Why Having a Cheat Meal is Good for You and Your Diet

Weight loss is definitely about consistency and making smart choices but it’s just as important to establish habits and lifestyle changes that are realistic and attainable. This of it this way: you and your friends are embarking on a long road trip from Seattle to Disney World, obviously you want to get there sooner than later but you’ve realized you’re going to have to pace out the journey to get there safely and make sure no one falls asleep at the wheel. You’re going to need to take rest stops and probably get a hotel every couple of nights at least. You may even get off course a little bit because your cousins girlfriend insists that you see the largest known toad mating habitat south of where they filmed Days of Our Lives. The point is, just because you do take these stops and may go the wrong direction for a while, you know your overall goal and you’re going to get there.

Giving yourself a meal a week or a day every now and then (scheduled or not) will make you less likely to cheat uncontrollably. I’ve found for myself that it also keeps me more motivated to stay on track. For example, back in 2010 when I started my ultimate weight loss journey there would be days where I just “had” to have a McDonald’s cheeseburger, so I’d get one. More likely than not, after I indulged in one, I’d feel kind of gross, not guilty because I knew I was only human, but I started paying more attention to how certain foods (especially real vs. fake or highly processed foods) truly made me feel. The next time you really want Oreo’s give yourself some time and think about it, if you still want them hours, days later, go for it. But when you do indulge, take the time to think about how the food is effecting your body. I often find now that I’m more health conscious that super sugary or processed foods really make me feel sick within minutes of eating them.

There are lots of good reasons to have cheat days in general; some of the biggest reasons being that it helps your mind maintain a level of understanding with your body. Sure, the mind is a powerful thing, I’m pretty sure I will the light to turn green every morning on my way to work, but at some point depriving the pleasure centers of your brain from chocolate or something you really enjoy will only make you and your body go crazy. I typically try to keep chocolate in my house – what? that’s crazy speak, why would you keep evil food at your fingertips!? – well actually, having it readily available tends to calm my nerves. Knowing that I CAN choose to eat whatever I want, whenever I want, gives me more self-control. When I do want chocolate, I’ll often have a piece of Dove dark chocolate, slowly savoring it and ending up completely satisfied. Otherwise, if I kept restricting myself I’d end up eating an entire tray of homemade brownies within a matter of weeks (yes, I’ve actually done that before….on numerous occasions but I won’t judge myself harshly for that because I know WHY it happened).

Also, it would be pretty hard to gain back the majority of your weight loss in one day (or one meal). We know that we have to eat an excess of 3,500 calories to gain back a pound of fat. Often times, too, weight gain can be caused more by sodium intake than actual calories/fat. Sodium helps us retain water weight, so if you head home and eat 5 packets of Top Ramen (please don’t by the way) you will most likely feel bloated and retain water weight, not that you should be basing your progress by the scale alone anyway though.

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Homemade Pizzas! On the left: Thai style with chicken and peanut sauce. On the right: good ol’ pepperoni and canadian bacon @_@

Cheat meals have also been shown to help boost your metabolism from time to time. This is because when we reach plateaus our body begins to conserve energy and adapt or adjust to our new eating and fitness habits. This is one of the reasons again, why interval training is so great. The same is true for your eating habits. When you allow your body to eat some of the foods it “wants” or more what your mind wants, the Leptin hormone levels in your body increase back to a normal level. Thus, telling your body “hey it’s ok, we can rev up the metabolism again, Joe just ate a hot dog!”

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Brownie Waffles – so bad but so good. I should do some posts about cheat meals and put this on there.

Bottom line: instead of trying to deprive yourself for the long haul until you reach that dream body, take breaks every now and then, pull over for those rest stops and have a bowl of ice cream. As long as you’re doing it smart and still making a conscious effort to not fall completely off the wagon then you’re doing an amazing job. Food is more than fuel, it’s also one of the many pleasures of being alive, so enjoy it and realize that it’s just as much a part of weight loss and fitness as anything else!

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6 thoughts on “Why Having a Cheat Meal is Good for You and Your Diet

  1. Pingback: Progress Update: focusing on more than numbers and appearance « sarahdoesfitness

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  3. Pingback: 40 Ways to Reward Yourself Without Food and Creating a Reward Jar « sarahdoesfitness

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