Imagine a big greasy cheeseburger, salty hot fries, and a sweet cold strawberry milkshake to wash it all down sitting right in front of you. Run away as fast as you can? Unhealthy, bad for you, heart-disease causing are thoughts that come to mind?
Sure, after repetitive intake of meals that are comprised of these high-fat, high-calorie choices, the end result can be harmful. However, with careful planning and by in large a healthy nutrition regimen, cheat meals are completely appropriate.
The word “cheat” is one that carries such a negative connotation yet has a deeper meaning than face value. Why do these get such a bad rep? And what are the reasons behind cheat meals being absolutely necessary?
Let’s dive into this hot topic seen both in the literature and press.
Name one person who has never gone on a “diet” in one form or another. In this day in age, the term “diet” is as common as Monday morning traffic, almost mainstream among all populations. These range from the “Atkins” to “juice-cleanses” to eliminating a particular food group or macronutrient to even simply not indulging in a certain treat for a period of time.
The underlying problem is this: diets are short term, quick “fixes” that have no impact on lifestyle as a whole. Instead of partaking in these non-permanent choices, we need to focus on the longevity of healthy habits. Finding a balance in our nutrition is vital, and this should include cheat meals. Not only would this provide sanity, but we as people should enjoy life! Who doesn’t want to eat a piece of chocolate cake every once in a while? In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, our treats should and can be very much welcomed.
Mentally, if a person is so restrictive regarding nutrition, negative relationships can occur with food and this can potentially lead to overeating, or even eating disorders and depression. Cheat meals could make an individual less likely to binge, thus avoiding these harmful medical implications.
Most individuals who are on a diet or on competition preparation avoid social situations at all costs or end up overindulging in these cheat foods. Let’s be honest, the idea of being around chips & dip, chocolate brownies or a deep-dish pizza when you can’t enjoy it is a complete nightmare.
However, if cheat meals are implemented into someone’s regimen, this would prevent someone from avoiding social events (which almost always involve food), could allow this person to still have fun & hang out with friends and family, and minimizes any guilt associated with consuming these “non-diet” food choices. This shouldn’t exclude the option of choosing healthier foods when going out with loved ones, more so it offers an alternative solution.
Trying one or two cheat meals a week, perhaps on the weekends, or a few “treats” throughout the week may be a smart decision. Some people also plan intense workouts around cheat meals to maximize athletic performance, either after a training session or training intensely the day after the cheat meal.
Every person has different goals when it comes to fitness and health, so this should be taken into consideration when thinking about how often and what these cheat meals should comprise of. Now, a cheat meal doesn’t mean go overboard and eat however much you want. This needs to be strategically planned out and make sense. This can lead to the issues discussed previously such as binge-type behavior as well as nutrient deficiency. Also, people who are first starting out a weight loss program probably shouldn’t consume cheat meals until they grasp the concept of working out & nutrition and develop healthy habits.
In conclusion, as long as they are strategically planned and the majority of our nutrition comes from nutrient dense choices, cheat meals can actually be utilized as an advantage emotionally, socially and even biologically. The main idea is to avoid being extremely rigid with our food choices so eventually this “diet” blooms into a lifestyle. Remember, everything in moderation!