How Cheat Meals Are Ruining Your Diet

Posted by Luisa de Luca on

7 Reasons Not to Have Cheat Meals

friends eating fast food burgers at table


Cheat meals. Cheat days. Somehow it’s become a thing to diet has become synonymous with deprivation and the only way we're able to get through is by cheating, which often entails binging on every bad food item in sight. And we do it simply because we’ve been “good” and we “deserve” it.

Sound familiar?

For some people having a cheat meal or day is about nothing more than getting in those unhealthy foods we no longer allow ourselves to have. For others, it’s about carb loading, sugar, refined wheats, and trans fats.

We get it – you miss your pumpkin spice latte and feel you deserve the calories. Or you allow yourself a cheat day because you’re celebrating with friends and family. You think, what’s the harm… right?


Here are 7 reasons to skip the cheating.


1. It May Be An Addiction

We’ve discussed food addiction before, and it’s a very real thing. When you begin to cut the unhealthy foods you crave by dieting and then go back to eating them on a cheat day, you’re not really allowing your body to rid itself of the previous damage that has been done. If you feel like you need these foods, rather than just enjoy them as a treat, you could also be feeding an addiction. If you spend a week without junk food, only to go back to it, just keeps the addiction going and makes it more difficult to cut yourself off when your cheat day is over.

In this case, having “everything in moderation” isn’t a good idea as it will be almost impossible to maintain.


2. Your Body Does Not Adapt to the Healthy Lifestyle

When you dramatically change the way you feed your body the fuel it needs, there is an adaptation period that you will go through as your body begins to use and crave the good foods you’re feeding it.

If you keep cheating, you will prevent this metabolic adaptation from ever fully completing.

Also, when you abandon the typically American diet and start eating more natural, whole foods, it can take some time for your sense of taste to adapt.

You must allow for this time. Once you do, you’ll find that you’re no longer seeking the high carbs or sugar sweet foods – because you’re body no longer wants those things!


3. You May Binge & Over Eat

Even if you aim to only have one cheat meal, it's all too easy to overeat. It's tempting to try to fit as many different foods and desserts into that one meal and it's no wonder you end up binging. That one meal turns into a day and then another and another. Suddenly you're completely off track, discouraged, and if you don't feel like giving up all together, you still have to start all over.

It makes sense, really. You deprive yourself of those cravings for so long and once you allow yourself to give it, self-control walks out when the junk food walks in.

fancy pizza larger

4. You’re Not Helping Your Metabolism

One argument for why cheat meals are good is that it gives your metabolism a necessary boost so that it doesn't slow down so drastically that your body enters "starvation mode." The truth is that there's no science to back up the idea of starvation mode, so you really don't need to worry about that. 

However, it's still possible for your metabolism to slow too much, which means you burn calories slowly. In this case a "refeed"1 is a good idea to boost your metabolism. However, it's a better idea to eat healthy foods that are high in calories, rather than junk food, which provides no nutritional value.


5. And Then, There’s Guilt…

It happens to the best of us. We give in. We have the brownie, the high carb pasta with extra sauce and garlic bread, please. We eat until our heart is content. And, as we sit there with a heavy belly begin to feel the guilt.

“What did I just do? Why did I allow myself to do that? How many miles on the treadmill will I have to do to burn that off?” Never mind the self-doubt and self-hatred talk that can also come along with that. Even with the healthy choices and portion control and regular exercise the rest of the time, a single day, or even meal, can make you forget all of the good.


6. The Truth Is… Junk Food Is Bad!

I know, you’re thinking that’s obvious. And you compare your one cheat meal to those who have pizza and their favorite fast food daily and thinking – well… that’s not so bad, right? The truth is that you don’t need it. It’s likely providing your body with very little nutrition. Allowing yourself these types of junk foods occasionally is still worse than if you just skipped them all together.



What Should You Do Instead?

Change your diet slowly. Do not get up tomorrow and decide that you’re going to change everything at once. These quick changes rarely stick and typically provide huge doses of deprivation!

Slow, gradual changes over time will do you good.

Tomorrow, put less sugar in your coffee. Take your lunch to work instead of buying out. Bring along a healthy snack like carrots or grapes instead of grabbing your favorite candy bar. Next week, work on cutting out the soda and sugar drinks.

Doing small changes at a time will allow you to improve your health, find a routine and way of eating that works best for you and your body, cut out the bad food, and minimize cravings that lead you to cheat meals.




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