I have been asked my opinion on cheat meals a few times now, so I thought it was time to share with you all my thoughts. In short, I have never eaten a ‘cheat meal’ and never plan to. If you have been following my Instagram, you will know that I do not track my calories and never have done as I prefer intuitive eating; focusing on eating a diet based on whole foods rather than their macronutrient content.
Psychologically, by having a cheat meal you are cheating yourself and your diet. But why do you need to? The concept of ‘cheating’ has been portrayed as negative in any scenario, the practice of indulging in something that you maybe shouldn’t. So, for me the use of cheat meals is setting up the beginning of a negative relationship with food. By cheating on your diet, you are categorizing foods into ‘good foods’ and ‘bad foods’ which is often the beginning of a downward spiral into a poor food mentality.
If you are on a diet or meal plan that specifically states that you cannot have a certain food item or type of food, more often than not this will trigger an increased want for this item. If, in your diet, you have allowed yourself a cheat meal or a cheat day it is common that you will binge because you feel that you have deserved it, and then go back to your restrictive diet. And voila, you have entered a binge and restriction cycle. Unfortunately, this way of eating seems to currently be fairly well accepted, particularly in the fitness industry. And although the saying ‘one bad meal won’t make you fat’, a cycle of restriction and binging can do just the opposite.
So, What Do you Do?
Now don’t get me wrong, I definitely don’t eat whole, nutritious foods 100% of the time! For me, the negative issues surrounding cheat meals is much more about mental health than physical health. If I go out with friends and want to have a pizza, I will! Irrelevant of what day it is, what I’ve already eaten that day or what I have planned for the rest of the week. I would never limit myself to a routine where I can only have a ‘bad meal’ on a Friday night because that is when I have decided my cheat meal will be.
Fitness, nutrition and good health are all about balance and it is only when we find that balance that we have truly succeeded. Being able to be in control of your nutrition rather than it control you should be the aim, and for me, the ability to eat what I want, when I want, whilst also being mindful of my overall health is what it is all about.