We all know the benefits of cheat meals. Physically, they “reset” many important hormones like leptin, and they can keep your metabolism from slowing to a standstill. Mentally, they help you keep your sanity. However, if not used the right way, cheat meals can keep your progress from moving forward, or worse – they can lead to you throwing in the towel all-together.
Yes, a Cheat Meal is Just That – Cheating
There’s a reason why they’re called “cheat” meals. It’s because you’re cheating. Our goal is to drop the fat, and eating a bunch of processed food works against that goal. We don’t need processed food to reap the physical benefits cheat meals provide. Having controlled healthy refeeds accomplish the same goal more efficiently. With cheat meals, going 3 steps forward and 2 steps back can be a successful way of achieving your goals, but that method does not work for everybody.
Sure, we’d all like to think that we can have our cake and eat it too, but realistically, the majority of people shouldn’t be having cheat meals – yet. Why do I say that? It’s because most people choose to have a cheat meal once/week, and unfortunately, one week is not enough time to master self-control over food. Too many times these too-soon cheat meals start a negative spiral of reverting back to old eating habits.
Processed Food is Addicting
Food is addicting – especially processed food. There’s a good chance that you are one of millions that share this food addiction problem. Do you think you could quit smoking for a week and then have a cigarette on the weekend without reverting back to your old ways? I don’t smoke, but when it comes to processed food, I have that problem. Do you?
If you do, I’d suggest a different approach. Get rid of the processed food completely. Yes, it’s tough – especially for the first few days. However, every day that goes by, things get easier. Get through the 1st 48 hours, and you’re 75% there. Make it through a week, and you’re in the home stretch. If you’ve gone a month – congratulations, you’ve just successfully changed your eating habits, and believe me, a month without processed food will completely change your body.
Does This Sound Like You?
Now, I understand that some of you might be thinking you’d lose your mind without a few indulgences. Everything in moderation. A treat here or there won’t hurt you. If these are your thoughts, I suspect that you are the very person I am directing this at. I know because I’m one of those people. If you feel like you “need” this bad food, you stand a good chance of falling off the wagon when you do have your cheat meal.
The “cycle” typically looks like this:
- You’re fed up with your current state of affairs and decide to make a positive change in your life.
- You start off your new lifestyle doing well.
- You make it past the first half of the week eating well. It was difficult, but you did it.
- You start thinking about the weekend when you can have (insert processed food here).
- As that day nears, that meal consumes more and more of your thoughts.
- It’s here! You ate it. It was great!
- It’s over
- The next day your cravings are back in full force. Bad eating habits want to take over.
- You step on the scale and realize you made no progress.
- You get discouraged and question why you’re doing all this hard work for nothing.
- You have another bad meal, which leads to another, and another.
- Repeat the whole cycle again in a few months.
Alright, so maybe you aren’t one of the people who can’t handle cheat meals (more power to ya – have them!), but if the above cycle sounds anything remotely close to you, I highly suggest that you put the idea of cheat meals out of your mind – not forever, but until you have mastered self-control, and you are much closer to your desired maintenance body composition.
Willpower and Motivation
Willpower and motivation are 2 very important commodities. Without them, we are doomed to fail. The number one way to keep their levels topped up? Show consistent progress. Taking 3 steps forward and 2 steps back can mess with your head, and if you aren’t seeing progress, you deplete your levels of willpower and motivation until you eventually give up.
Instead, put the cheat meals aside, and first work on making progress. I guarantee you that once you see your hard work paying off, your motivation will be at an all-time high, and the thought of having a processed cheat meal will just get in the way of your progress. Nothing tastes as good as making progress feels (I think that line sums it up better than the old “skinny” cliche). You can do without the processed food. I know you can. You know you can!