This is a complicated but very interesting topic and something that everyone has their own individual view on.
The idea behind a ‘cheat meal’ is when you schedule a specific meal (usually at the weekend) when you can eat anything you want, some people even dedicate a whole day to it. A lot of diet plans and fitness ‘influencers’ endorse the idea, apparently proven to prevent you from feeling deprived to keep your healthy eating on track.
My opinion? Completely unnecessary!
For someone who is adamant they want to lose weight, usually struggling with unrealised addictions to unhealthy food or partakes in the occasional binge, to suggest to them that, as part of their ‘healthy balanced diet’ it is beneficial to pig-out on foods high in sugar, trans fat and unrefined wheat once a week baffles me!
A maintainable and healthier option would be to consider ‘refeeds’, this is where you increase your carb intake slightly (and by slightly, I don’t mean treating yourself to a circa 2,000 calorie dominos pizza and cookies) one or two days a week. This will spike your metabolism, give you a little more energy and maybe help with cravings.
(Advice: If you’re worried about your metabolic rate going down while losing weight, lift weights, and if you already do that, try heavier! This is proven to maintain metabolic rate.)
Speaking from experience, when I was losing weight, I think I went without a take-away for around 1 year. Instead my ‘treat’ at the weekend was a fillet steak in a garlic sauce with asparagus and melted dark chocolate with strawberries for desert. Doesn’t sound very exciting does it? However to me, it was extremely tasty, filling, healthy and I didn’t feel bloated, guilty, depressed and lethargic after it.
And what happens when you start to feel rubbish about yourself? You comfort eat! You may end up eating way more than you originally planned, putting all your hard work during the week to waste. If you tend to crave junk food and keep giving into those cravings, you will just make them stronger. Try and avoid these foods completely and they will eventually diminish, trust me!
My advice would be ditch the ‘cheat meals’ idea and track your calories, simple as that…at the end of the day it’s calories in versus calories out. Don’t deprive yourself of what you want during the week or at the weekend, if you want a dairy milk chocolate bar (using it as an example as there is one sitting on my desk staring at me) eat it! but make sure you move around and adjust your calories for the day – just make room for it.
Also, take a step back and look at who you are surrounding yourself with, are your friends and family supporting your new healthy lifestyle? I hope so, because if not, this could be detrimental to your progress. You may also follow fitness influencers on Instagram, I have found that they will sometimes champion the idea of ‘cheat meals’, this is how they become relate-able so you will continue to engage with them, a lot of people take comfort from seeing people in high places ‘falling off the bandwagon’ (even if we pretend we don’t!) You will like their posts and continue to follow them because they make you feel better about yourself. Are you sure they even eat the food they are promoting? I’m not.
It’s your body, your lifestyle and you are obviously free to do whatever works best for you! In my posts I make sure I speak from experience, i’m not promoting diet culture but being realistic in the long-term is important.