So you’ve been extremely dedicated to your fitness plan and consuming a well balanced diet to achieve your fitness goal. But let’s be real, it’s impossible to stick to a healthy diet 100% of the time. Over time, it can be unsustainable and take serious toll on you, affecting you emotionally and physically. Hence, it’s ok let loose once in a while and enjoy a “cheat meal”.
What are Cheat Meals? It is when you consciously allow yourself to indulge in something you would normally stay away from. For almost every meal, you should stick to a well-balanced and nutritious diet filled with vegetables, fruits, protein, whole grains and consume the right amount of calories based on your needs and goals. But we know that, it is normal to crave for that chocolate cookie dough ice cream, cheesecake or other ‘naughty’ food. Well the good news is having your favourite ‘naughty’ food or cheat meal occasionally can actually help with weight loss.
By taking a preplanned approach towards eating “bad”, you have the potential to speed up your weight loss. That’s because cheat meal can reset hormones responsible for metabolism and insulin regulation, replenish glycogen for increased energy, and keep calorie-burning and fat-torching mechanisms high.
When you know you can be a little looser with your diet, and treat yourself to those forbidden foods, you’re more likely to stay motivated and to stay on track with your goals. So here are 7 steps eat cheat meals and still lose weight.
1) Know how often you’re going to cheat
While I’m not a fan of the word ‘cheat,’ I think it’s perfectly fine to occasionally indulge. Just do it smartly. To simple put it, if you have just started a weight loss programme or you’ve just begun to adopt a healthier lifestyle, then I recommend that you have a cheat meal only once a week. This will give your mind and body a chance to get over your withdrawal symptoms of processed or unhealthy food, which you might have been consuming for many years. Having only one cheat meal a week in the beginning can also build up focus and self-control for a long-term success.
Once you start to embrace your new fitter and healthier lifestyle, and as you start getting learner, the frequency of your cheat meals may actually increase. The lower your body fat levels are, the more your body wants to hang on to the fat it has, and some of you might hit a weight-loss plateau. In order to drop the last few pounds, you can increase your cheat meals to twice a week. This will keep your body guessing and increase your metabolism to continue burning fat more efficiently.
2) Be mindful of your calories
Yes, even your cheating needs to be recorded in your food diary! This is the only way you can be certain that you’re not completely ruining your effort for the entire week.
Remember, cheat meals should not be treated like a buffet; it certainly isn’t “eat all you can”. Instead, eat between 500 – 1000Cals more than your usual day. Although a cheat meal allows freedom for you to eat what you would normally avoid, you should still practice self-control and remain focus on your ultimate fitness goal. Choose one thing you really want, whether it’s ice cream or a cake, but don’t give yourself excuses to turn the one indulgence into a whole day or a week of overindulging!
3) Pre-plan your cheat meal
Many people in the health or fitness industry actually do not like the word “cheat”, instead they prefer to look at it as a “reward meal” for the hard work you’ve put in. I’m sure you might have noticed, when you try to lose weight; you become somewhat of a social outcast. You might not able to enjoy eating out with your family and friends as frequent as you used to.
So pre-plan your ‘reward or cheat meal’ and make it at a time when it is socially beneficial to you. No matter how we avoid it, bad food always seems to be around when you are out with family and friends. I like to save my cheat meal for the weekend where I can loosen up and enjoy my dinner without worrying about having to say no to every temptation.
So make it a time to reward and celebrate your effort. If you associate your treats to feelings of guilt, this can further lead to loss of control over your meal, hence letting go. However, if you associate your treats to celebration, you are more likely to be in control of your eating habits, and know when to stop when you are satisfied. This leads on to my next step.
4) Build a positive relationship with food
How many of you have allowed yourself to indulge in bad food and then feel extremely guilty afterwards? If that happens on a regular basis, it’s very likely that you see food as a threat and something negative that will sabotage your fitness goal.
Just know that no single food causes weight gain. Weight management is based on your total calorie intake. So if you practice moderation, self-control and see food as nourishing both your body and soul, all foods can be part of a healthy eating plan.
I believe that in order to build a positive relationship with food long term, it has to start from within. So change your mindset and food language. Instead of saying, “This food is bad and high in calories and I feel extremely guilty from eating it”, tell yourself “This food has a lot of calories, if I really want it, I will enjoy it in moderation”. Start changing your mindset and you will gradually build up a positive relationship with food, which will contribute to a healthy weight management long term.
5) Enjoy with all your senses
The difference between binging and enjoying a cheat meal is that you know you’re fully in control, fully aware and present with your meal. You’re able to eat what you want until you're satisfied, not until you're stuffed.
So put effort into your cheat meal. When you indulge, serve it on a pretty plate so that it’s appealing to your sight. Smell your food, eat your food slowly by taking small bites to fully appreciate the taste and texture. Don’t just gobble down your food, I mean you’ve waited for your cheat meal. And avoid eating in front of any distractions such as the TV, computer or doing any other activity. Just by being more aware of what is on your plate, and enjoying it slowly, you will have a much more satisfying and mindful meal experience without overeating.
6) It’s all about balance
A cheat meal should always be within control, so this means learning to give and take. It is not a license to binge. If you happen to be dessert lover, just like me, then comprise and go light on your main course. Skip the starter, drinks and choose a healthier, lower calorie main course, so that you can splurge on dessert. It’s all about balance. If you plan ahead and already know what you want to order prior to visiting a restaurant, you are more likely to stick within your portion and enjoy a satisfying cheat meal.
7) Be kind to yourself
No matter how much we plan and have strong self-control, it is impossible to be perfect throughout your weight loss journey. Sometimes we tend to overindulge and eat more than what we intended for our cheat meal. Or maybe you’re eating more cheat meals than you planned in a week.
Everyone slips up, and that is fine as long as you do not allow one slip turn into a relapse. Don’t let it be an excuse to get back into your old eating patterns. Whenever you slip up, take note, learn from it so that you can anticipate and take control in the future.
To sum up, rewarding and recognizing your effort by enjoying cheat meals have been proven to increase motivation and contribute to a higher success weight loss rate. This is because cheat meal feeds the soul and feeding the soul keeps your mind and body at ease. So when you’re in balance with yourself, you’re most likely to stay focus and achieve your ultimate goal. I hope this video has taught you on how to be smart with your “cheat meals” so that you can maintain and healthy balanced diet long term. All the best!