Ahhh cheat meals. One of my favorite topics. And by the looks of some of these Facebook and Instagram posts, it's a pretty popular one with everyone else, too. Let's be clear though. I'm talking about cheat meals, not cheat days... there's a difference.
I have worked with nutrition clients in the past who are severely strict with their food intake during the week. Then, when the weekend hits, it's like a sudden euphoria arrives and they've gone to "Food Las Vegas" because they've hit the food jackpot.
Let's get this straight. Eating like a vegan recluse on broccoli island during the week does not make it OK to dive head first into a hot fudge volcano on the weekend. A healthy stretch of 4 or 5 days shouldn't give you the go-ahead for 1 to 2 days of a sugar coma or a grease seizure.
In fact, being overly strict and following it up with moments of "what the heck" is almost certainly a way to give your best-laid dietary plans the heave ho with a shrug of your shoulders. "I'm being so strict, but I'm not seeing any results... forget this."
So why are cheat meals so popular then? Because if you do them right, they can be a godsend. A small, pre-planned deviation from a regimented diet can help you retain your sanity and find the motivation to keep kicking caloric hiney.
The keyword being pre-planned. More and more emerging research is showing the benefit of the simple act of planning a cheat meal in advance.
By doing so, you'll feel more in control of your options, you'll have a mini "food vacation" to look forward to and you'll help balance out crucial hormone levels that can drop during prolonged bouts of caloric reduction.
If you're wondering what should constitute a cheat meal, know that it'll be different for each individual. A 6-foot 2-inch athlete will be able to cheat differently than a 4-foot 11-inch overweight senior citizen. Kinda makes sense, right?
Also, each person's ability to abstain should be considered. Don't hit the all-you-can-eat sundae buffet if you have problems putting down the spoon. Know your weaknesses and know your strengths.
A good place to start is by planning to have a single meal that features a favorite food that you've deprived yourself of for an amount of time. For some, that may be a few pieces of chocolate. For others, a slice or two of pizza. Make it your special treat.
Start small so you don't beat yourself up over it. Plan it in advance so you look forward to it. If the time comes and you don't feel the need to indulge, don't force yourself to do it. Instead, move the date down the road and keep rocking.
If you find yourself struggling to stick to your diet, make a date to cheat with yourself. Make it reasonable but make it special. Enjoy it. Savor it. It will help re-energize you and help quell the craving monster. Then get right back to kicking calories in the face!
Andy Frisch, NASM CPT, CES, PES, WFS, IFT, NESTA FNC, is a successful personal trainer and nutrition coach who enjoys working with clients of all shapes, sizes and ages. He currently train clients at Sports Village Fitness in Lebanon, works with clients online at www.FreshEvolutionFitness.com and has a budding YouTube channel.