“Can I have a cheat meal?” Is often a question asked, followed by: “Should I have a cheat meal or a cheat day?”
The answer that you receive is going to vary from one source to another. Some sources answer the question(s) with a NO. Others say, have a cheat meal with moderation. So now let me give you my perspective, followed by my “5 Rules on when I allow myself to have a cheat meal.” Then for fun, at the very end, I’m going to answer the question about “Should you have a cheat meal or a cheat day?”
My perspective on having cheat meals:
First and foremost. I’m a cheater. Yikes! I said it. But I keep good company. Tony Horton will admit to having a cheat meal, so will Shaun T. Even Chalene Johnson says its okay to splurge every now and again. And THAT is the big secret…. every now and again….. have a cheat meal. But there are times you shouldn’t too. So let;s get in to my 5 Rules on when I allow myself to have a cheat meal.
5 Rules on when I allow myself to have a cheat meal:
Rule #1: I EARN every single cheat meal with hard work and dedication to my nutrition. IF I push play on my workout program all week (5-6 days per week), and IF I eat healthy all week long, THEN I earned the right to have a cheat meal. Look at it like a mathematical equation. Workout + Nutrition = Cheat Meal.
This applies to whatever your fitness goals are. If you are trying to lose weight, then your “eat healthy” means setting a calorie deficit and maintaining that all week. If you are adding lean muscle or maintaining your weight, then your definition of “eat healthy” is simply eating clean food at your designated calorie level.
Your exercise is simply that. Exercise daily, 5 to 6 times per week. I like Beachbody programs because I can literally print out a workout schedule and cross off my days.
Rule #2: You absolutely MUST PLAN out when you have a cheat meal. The hardest part of any “diet” is self-control. I don’t even like the term “diet”. I like “nutrition plan”. I believe diets are meant to be broken, but a nutritional plan is changing the way you eat for a lifetime, something that you can live with for the LONG TERM. Because there is nothing worse than a “yo-yo” diet. Lose weight, gain weight, lose weight, gain even more. Some diets are so hard to stick to, that you simply cannot maintain them LONG TERM, thus the “yo-yo effect”.
I said all of that, to say this. You are likely trying to lose weight and/or get in shape, because you eat junk food too much right? And you probably eat junk food too much because it tastes sooo good, and you just can’t control those urges. So the idea is to plan a cheat meal, so that when you see things that you want, or smell a tasty treat, you don’t just CAVE in. If you know that you have a cheat meal coming on Saturday night, and you smell pizza at work…. then it is much easier to resist that pizza at work, if you know that Saturday night is on the way. Once you get some self-control, then you really are IN CONTROL of your health.
Rule #3: Be HONEST and be FAIR to yourself. If you are reading this article, its probably because you are trying to lose weight, or trying to maintain your current weight. At very least, you care about your health or you wouldn’t even be here. So with that in mind, you know that NUTRITION is a big big factor in your fitness goals. And you also know that you wouldn’t be trying to lose weight, or maintain your weight, had you at ONE TIME ate too much junk food! So now, you have to lock down your diet and nutrition. You have to. If you don’t, you’ll die. Okay, you probably won’t drop dead from a heart attack with one cheeseburger, but it doesn’t take too much effort to look ahead and see where the road leads for people that don’t take care of themselves, the one and only body you have…. and you only get one. Negative actions lead to negative consequences.
So let’s get back on target. If you said Saturday was your planned night to have a cheat meal, and on Thursday night a friend comes over and wants to order pizza, and you give in…. now what? Now its time to be HONEST and FAIR with yourself. It’s not a two cheat meal week, it means Saturday is now off the table. You had your cheat meal for the week.
So plan ahead. If you know you have a family gathering, a party, a retirement, a special date, then schedule your cheat meal accordingly.
Rule #4: Don’t get CRAZY. Moderation is key when you have a cheat meal. When your cheat meal date/time arrives, have your cheat meal GUILT FREE, but only eat until you are satisfied. One plate, one serving, one trip to the buffet. Eat until you are satisfied, not until you are absolutely stuffed. Have a few slices of pizza, not the whole thing! Have a bowl of chocolate peanut butter ice cream (my kyrtonite… that and plain M&M’s). Anyway, have a bowl, not the whole carton.
Rule #5: Don’t PUNISH yourself afterward. At least not mentally. Don’t think for a single second that I don’t know how you feel. I’ve been there. I’ve been the lazy, junk food loving person, that wanted to do anything but workout and watch my diet. But there comes a time in every persons life that you have to say enough is enough. Your reason for wanting to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle is all yours to determine. But I highly recommend you figure out what that reason is and write it down, and look at it daily. Mine is easy. I became a father. Every morning, and every night as I get my children to bed or up out of bed, I know that I want to be around for as long as possible. And since I am in FULL CONTROL of my health, and because I LOVE my children, that is my WHY. And that is what keeps me going. So what’s your reason? Figure it out, write it down, and when you start to slip away to old habits, revisit that reason.
But even I need a break, I want to live a little, and enjoy life’s simple pleasures too. But I do it with all the rules in place for when and how I have a cheat meal. And if I follow rules 1 – 4, then when my cheat meal is over, I simply start all over again. I don’t beat myself up and feel guilty about it, I don’t regret that I had a cheat meal, I move forwards the very next day. But now I do like to have a “hard workout” the next day. I also like to consume extra water.
There you have it, my 5 rules for when its okay to have a cheat meal. But now let me throw a curve ball. A short follow-up:
3 Reasons you should NOT have a cheat meal:
Rule #1: If having a cheat meal throws you into a “binge” and you absolutely cannot get control of yourself, then NO CHEAT MEAL FOR YOU!
Rule #2: If you are starting your very FIRST exercise program, then I highly recommend you follow that nutritional plan for the first 90 days. The more weight you have to lose the more STRICTLY I say that. If you have been over indulging for the last several years, and your weight has gotten out of control, then you have already had PLENTY of CHEAT MEALS. It’s time to lock down your nutrition for 90 days, and then start the “5 Rules on when to have a cheat meal” above. You simply must do this, you must get control of your health and your fitness FIRST.
Rule #3: I often go without cheat meals for a month or more at a time. If I have a new fitness program, and I want to give it all I have, I skip my cheat meals. If you have a reunion coming up, or a beach vacation, etc, skip more cheat meals.
Now because I KNOW how hard that is, let me give you an EASY out. Shakeology is a cheat meal that’s not really a cheat meal. Not only is it the most healthy meal you can give yourself, and Shakeology is something I drink daily, it tastes fantastic. I have a Butterfinger Chocolate Peanut Butter recipe that is sinfully delicious. It helps you control that sweet tooth. I also love a tasty P90X Protein bar, chocolate and peanut butter, enough said with that flavor!
Last thing. I answered the question about when to have a cheat meal. Now let me quickly answer, should I have a cheat meal or a cheat day?
Absolutely not on the cheat day. Have a cheat meal once a week, twice tops! Otherwise you simply will not get the results you want. Which leads me to a favorite saying:
“Don’t be upset about the results you didn’t get, by the work you didn’t do.”
Okay, this article turned out longer than I anticipated, and I hope it helps you somewhere out there. I’m here for you, if you need a fitness coach to help you with your fitness goals, check this page out, and then email me your questions. Good luck!!