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Should you allow yourself a 'cheat meal'?

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

Quite often I am asked about the concept of ‘cheat meals’ – what I think of them, whether clients are ‘allowed’ them, all that jazz. I’ll try to remain calm and ‘un-sassy’ (if that’s a term) because really all I want to do is scream ‘NEVER, THE CONCEPT IS NOTHING SHORT OF RIDICULOUS AND DAMAGING’…but you know how it is here, we like to deliver knowledge and evidence-based informatio, not emotionally driven posts, I also understand that everyone is an individual and for some, perhaps it works healthily.

Well let’s begin with what a ‘cheat meal’ actually is. I bloody hate the term. I think it should go get in the sea and never return…should tell you nice and early what I think of the whole thing.

The concept of cheat meals originally came from the body building scene but has made its merry way into the wider health and fitness community, largely to those attempting weight loss as a notion that ‘allows’ them to have a day or a meal off their all too strict regime to eat whatever the hell they want and then get back ‘on the wagon’ tomorrow (another term of phrase that makes me want to vomit in my mouth).

Granted, many people can probably implement the concept in a fairly healthy manner – to that end it’s important to recognise that cheat meals probably mean different things to different individuals depending on their goals and where they are at with those psychologically.

If a cheat meal is simply taking a little time off from being focussed entirely on your health and your goals allowing you to be more consistent long-term then it might be something we can talk about – but we will NOT call this a cheat meal and we will reframe this concept in a healthier manner than the traditional ‘cheat’ mindset.

BUT often I see it more as a case of people stuck in this (usually Monday to Friday) massively restrictive, binge-restrict cycle meaning that they feel the need to have some kind of blow out and take in thousands of calories from all of the ‘wrong’ sources, namely the stuff they haven’t been ‘allowed’ all week. This is keeping you from achieving your goals and is a deeper psychological and mindset problem besides the fact if your diet doesn’t ‘allow’ you certain foods then you’re doing it wrong.

Cheat implies something bad – if you cheat on a partner or cheat on a test, I think we can all agree, that is wrong. If you eat a McDonald's or a bag of mini eggs you are NOT wrong, you are NOT a bad person. You are human. You should NEVER experience feelings of guilt or shame around food…ever. Cheat implies such feelings.

Besides the emotions that come surrounding such a potentially damaging concept from a goal attainment perspective a single meal of eating that is likely to be somewhat out of control can totally undo all of the positive work you have put in throughout the last few days, whatever your goal may be, health, weight loss, aesthetic goals, whatever. You will almost certainly overeat on what you are describing as a cheat day or meal.

What is going to be more optimal all round is implementing an approach that has balance and has control 7 days a week, that isn’t so restrictive that you feel the need to ‘cheat’ on your diet, finding an approach that allows you a little bit of what you fancy whenever you fancy it so you don’t feel like you need to fly into a ‘binge’ the moment Friday night comes around on your weight loss journey.

We work on a mindset where there are no ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods in isolation – of course, there are more optimal choices nutritionally and it’s probably more accurate to describe overall diets as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but let’s stop calling things ‘bad’ or ‘good’ – who decides what’s good and what’s bad for us anyway?! Foods are made up of so many different components, there are some things in chocolate that are ‘good’ for us, some not so good…same with avocados. ALL food in moderation can and should be inclusive of a healthy and balanced diet...we should NOT be ‘cheating’ to get some foods that we love into our diet. We need to escape this all or nothing notion.

We can work together on constructing an approach tailored to your preferences and your lifestyle containing the foods that you love the most, without restriction at all as we fly towards whatever your goals may be.

Together we can and will overcome that less than ideal relationship with food allowing us to lose weight, for good this time or be as super fit and healthy as you age in order to keep up with those oh so energetic kiddies. We will find you some balance in the nutrition world so you don’t have to worry about this stuff, so you don’t feel you need to ‘cheat’ on whatever ridiculously restrictive regime someone off the internet has you following this time.

You’re in the right place lovely lot. You know what to do.

Peace and love x

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