Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Why I Love Cheat Meals

Cheat meals, ohhhh cheat meals.

When you're working on losing weight - whether it be through clean eating, or exercise, or a combination of both - one thing is true in my mind: cheat meals are key.

Last year, I made huge changes in my life and dropped a large amount of weight. Throughout the year, I continued to challenge myself in different ways possible. I cut out alcohol completely for a few months, I ate clean (pretty strictly), and switched up work-outs to "shock" my body into not knowing what was coming so that I could drop weight and not hit a plateau immediately.

Throughout the different challenges that I gave myself, one thing that I learned about my body (and apparently everyone's body... which I learned through research) is that I benefit drastically from cheat meals. My body and weight-loss respond best when I eat clean and allow myself one cheat meal per week. That's the one thing that I'm disappointed that I didn't learn earlier in the year (in 2013)... I challenged myself to be so strict with no cheat meals for close to 3 months. I didn't see the results that I would've expected to see. Since changing my eating style to eating clean and having one cheat meal a week, I've dropped a lot more weight than when I was strictly eating clean.

Whether you're just starting your weight-loss journey, or you're a 'seasoned' professional with yo-yo dieting, or you're fit and a hardcore clean eater... I still believe that having a cheat meal every week will help you. Let's face it - we're all human. We all crave bad foods from time to time, and if you're one of the 0.1% of the worlds population who doesn't crave bad foods, please don't tell me about it. I believe that if you don't give into these cravings every so often, you're more likely to 'fall off the bandwagon' all together, or sneaking foods, or binge eating.

If you're like me, you may eye food a little something like this:

I'm going to break it down a little... Because really, I swear, it's not all in my head - cheat meals really do work well for your body.

Implementing a cheat meal into your regime is a great way to ensure that your metabolism is "up" and running on full blast. This cheat meal can reboot/kick-start your metabolism. The key to all of this is a hormone called Leptin. This plays a key role in regulating energy intake/energy expenditure. Leptin is also an anti-starvation hormone... aka you can use it to your advantage.

With that being said, if you don’t have a cheat every so often (my suggestion is per week, but you can do it bi-weekly, or monthly if you prefer), then your leptin levels will continue to rise. This is more than likely going to cause you to go on a huge binge anyway.

In my opinion, you should try and follow a few simple guidelines when deciding to have a cheat meal:

  • Plan your cheat meals in advance - don't just randomly eat ALL THE THINGS whenever you see them. Try and 'plan' something in advance, or have an idea of what you want to eat.. I promise it'll make your life easier, and keep your cheat meals from becoming cheat days or cheat weekends.

  • *IF YOU CAN*... Eat your cheat meal after you work-out. This is when your body is going to benefit from the 'cheat meal' the best. Your leptin levels will be lower, and your body will be in it's 'high fat, high calorie burning mode'.

  • Don't over indulge. You get another cheat meal next week... don't make yourself sick. Don't eat 5 slices of pizza, a bag of M&M's, and a bag of popcorn. No. This will make you sick - GUARANTEED. Also, it'll undo all the good that you've been doing for your body.

  • If you want a big-ass bowl of ice cream as your cheat meal, go for it. Have at it... But, I strongly suggest having a high protein and high carb cheat meal.

Realistically, I probably could've gotten a lot more scientific with this explanation or maybe explained it a little better.. but I hope that maybe it'll help one (or some) of you to understand cheat meals a little better and not be scared or intimidated by them. If you have questions about this, or your opinion is different - please leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts. I'll leave it at this for now.

Linking up with these fine ladies today:

Tales Of A Twenty Something


Allie @ Tales of a TwentySomething said...

This. This is perfect. I am so glad you shared this. I was kinda beating myself up over being a little less strict on the weekends. Now I don't eat all the things then either, but you know what I mean. This makes me happy AND makes me 100% sure that you should be a personal trainer one day. You know your shit <3

Sarah Farris said...

I completely agree. My personal rules for "cheat meals," are like you said, not over indulging. As I have improved my eating habits, I have found that two chicken fingers and a side of mac & cheese with half a cup of ice cream is totally satisfying and worth it. Old Sarah would regularly eat 4-6 chicken fingers, a couple of servings of mac and cheese, but then skip the ice cream, so that I would be being good. Oh the irony!

Amy @ Living n Learning said...

I agree with this 100%. While I'm not the best at sticking to a cleaner diet just yet I definitely believe in a cheat meal to prevent me from binging hard cord on everything bad for me. As I work on my diet more I'm definitely going to factor in a cheat meal once a week. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!