7 Reasons Why Cheat Meals Don’t Work?
Have you been trying various diets with no results? Did those diets allow cheat meals or cheat days? Many do, and their subscribers find them easier to follow due to the fact that they can still enjoy their favorite foods every now and then. Unfortunately, the hard cold truth is that, just like in relationships, cheating gets you nowhere.
Cheat meals supposedly prevent the feeling of deprivation, boost your metabolism, and keep you motivated to continue with your diet. Unfortunately, if during your cheat meals you consider yourself free to eat everything your diet doesn’t usually allow, in any quantities, your efforts are doomed.
It is understandable if you occasionally exceed your usual carbs or calories intake. You will probably have days when you work more than usual and consume more calories as well. The trick is to avoid breaking your healthy eating patterns.
Pigging out on harmful foods, stuffed with sugar, flour, or trans fats, however, can’t be beneficial. Besides messing up your digestion and even your mind, it will cancel some of those hard-earned achievements, and that should be your last goal.
Of course, the final decision is yours, and it is your health and weight at stake. Before you choose your path, no matter what that is, take a look at the following reasons why cheat meals don’t work.
1. They Don’t Let Your Body Adapt to the Diet You Chose to Follow
If your diet involves a drastic change for your eating habits, and it surely does, otherwise you wouldn’t have needed it in the first place, your body needs an adaptation period. It needs time to adjust to the taste and consistency of the new foods and to adjust its metabolic processes to the new type of fuel.
At first, all diet foods seem to lack taste and savor. However, with time, you learn to spice them better, you get used to and grow to love their taste, and you stop cravings foods you shouldn’t eat. If you keep eating the foods you used to during your cheat meals, you will never stop craving them, and you won’t be able to embrace healthy eating.
Most diets induce even bigger changes than those related to taste and savor. The ketogenic diet, for example, brings about hormonal changes and stimulates the production of enzymes that turn fat into your body’s main fuel source. Cheat meals, however, will prevent these changes, and prevent your body from reaping the diet’s full benefits.
2. They Feed Your Addiction to Unhealthy Foods
It’s proven science: junk food and sugar are as addictive as drugs and alcohol. As you already know, drug addicts and alcoholics need to stay completely sober in order to get over their addiction. The same applies to you. If you take up cheat meals, you will stay hooked to the object of your addiction.
On your cheat meals, you will be tempted to eat more and more. Between them, you will be tempted to bend the rules and enjoy an unhealthy snack every now and then. You will get back to your bad eating habits before you know it. Abstinence is the only solution to addictions.
3. They Make You Overeat
Don’t try to deny it. After a week of depriving yourself of your favorite foods, when you finally get to enjoy them, you can’t stop after a couple of bites. You want another one and another one. If you’ve had cheat meals before, try calculating the calories they brought about. I bet they brought you at least one week behind on your weight loss diet!
You lose weight because you eat, let’s say, 500 calories less every day. If you take in 3000 calories on your cheat meal, you will have struggled in vain for no less than 5 days. So what’s the point of making efforts to lose weight for a week or two, if you throw everything out the window on a single meal?
4. They Make You Feel Guilty
Eating everything you like may give you pleasure during the meal, but your conscience will tell you that what you did was wrong after that. When you realize that you ate an entire week’s effort, you will feel guilty, miserable. Of course, this will add up to the gas and bloating you will most likely experience anyway.
5. They Don’t Raise Your Metabolism of Prevent Your Body from Going into Starvation Mode
If you’ve heard about overeating as a way to boost metabolism or prevent starvation mode, you probably don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle. To enter starvation mode, your body would need to be drastically deprived of vital nutrients for a long period, and that doesn’t happen with a long-term healthy diet.
As for boosting slow metabolism, exercising (especially weight lifting) is far more efficient than overeating. Exercising will raise your heart rate, help you burn more calories, and build more muscle (which will, in turn, consume more calories). Overeating will only put unnecessary pressure on your organs.
6. They Involve Unhealthy Foods
These meals are associated with cheating for a reason: they let you eat what your diet doesn’t allow. Well, your diet doesn’t allow them for a reason. They are stuffed with chemicals, poor in nutrients, and rich in sugar and trans fats. They make you sick, and they cause you to gain weight.
So why on earth would you continue to eat them? Sure, you love the taste and flavor. However, if you try hard enough, you will find ways to replicate that taste and flavor without paying for them with your health and well-being. Eating junk food once a week may feel better than eating it every day, but not eating it at all is best.
7. They Make Detox and Rehab Impossible
As with any addiction, detox is the first step to recovery. If you keep eating trans fats, sugar, and gluten, they will linger in your body, and you will never be able to fully recover from their harmful effects. They will keep messing up with your health and weight, preventing you from enjoying the results of your efforts.
However, you still need a way to cope with your cravings, treat yourself, and avoid relapses.
The Alternative to Cheat Meals
Diets that work, allow certain treats and indulgences. That’s because long-term deprivation doesn’t work. Sometimes, you want to eat certain foods just because you like their taste and flavor and you were used to them. Other times, your body needs certain nutrients and asks for them, making you crave foods that contain it in a higher amount.
Cravings – When You Should Ignore them, and When You Should Act
It is imperative that you listen to your body and learn to discern between actual needs and harmful impulses. For example, you may start craving a cookie or a soda drink just because you see it, and you remember its taste and flavor. Needless to say, you shouldn’t give in to your impulses, but rather have a glass of water, some tea, a healthy snack, etc.
The alternative is that you start craving something sweet because your blood sugar level is low, case in which you can adjust it by eating a fruit or something rich in fiber, fat, or protein. This way, your craving will end without you eating something you shouldn’t.
Treats, Rewards, and Not So Guilty Pleasures
We’ve long passed the point of eating to survive, and the pleasure certain foods give us matters more than we care to admit. If you want your weight loss diet to be a success, you shouldn’t deprive yourself of such pleasures, but learn to enjoy them by eating healthy foods.
You love pancakes, but your diet doesn’t allow them? Perhaps it doesn’t allow regular, white flour pancakes, but you could use oat bran, rice, or tapioca flour for them. You may not be able to spread them with chocolate, but you could add some cocoa and dried fruits to the mix, and they’ll still be sweet, flavorful, and delicious.
Are you addicted to ice cream and milk shakes? They’re not good for you, and you know it. But you could still enjoy the same pleasure with frozen yogurt, coconut or cocoa milk, or golden milk (almond milk with honey and turmeric).
The bottom line is that there are healthy ways to treat yourself. It is up to you to explore them and find the recipes that work for you and, why not, for your loved ones. If you teach them to love healthy foods, they will no longer fill the fridge and the dinner table with foods you crave but can’t eat.
How to Keep the Balance?
You can’t stick 100% to your diet’s rules, and you know it. You get sick and can’t cook, you have visitors or visit your friends and family and have to eat by their rules, you celebrate something and want to enjoy your victory to the fullest.
It’s human nature, and no one expects you to be perfect. Sometimes, you can’t stick to your diet simply because you have some habits you can’t give up on a daily basis. The trick is to stay in control, and not go too much off track.
I recommend sticking to your diet and its principles at least 80%. What does the 20% mean? Perhaps you simply can’t give up your coffee creamer, or you just have to have that glass of wine with your weekly romantic dinner or when hanging out with friends.
Just make a list with the bad and not so bad things you love, and see which ones matter more, and which ones are more harmful. You can’t have everything, you like, that’s for sure, but if you’re the one deciding what to keep and what to give up, you’ll find it easier to avoid harmful habits.
Don’t Overdo It
Now that you know how important and pleasurable certain foods or drinks are to you, it is important to enjoy them rationally. It is one thing to have some coffee creamer or a glass of wine, and a completely different thing to fill your cup with coffee creamer or have wine with every meal.
When you treat yourself, do it with a measure, and without rushing. If you exaggerate, your diet will become useless, and you’ll need something more drastic. If you don’t savor the treats and don’t enjoy every bite or sip to the fullest, you won’t experience the pleasure you are after and feel tempted to enjoy more treats.
The Bottom Line
It’s not just about what you eat, how you do it matters as well. Keep some balance, stay true to yourself, your diet, and your health goals, and everything will be alright. You don’t need to cheat meals to succeed, you just need to focus on your goals and give your body a chance to get used to a reasonable, healthy lifestyle.