It’s Saturday! Time to cheat? Believe it or not, there is a rhyme, reason and method to cheating! And yes, even competitors and fitness nerds cheat! We just create some rules for ourselves in order to do it in a way that helps, not hinders our physique goals and mental attitude.
Let’s first start with what a cheat meal is NOT:
A cheat meal is not a cheat day
A cheat meal is not a continuous meal
A cheat meal is not a sort-of-cheat
A cheat meal is not an alcohol binge
A cheat meal is not an every day occurence :)
The idea behind a strategic cheat meal is that it allows you to have whatever foods you have been missing or are off-limits during the rest of the week, and enjoy them in a way that makes you feel satisfied and full (but not 100% disgusting/pukey) but also encouraged to get back on the bandwagon the next day. It should make you feel just gross enough that you remember how badly eating junk makes you feel, but not so much that you feel guilty, discouraged or lose sight of your fat loss goals and just throw in the towel.
As we know, eating sugary, fatty foods can be a slippery slope–the more you eat, the more you want. That is why we suggest having a single “meal” to enjoy your favorite foods. That does not mean you eat whatever and as much as you want from 5pm straight through midnight (aka “continuous meal”). Instead, you choose a single meal and indulge in all the parts of the meal strategically.
For example, after the Metabolic Effect photo shoot for which we had all been tightening our diets up, we hit the Cheesecake Factory, hands-down one of the best choices for a cheat meal (that’s another point–please do not choose any old McDonalds up the street (unless a Big Mac is your absolute favorite food of course)–strategize your cheat so that it will really mean something to you, and will be special lol :). Anyway, back to the story–we hit the Cheesecake Factory and here’s what the cheat meal looked like:
Appetizer: Buffalo chicken strips with blue cheese dressing split among 3 people
Main course: Jill choose a Cobb Salad with extra chicken and Jade choose a burger and fries (note the protein is still there!)
Dessert: A single slice of Reeses Peanut Butter Cheesecake split among 3 people
Simple, filling, satisfying. Done! Move on and get back on the fat loss bandwagon tomorrow!
One of our hard and fast rules for cheat meals includes no going out and getting wasted on alcohol. If you want to incorporate an alcoholic beverage because you just love red wine, then do a single glass or two at the most. Alcohol is metabolized differently than food, and the physique ramifications of copious amounts of booze, beer and wine can linger for days after the cheat meal is over–it will be Wednesday and you still have not shed the water from your alcohol-laden Saturday night meal.
Next, have protein, carbs and fat at your cheat meal. A great example is a cheeseburger with fries, a few slices of meat-lover’s pizza or spaghetti with meatballs. Having a good quality cheat meal can help reset your leptin hormone levels to boost your metabolism, and also help lower the stress hormone cortisol. Leptin has a powerful impact on the metabolism and levels can decrease drastically as a result of dieting hard, thus slowing the metabolism. Any competitor knows the feeling of resetting leptin–it’s the sweating and burning up hot that happens the night after a cheat meal. Hello metabolism, welcome back! :) Thus done right, it is a good thing that can help boost fat burning at that point when the metabolism may have started to slow.
Lastly, please really cheat. A lot of competitors or people who are cognizant of their diets may be fearful or inhibited in their cheats. I can certainly understand that, however, when you hold back and don’t quite indulge fully, there is sometimes still a feeling of dissatisfaction or wanting after it is over. The cravings might still be there in some capacity or you might be inclined to do another half-cheat the very next day. This is not nearly as effective for fat loss as simply having what you want no holds barred and then jumping back on the 100% clean bandwagon the next day. Besides, a chief aim of the cheat meal is to attain psychological satisfaction, so that eating clean throughout the week is not such an indefinite chore–remember, “I have my cheat meal Saturday night!” So cheat, cheat smart and cheat all the way!
Jill with her peanut butter chocolate ice cream sundae after Model Universe in Miami last year :)