Just about everyone who’s started a diet has heard the phrase “cheat meal”. The idea is that if you’re “good” the rest of the week, you can reward yourself with a cheat meal. Or, if you slip up and eat something that isn’t part of your diet, you can consider that your cheat meal.
So, what’s the deal with cheat meals? Do we, as health coaches, recommend them? Let’s examine this term and some other options so you can decide if the “cheat meal” route is right for you. Here are some do’s and don’ts:
Don’t feel guilty! The problem we see with cheat meals is they make people feel guilty afterward. This can lead to you developing a positive or negative connotation of food. We want you to think of losing weight as a lifestyle change, something you can see yourself doing forever. No one has ever lost weight and never slipped and eaten something unhealthy.
Weight loss is about the give and the take. If you want the French fries, maybe you give up your sandwich bun. Or, maybe you take the fries and the bun and give up something tomorrow. Don’t let guilt overcome you.
Get back off track. If you’re going to have a cheat meal, our best advice is to return to your healthy diet for your next meal, or the next day. Don’t let this one meal lead to a relapse into bad habits you’re trying to break. Come up with a plan to get back to eating healthy foods and exercising.
Feel free to give in to your cravings. We often see people regain weight when their diets severely restrict the foods they love. When the diet ends they tend to binge on the foods they weren’t “allowed” to eat. The problem is that you haven’t taught yourself how to lose weight and change your behaviors while still enjoying your favorite foods.
Satisfy cravings with healthier alternatives. Instead of eating a 300-calorie candy bar, opt for the 30-calorie snack bite instead. This will ease your chocolate cravings while saving you 270 calories. Eating smaller portions of your favorite foods, or looking for healthier alternatives (like veggie burgers or low-fat ice cream) are a great way to enjoy foods you miss, while saving some extra calories.
Beat that cheat with some exercise. If you’re feeling guilty about eating too many calories, balance the score with some extra exercise. Whether it’s a new workout class or getting in a few more steps that normal, exercise will help burn some of those extra calories.
Need some help putting this advice into practice? Call a health coach at 1-800-807-0751 to discuss these tips and tricks and more!