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: