A cheat meal is the concept where you eat well majority of the time and schedule in a meal (or day) where you indulge in less nutritious, higher energy foods. Sounds fair, I mean as Dietitian’s we believe in everything in moderation but here is what is wrong with the concept of a “cheat meal”.
- It breeds food guilt. The idea that foods are good and bad and you should feel guilty after eating certain foods is dangerous. This thought process can lead to binge and purge cycles and disordered eating patterns. Instead it is better to take pleasure in all the different foods you eat, without feeling guilty or the need to punish yourself.
- Cheat meals can turn into binges. This is where you eat whatever your heart desires. You can over consume by a large amount and this can really set back your health and weight loss goals and lead you to feel nauseous, heavy, tired and bloated.
- It does not lead to greater weight loss. Restricting all week and over consuming on one day is not maintainable in the long term and is no better for weight loss. Instead if you aim for daily moderation and balance, you can lose weight, not feel restricted and maintain that lifestyle. This is something a dietitian can help you with.
- Cheat meals can wreak havoc on your social life and sanity. You can find yourself not going to social events unless it coincides with a scheduled cheat meal. The concept of having a scheduled cheat meal can also consume your thoughts as you scroll through social media planning your next cheat meal.
The Bottom line: Indulge mindfully.
Mindful eating isn’t just for healthy meals; it should be practiced with treats and indulgences as well. When you choose to consume a delicious treat, slow down and eat it without distractions. That means not in front of the TV or computer. Sit at a table, eat slowly and pay attention to every mouthful. You’ll notice flavours that you may have otherwise missed, and will be more aware of feelings of fullness. Put the focus on how you are eating – not just what you are eating – and you’ll enjoy food more. Aim for including a single portion treat when you feel like it within moderation, and don’t feel guilty about it. You will find this will improve your relationship with food and reduce your cravings.