Summary: If you’ve ever been on a diet, you’ve likely heard of a cheat meal. Here’s why you should avoid having cheat meals as a part of your diet.
If you’ve done any research on diets or done one or more yourself, then you’ve probably heard of a “cheat meal.” For anyone who may not know, a cheat meal, or cheat day, is when you don’t have to follow your diet for that meal or that day. You can eat whatever you want and not worry about the food rules that you adhere to for the rest of the week in order to stick to your diet and lose weight.
While the cheat meal may be a popular concept, it’s actually not good for your mental or physical health. The idea of a cheat meal is to allow you some wiggle room in your diet so that you can enjoy food you love instead of abstaining for weeks or months. However, there are a lot of negative side effects from the cheat meal as well and it’s not about the fat, sugar or calories.
- Cheat meals create guilt.
First and foremost, the word “cheat” means that you should feel guilty about what you’re choosing to eat during that day or meal. No one should ever feel guilty about what they eat. Food is food and is not an indicator of your worth or character as a person. Using the word “cheat” only brings feelings of shame around those foods deemed “unhealthy” or “bad,” which can stick with you for a lifetime.
- Cheat meals can turn into binges.
When you’re restricting your food for a long period of time and then you’re told that you’re “allowed” to eat whatever you want, you’re going to go crazy. Not only is it mentally charged, but your body is probably starving for certain nutrients and you’re bound to go overboard. It’s healthier to allow your body to eat what you crave (sometimes that’s pizza, sometimes that’s salad) all the time rather than be stuck in a diet/binge cycle.
- You’ll think about food all the time. When you’re constantly eating foods that you feel like you “should” eat and ignoring your body’s natural cravings, your mind is going to constantly turn to food. Having a cheat meal simply makes you focus on that one meal all week long, taking your mental energy away from the important things in your life.
Instead of following a strict diet plan and having a cheat meal at specific intervals, look to create more balance in your diet. If your doctor has told you to work on your nutrition, focus on things like adding in more vegetables and fruit rather than thinking about all the things you think you can’t have. You have to slowly learn how to trust your body because your body knows what it needs. If you’re craving a burger at dinner, get that instead of the salad. Maybe you need more iron so that’s what your body is telling you. When you do eat, do so mindfully. Enjoy what you’re eating and don’t be too distracted. Doing so will help you be more satisfied. Then you won’t need a “cheat meal” to get through the week.