cheat meal
Be Skinny,Lifestyle,Think Healthy

What’s the Deal with Cheat Meals?

I hear “Cheat Meal” and “Cheat Day” all of the time and I feel like I’m the girl walking around with a question mark on the top of her head. It’s not that I disagree with the concept, in fact, as you should know by now I’m a firm believer that small indulgences are most certainly an important and necessary part of life. But I do think this is a slippery slope and I’d love to open this one up for discussion.

What’s the deal with cheat meals?

Ok, from a psychological perspective, the idea is that if you plan your cheat meal ahead of time, it’s easier to pass on the junk food in the moment. If you’re a burger* lover, it’s far too difficult to commit to passing on them for the rest of your life. The well planned, occasional indulgence can be a far better strategy and good way to help more folks to commit to positive change. When you know you’re going to have one on Sunday, it becomes much easier to pass on it on Tuesday. While you’re busy passing on it on Tuesday, you’re working on building healthier habits. Often times, people find that they feel so good by the time the Sunday burger rolls around, they don’t even want to eat it. This is a brilliant strategy, when it works like this. Physiologically, there is quite a bit of chatter that cheat meals cause “metabolic confusion” and can in turn help you get leaner.

*I’m using burger as the proverbial cheat meal, it’s not that I love them or dislike them. I even think you can make quite a healthy burger with some attention and a few tweaks, but that is beside the point here. It’s just a simple analogy, insert your preferred cheat food 🙂 

My first concern with cheat meals:

To be perfectly blunt, I don’t like the word “cheat.” It’s negative and implies some form of sneaky-wrong-doing. If you’ve carefully thought out your Sunday burger and are working towards that “treat” then you’re doing anything but “cheating.” It’s actually a well thought out part of your plan to success. Quite the opposite of the connotation of “cheating.” I don’t know this for certian, but it seems logical to me that when you feel like you’re “cheating” (because that’s what your brain is telling you’re doing) you’re left to feel guilty. Then you’re one step closer to  “what’s the point, I may was well order the fries and shake too since I’m cheating anyway...”

My second concern with cheat meals:

There is such a thing as trigger foods or gateway foods. Like that little burger that knows it tastes better with fries and a shake. And even if you’re not feeling a “what’s the point,” there is a physiological craving for more that can be triggered once the chain reaction is started. It’s like the first chip. You could go all day with no chips and salsa. But once you get started, you go until the bowl is empty. Well, most of us do anyway.

Can we change Cheating to Treating?

I do think that when done correctly, the concept of what is popularly known as “cheating” is an excellent strategy. I think that if we could make the small mental shift from the term “cheating” to “treating” we might be in better shape. I’m not really a fan of food based rewards, but a well thought out, tasty little treat every once in a while sounds like a far better strategy than “cheating” to me. And it’s also a part of treating yourself well.

Let’s open this up for discussion:

Share your response to any of these questions,

  • Do you use cheat meals/days as a part of your healthy strategy?
  • Do you plan them in advance or just decide in the moment?
  • How do you maintain control and not go completely overboard?
  • Or is going completely overboard part of your strategy?

I cant’ wait to hear your responses!

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  • cassi9879b

    Cheat meals have to be planned to work properly. You have to be able to find the balance with the rest of your day/week.

    Every Tuesday night after my Weight Watchers meeting I eat 3 slices of Little Caesar’s pepperoni pizza. Occasionally it’s something different.

  • Nicole

    I like the way you think!

    While dieting to lose weight I have always planned cheat meals- it helps me to not accidentally go overboard at one meal and then say “screw it!” And eat bad the rest of the day.

    However, when I’m not dieting, I simply eat a mostly healthy diet with a few splurges. I can tell when I’ve been splurging too much and re-adjust. Life’s to short to think of every burger as a naughty “cheat”!

  • GiGi Eats Celebrities

    I don’t know what cheat meals are as I happen to crave healthy foods! Roasted butternut squash is a “cheat” for me??

  • Emily

    I hate the word “cheat” when it comes to good. Instead, I call them my “scheduled indulgences,” and I make sure whatever I eat, that it is super high quality, very satisfying, and contains at least some nutritional content. Thanks for bringing this up, it bugs me when people use that word, it is just so negative!

  • Michelle

    I think that if that’s what works for a person, then do it. What works for me is to incorporate enjoyable food into every day as my activity level allows. I like wine with dinner, and I like dessert. I like pizza and I like burgers in moderation. But I work out 5-6 days per week (I do triathlons), I’m picky about my food content and sources, and I’m meeting my nutrition and weight goals. I do track calories, both to make sure I don’t eat too much, but also to make sure I’m eating enough during peak training phases. That’s what works for me, and there isn’t a right or wrong way.

    However, I will note that I had a very carb-heavy Easter brunch (not at our house), and I felt like it took about two weeks to get back on track and stop craving (and giving in to) sugar and everything else. Normally I don’t have a problem with cravings or overeating. That reinforced the idea that a cheat day strategy wouldn’t work for me. I’m not “on a diet,” I’m living a healthy, fit and enjoyable long-term lifestyle, supporting my family to do the same. What’s to cheat on?

    • Teresa

      OMG Michelle — I LOVE this comment! ” I’m not “on a diet,” I’m living a healthy, fit and enjoyable long-term lifestyle, supporting my family to do the same. What’s to cheat on?” is such a strong mindset. Kudos to you for finding such balance! I know it’s hard, but you are more proof it can be done!

  • Kathleen Lisson

    I don’t cheat or treat. Certain foods are better for me before/after I exercise than at other times in the day. If I want sugar, I eat it after exercising, when my body can put it to good use.

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