a way to justify it by labeling it as a cheat day.
You don’t have to do that. You should not be doing that if you’re serious about your goals.
You may also like: Adherence to Training & Nutrition
And here are some strategies that you can use to avoid this from happening.
This is something that I coined as I was writing down the framework for today’s podcast episode. And this term is called: Adjust to Accommodate.
I think I’m going to use this more often because this sounds so good.
Adjust to Accommodate.
That means whenever you’re anticipating that an unhealthy meal is in the horizon.
Say tonight if you’re going out for dinner and you know that there would be unhealthy foods involved. Or you’re going out for say, lunch on Wednesday. And you know there would be unhealthy food being served.
You need to adjust for that leading up to the event so that you can accommodate those food without it having to turn into a cheat meal.
You should not go into the event with the mindset that:
“I’m going all out. I deserve a treat.
I’m not going to think about what I’m eating. I’m just going to indulge and have a good time.
Then we’ll go back and see what can be done.”
You should not go in with that mindset. Instead, you need to plan a little bit ahead of time.
If you’re going out for dinner tonight, then what I want you to do is focus on eating high protein foods throughout the day. High lean protein foods.
So lean protein foods are foods which comprise of protein as their main source of energy. Things like chicken breast, eggs, fish, low-fat dairy. These are lean protein sources.
If you’re eating pulses, stuff like lentils, beans. These are not exactly lean protein sources. Lean protein is food which is very low in fat and carb, but very high in protein.
So go on Google and search for lean protein foods. Try to accommodate those foods into your diet leading up to your meal, which you’re going to have outside with friends or family.
If that is dinner today, you should be focusing on lean protein throughout the day. And then load up on high-volume, low-calorie foods. High-volume, as in very high quantity, that is, they fill you up. But they’re actually very low in calories.
These are usually foods which are very high in fiber, like whole grains; oatmeal, then your vegetables. Load up on these foods. They will keep you feeling full. But at the same time, they will be very low calories.
So you’ll save a lot of calories throughout the day. And then you can use up those calories when you go out with friends and eat whatever you want. Of course, in a controlled manner.
When I’m talking about eating whatever you want. You should understand that:
You treating yourself does not have to mean you self-sabotaging your progress.
A lot of people like to think that both of these things are the same. That:
“If I go out and treat myself, then I might as well sabotage my progress.”
“I’ll eat whatever I want without restraint. That is what a cheat day is meant to be.”
But these are mutually exclusive things. You can treat yourself and not have to sabotage your progress. That is how things should be.
When you go out to eat, try to make healthy choices.
Even when you eat at the restaurant, you can choose to order grilled chicken with a side of veggies. Instead of settling for a lot of greasy starters, a lot of high fat dishes. Then with a serving of cocktails.
You don’t need to indulge just for the sake of indulging. You don’t need to eat till you feel sick in the stomach.
You don’t need to eat till you cannot move. And you wake up the next day feeling guilty.
You don’t need to do that. You can go out, exercise portion control, make good food choices and still have a good time.
That’s the mindset that you need to go in with. whenever you’re going into an event.
Firstly, adjust to accommodate i.e., you make adjustments leading up to the event beforehand.
And then when you finally reach the event, don’t treat it as your only chance to enjoy all these kinds of foods. Because any day of the week, if you want to eat something.
You can again apply the principle of ‘Adjust to Accommodate’ and make the adjustments. And make space for something that you enjoy any day of the week.
It does not have to be limited to a so-called cheat day or a cheat meal that is somewhere in the distant horizon. Because only when you make it unreachable, only when you label it as a cheat day. It becomes a once in a blue moon opportunity for you to indulge.
And then you go all out and then you self-sabotage.
So don’t do that. Adjust to accommodate. Remember that.
Some people don’t consider eating out with friends or indulging in snacks as real meals.
They go out to eat with friends. They may indulge in some snacks; very high calorie snacks.
Then they come back home and they still eat their normal dinner. Because they feel that the regular dinner is regular dinner. The snacks were just snacks.
But a lot of times the snacks are so calorie dense. It actually is the biggest meal of the day. In fact, if you go out to eat in restaurants, the cooking methods are such that you will end up eating a lot in terms of calories.
And when you actually compare it to your standard meals, it’s very likely that the restaurant meal will be higher in calories. So what you think of as snacks are actually full-fledged meals.
You don’t need to discount them and then come back home and eat your regular meal.
Keep that into consideration. Make sure that whatever you’re eating outside is also accounted for in your regular diet. It isn’t something that doesn’t count.
Another thing that you may think doesn’t really count is the alcohol consumption that you have along with your meals. Now, alcohol is something which I don’t recommend to people who are trying to lose weight because of a multitude of reasons.
Firstly, it doesn’t let you understand your hunger signals very well. You will be munching on a lot of things. You will be eating a lot of snacks and you would not realize when you’re full.
You may also like: Coping With Stress and Fatigue During a Weight Loss Phase
Very poor food choices will be made when you are drinking alcohol.
The other thing is that alcohol by itself is high in calories. So you cannot discount the calories that you get from alcohol. And especially if you are drinking cocktails. They are very, very high calorie drinks and something I would completely avoid if I was on a weight-loss phase.
If you are trying to lose weight, you should stick to clear liquors. Stuff like vodka, whiskey. And avoid cocktails at all costs.
And when you’re adjusting for your meals outside, you should take into consideration the amount of alcohol you’ll be drinking as well. As much as possible, try to avoid alcoholic beverages.
For the primary reason that you will make poor food choices when you’re drinking alcohol.
Another reason why you don’t need to go all out and eat as much as you can on that one day or that one event that you have.
You can always get the extra food packed and then you can have it for your lunch or dinner for the next one to two days.
That way you get to extend the happiness you get from eating foods you enjoy for half the week. It doesn’t have to be that you eat everything at one go.
Get the leftovers packed and then use it for your lunch, for your dinner. For the next one to two days.
And you can extend your enjoyment for the next couple of days. It’s a win-win.
You don’t have to self-sabotage your progress. You don’t have to wake up the next morning feeling like you completely ruined your progress.
That kind of psychological damage also takes some time to recover from.
Instead of doing that, if you exercised portion control, had some self-restraint, you’ll wake up the next morning feeling good about yourself.
You’ll actually feel happy that you were able to exercise some kind of self-discipline and you will feel good about yourself.
At the same time, you’ll have some leftovers in the fridge which you can add to your lunch. Now you have a tasty lunch as well. So it’s a win-win from all directions.
Just removing this false dichotomy of good foods, bad foods; of cheating on your diet, can increase the enjoyment of your weight-loss process.
You don’t have to detest the process of being on a so-called “diet”.
Because when I talk to a lot of people, they say things like:
“I hate being on a diet.”
“I’m not someone who can diet.”
When I ask them what their concept of a diet is. The usual answer is that:
“when I cannot eat all of these things; when I have to restrict myself”.
They feel like they cannot do this long-term. That’s something that stems from this very concept of thinking of foods as good foods and bad foods. Thinking of foods in terms of sticking to a diet.
And then needing to take a break by going for a cheat meal or a cheat day.
You may also like: Weekend Weight Gain— Will a Weekend of Bad Eating Ruin Your Diet?
This is also reinforced by family and friends around.
“Today is your cheat day. You can eat whatever you want.”
“This is your cheat meal. You can eat whatever you want. You can just reset tomorrow.”
But this is not how people who maintain long-term great-looking bodies, bodies which are healthy, think.
For them, food is a source of fuel. Food is a source of nourishment. And all kinds of foods are foods that you can accommodate into your diet. That is how they look at food.
So don’t get fooled by social media imagery. By videos of people sharing things like: this is what this celebrity eats on their cheat day or on their cheat meal.
Because that is a very one off occasion which probably happens once in a year.
And for most of their year, these are people who are very mindful of their nutrition. That is why they look like that. That is why they have great-looking bodies.
It is because they’re very mindful of their nutrition. They don’t think of foods in terms of good foods and bad foods. So you need to avoid thinking of certain foods as things you use to cheat on your main diet.
As soon as you do that, the process of losing weight will become much more enjoyable. And you will be able to sustain this long term.
If you detest the process, you’ll not sustain it. And if you cannot sustain it, the results will not last.
Keep that in mind.
If you have been trying to reach your weight loss goals for a while now, but are struggling a bit in the process.
It’s probably because of a lack of consistency, a lack of guidance or a lack of support.
If you’d like a 24×7 support system to hold your hand and guide you through the process till you get to your goals, you should consider 1-on-1 coaching with Workday Physique.