Cheating usually has a negative connotation, but can be perceived as constructive in terms of responsible food consumption. Some call it a cheat meal; others refer to it as a reward meal or a free meal. Either way, it’s something strict dieters constantly anticipate.
We are allowed to veer away from our plans and indulge our body too, just not to the point of damage. These are the one to two meals (not a banquet) per week where calories, sugar and fats aren’t even a concern – in other words, a nutritional splurge.
Leptin, a type of hunger hormone, is formed by fat tissues and regulates appetite and energy stores. It’s reduced by low levels of body fat. Body fat actually secretes leptin. In contrast, when our fatty levels increase or we consume more calories than usual, leptin increases and indicates the hypothalamus to spend the excess energy. Metabolism works more rapidly and we feel full, hence our stable fat levels.
If you’re really set on reaching your ideal weight and body type, you will accomplish it. But every now and then, take a break and indulge in “unhealthful” food for a bit. Here are some reasons why occasionally rebelling against your diet is acceptable:
It boosts your metabolism
Those two slices of pizza or the cheeseburger should be enough – no one asked you to finish the whole pie by yourself. Don’t you even dare think about doing so. Jim White, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, explains that cheat meals are only effective if you plan it well. After several days of consuming fewer calories than you burn, splurging can stimulate your metabolism while accumulating glycogen for your upcoming workout.
They help you avoid breaking points
Some get too burnt-out in the middle of the week that they no longer have the energy and will to continue their workout regime. Their cheat meal turns into a reward week. Talk about crashing and burning. Except your calories aren’t really being burned at all.
There is a psychological component to the cheat day. It can become unexciting to keep a healthy lifestyle daily without any rewards. Oftentimes, it may take several weeks to see the scale budge, so knowing that a cheat day is coming can help keep up motivation, Jillian Guinta from Health and Physical Education Department at Seton Hall University summarizes.
You master the art of control/balance
First, you have to plan when to reward yourself with your YOLO meal. Create a strict schedule by picking out one to two days only. The ideal break would be in the middle of the week, or if you’re up for a challenge and a much more rewarding feeling, save it for the end of the week. It’s all about cheating smart and feeling good about yourself. Save a day for anything that may come your way, like invitations to a company party, or a night out with your girls.
Make sure it’s a well-balanced and properly proportioned meal. If you start feeling guilty about what you just ate, you probably went overboard. Do not think that just because you can work it all off and sweat it out again that you can temporarily and heavily indulge in heavily sugared and fatty treats. The amount of nutrients and fats your body takes in is not equivalent to the calories you burn when you work out again.
You get a dietary break
Get your comfort food out. No more groaning and complaining about eating tasteless grains, meat and veggies for a few hours. You get to chew your food without having to force it down your throat. Your taste buds will be on a high.
Just remember that it’s easy to get carried away; don’t let a cheat meal turn into a cheat DAY. Moderation is key. Sometimes WHAT you eat is less significant than how MUCH you eat. Jim White clarifies, “A cheat meal is not a license to binge. We’re not trying to get drunk on food.”
Of course you’ll have to get back in the swing of things once your cheat meal is over. As an alternative, use your free meal as a stimulus to work out harder. Knowing you have a few “comfort” meals at the end or the middle of your week will help keep you sane. In the meantime, daydream about your next nutritional splurge while you’re running those laps. Sculpt that bum to make room again for some hamburger buns. Those dietary fats won’t burn themselves.
Ayah Granada is currently a content writer and editor for Scoopfed.com. She is a former student journalist, part time bibliophile and TV series hoarder-slash-enthusiast. You can find her on Twitter @ayahgranada.