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  • Writer's pictureHeather

Why You Should Allow Yourself A Cheat Meal

A healthy diet is paramount to losing weight and getting in shape. Too often, however, people turn to excessively restrictive diets to shed a few pounds.

When diets are too restrictive, most people will cave into temptations multiple times per week, devouring massive calorie meals and consuming less than nutritious foods. Many people will attribute these excessive meals as cheat meals, possibly attempting to justify the dietary slip.

Cheat meals, when consumed the right way, are integral and beneficial to any weight loss journey. The primary issue at play with abundant cheat meals is a lack of nutrition accompanied by an unrealistic diet.

Restrictive Diets Can Contribute To Plateaus and Weight Gain

Most people understand that weight loss requires a calorie deficit. Physicians and personal trainers often recommend cutting about 500 calories from your daily intake to average a safe one to two-pound weight loss per week.

The problem is most people do not stick to the standard deficit recommendation. Many dieters choose to cut 1,000 or more calories daily; without medical supervision, such deficits can be dangerous.

Aside from being physiologically problematic, ultra-restrictive diets can leave you feeling weak and sluggish. Low-carb diets deplete glycogen stores, and other diets can affect leptin and ghrelin production. With low-calorie diets, ghrelin — an appetite hormone and stimulant — can increase, resulting in increased hunger and food intake.

Understanding Body Science Is an Advantage

Researchers note that leptin and ghrelin changes occur on average after 72 hours of a restrictive diet. Science shows that a well-timed cheat meal can raise the levels of these influential hormones, helping maintain balance in the body and reduce the risk of any adverse effects on the metabolism.

According to health professionals, a single cheat meal can rebalance hormone levels for days. Sticking to a cheat meal schedule, then, can ensure lower levels of ghrelin and increased levels of leptin, helping to sustain weight loss and fitness objectives.

Cheat Meals Should Still Be Balanced

A cheat meal is not the same as a free meal. Many dieters think the term cheat implies they can eat whatever they please. If you use a scheduled meal to consume countless calories and overly processed foods, you may experience consequences from that decision.

You never want to overindulge or significantly break your dietary habits. Cheat meals present opportunities to eat higher calorie meals, but they should be balanced.

If you eat a calorie-restrictive diet that is low carb, your cheat meal should contain more calories than usual and carbs. Some examples of balanced cheat meals include:

  • Pasta with a protein

  • Chicken fajitas

  • Steak, baked potato, and vegetables

  • Chicken stir-fry with rice

Cheat Meal Schedules Are Important

Always schedule your cheat meals. Failing to plan your meals can cause full-blown cheat days or worse. Planning your meals provides less opportunity to improvise food choices.

When planning your cheat meals, you want to choose food that will satisfy your cravings but won't deviate from your current regimen too much.

You also want to avoid skipping meals to merge calories into your cheat meal. The purpose of the cheat is to increase your calories. Skipping meals can cause you to overindulge, limiting the meal's effectiveness.

Restrictive diets are challenging and often a mistake for most casual dieters. You can ease the difficulty of diet plans by permitting scheduled cheat meals, which are healthy and beneficial when planned correctly.


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