The Problem with Cheat Meals

The Problem with Cheat Meals

You’ve probably heard stories of people losing all kinds of weight, all while utilizing a glorious tool called cheat meals.

In the right hands, with the right plan, there’s no doubt they can assist in weight loss.

But they can also be a source of weight gain.

Before you start having cheat meals (or even cheat days), you might want to consider the risks.

Look, Don’t Touch

You catch a glimpse of a slice of cheesecake at someone else’s table — a sweet drizzle of chocolate scantily draped over the top.

Slice of cheesecake with chocolate syrup drizzled on top

Your eyes dart away, but only for a moment.

You return your gaze for a second look, taking it all in, imagining how exquisite it would look on your fork.

You would treat it right. Better than the person who left it alone on their plate to go to the bathroom. They don’t even know what they have.

Would it be so bad to just go over and take a closer look?

Does flirting (with food) even count as cheating?

I’m obviously being facetious. But I’m serious when I say this: cheat meals can be trouble.

An Affair to Forget

Spooning leads to forking, and cheat meals lead to weight gain.

OK, not always.

But the idea of being allowed to overindulge just because you’ve given it a label has an inherent risk.

Inevitably, the cheat meal label becomes justification to stray from your diet whenever and however you choose.

Cheat meals become cheat days, become cheat weeks, become cheat months, become “What am I even cheating on anymore?”

As cheat meals become more regular (they’re justified after all), and you start paying less attention to what you’re eating, that’s when weight gain happens.

Give Me Chocolate or Give Me Death

The term cheat meal implies you’re allowed to eat something usually off limits. But a good diet doesn’t work that way. (Here’s 12 signs of a good diet.)

It’s the overly restrictive diet that causes you to get out of control with your cheat meals in the first place.

A good diet gives you freedom to have a drink, or dessert, or whatever, regardless of the day. Not in excess, but freedom nonetheless.

Which means when you make the decision to have a special treat… that’s not cheating!

It may seem like I’m splitting hairs, but it’s a vital distinction.

When certain foods are associated with cheating (a very negative connotation), it can lead to, at best, a lifetime of struggles with food. At worst, feelings of shame and even eating disorders.

That’s not helping anyone.

It’s Not All Bad

Before you think I’m saying cheat meals are the love child of funnel cakes and Satan, let me clarify with 4 statements.

1. I prefer the term “re-feed.”

In its purest form, a cheat meal and re-feed are the same. But the modern perception of a cheat meal has gone off the deep end, leaving me to make the distinction.

Plus, the term re-feed avoids the negative associations with food I mentioned above.

2. A re-feed is a valid dieting technique.

It’s a way to mix things up on your ever-adapting body, which actively seeks to avoid losing weight.

3. A re-feed isn’t about indulgence.

Unlike the mindset behind most cheat meals, the goal of a re-feed isn’t an all-you-can-eat free-for-all. It’s an occasional slight increase in calorie/carb consumption.

The basic makeup of your meals stays the same. You still want mostly unprocessed foods — don’t go overboard on treats.

Ultimately, a re-feed gives you (and all the science-y stuff happening in your body) a break from your fat loss efforts.

4. This is an advanced strategy.

If you follow us at all, you know we don’t recommend advanced strategies until you’ve mastered the basics.

If you’re looking for a place to start, go download our Forever Fat Loss ebook.

One More Thing

Another thing you can do now is start thinking ahead about when you’ll enjoy foods not regularly part of your diet.

This isn’t a re-feed, it’s a healthy element of meal planning.

You can still have unplanned treats. It’s just a better home base than not having any plan at all.

Whether you impulsively eat a girl scout cookie, or set aside a day to get your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant, just remember, that’s not cheating.

So don’t go flirting around with someone else’s slice of cheesecake. You can order your own.

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