Before we get into why I think cheat meals are important, let me just clear something up:
I don’t like to call them “cheat meals”. You have a serious, lifelong relationship with food. It is probably the most important thing in your life. I mean, it gives you energy, it fuels your body with the nutrients it needs and it keeps you alive! You wouldn’t cheat on your partner, so why would you cheat on your food?
Instead, I like to call these meals a treat, because that’s exactly what it is! The definition of “treat” is ‘an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure’.
I don’t know about you, but a big plate of nachos isn’t on my every day menu, and it definitely gives me great pleasure, which is why it’s usually my treat of choice!
So let’s get into why I think you need to have a treat every once in a while:
It Keeps You Sane
If you’re eating healthy on a regular basis, it can be a lot of work with all of the temptation in our lives lately. If you’re constantly turning your head when you see something even remotely unhealthy, eventually you’ll probably just cave and eat everything in sight… for a week. I’ve done it! Several times. And I’m pretty sure you’ve done it too! And if you haven’t, you should start a blog yourself and tell me about it so I can learn from you!
Having the odd treat will help you to not feel deprived of anything. Besides, as you’ll read in this post, where I give you the easiest guide to starting, and continuing, your fitness journey, I stated that not many people can succeed when they restrict themselves too much.
It Can Shock Your Metabolism
Ok so I’m not sure how true this one actually is since I’m not actually a health expert, but I have seen several articles saying that if you have a scheduled treat meal, it will shock your system into burning fat stores instead of carbohydrates by increasing your body’s leptin levels (the anti-starvation hormone).
Sounds pretty legit to me! But you should know, there are some tips and tricks to help make sure your treat meal is working to your advantage and I’m about to list them for you!
You may have heard the previous statement before (it can shock your metabolism), but what you might not know is that it only works if you’ve eaten healthy leading up to this scheduled treat meal. And by healthy, I don’t mean “whole grain” cereal for breakfast, “all bran” muffin for a snack, and “gluten free” pasta for lunch. Although these food items sound healthy, they’re still carbohydrates. Don’t get me wrong, carbs are not the enemy! Carbs are required for proper bodily function! But having too many carbs promotes a spike in insulin levels, which causes a whole whack of issues in the body, leading to fat storage. And we don’t want that.
What they mean by eating healthy leading up to your treat meal is foods that are as close to nature as possible. Lean meats, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and potatoes.
If you schedule your treat meal every week, you know exactly what to expect and what is coming! That way if someone offers you a donut at work, but you know you’re going to have a juicy burger that evening, you can easily say no. But if you don’t have a treat meal planned, it’s easy to say to yourself “I’ve been so good all week, I deserve this donut!” But then tomorrow someone else offers you a piece of chocolate which you don’t hesitate to gobble up, and then the next day your friends invite you out for burgers and beers. The next thing you know you’ve had four or five treats instead of just one, and you’ve just ruined all the progress you’ve made at the start of the week. And those little treats here and there weren’t really all they were cracked up to be.
Don’t Starve Yourself
This one is important! Do not starve yourself before your scheduled treat meal! Not only is it detrimental to your body, you are more likely to feel famished and over-consume on your treat meal, which goes against everything we’ve just talked about.
Instead, use the first tip mentioned above: earn it by eating lots of lean meats and vegetables before you indulge!
Don’t Use It As An Excuse
Remember, it’s a treat MEAL, not a treat DAY. Don’t ruin all your hard earned work during the week, just to eat double the calories in one day because “it’s your treat”.
Cheat meals are meant for you to enjoy something you like eating, with people you like spending time with.
As I said earlier, you have a serious long term relationship with food. It should be enjoyable, not conditional. If you find you have a bad love-hate relationship with your food, or you’re a chronic yo-yo dieter like I was, you should consider committing to the Whole 30 program, where you eliminate certain food groups for 30 days to stop cravings and restore your healthy relationship with food. I’m currently doing it and I couldn’t recommend it enough! When I’ve completed the full 30 days, I’ll be making a post about my experience! So stay tuned!
I’d love to know how you plan your treat meals, and what is your favourite cheat meal?! Comment below!