Blog: Cheat Meals Are For Quitters, Treat Meals Are For Winners
Cheat meals are widely regarded as a great tool in any fat loss/fitness programme. More on why that is later in the blog but here's something I want to set straight, right from the off. The name, "Cheat" meal.
What most people refer to as a cheat meal is that meal that you've planned and waited for, having stuck to plan all week, something you've earned. That's not a cheat, it's a TREAT. A cheat meal is when you eat according to plan for a couple of days then stumble into Greggs for a pasty at lunchtime. You've not EARNED that. That's DEFINITELY a cheat meal.
Now we've set that straight, let's look at the reasons why a scheduled and deserved treat meal works really well as part of a fat loss/fitness eating plan.
Here are three great reasons to use treat meals.....
First up is reward. Who doesn't like being praised for an achievement? Ever since we were sticking swimming certificates to the fridge as a kid, we've all loved a little recognition for a job well done. We've worked hard, so let's reward ourselves, so next week we work hard knowing we can earn ourselves another reward.
The second reason is the "light at the end of the tunnel". Often, and particularly at the start of a new eating plan, we can feel like we are depriving ourselves of so many things. All the indulgent foods and booze that we thought made us happy are taken away. Once we're in the flow of our new plan, we find out there are loads of indulgent tasting meals that are healthy too, but in the beginning, it's often hard. Change isn't easy, we don't like change! The beauty of the treat meal here is that we are not depriving ourselves of anything. If we want a pizza and a beer, we can, but we've got to EARN it. Knowing we can still have the indulgent foods means we are more likely to stick to the plan in the long term, which is our ultimate goal here, long term sustainable changes.
The third good reason for treat meals is that your body responds well to them. Studies have shown that leptin levels can drop by 30% just 72 hours after restricting carbs/calories. Leptin is a vital hormone for suppressing appetite and stimulating metabolism. Treat meals raise our leptin levels back up, so it turns out that bread we've been pining for could actually help keep our fat loss on track, if used in the right way.
Now we know that treat meals are a good thing, here's a few tips on HOW we should use them.
1. Plan the treat meal.
If we have a wedding or a social occasion coming up and we really want to let our hair down, PLAN for it. If it's going to be a big one, maybe stay good for two weeks in the run up to it, instead of just one. If you plan ahead, you won't find yourself falling into the trap of having two or three treat meals in a week (or I guess that would be CHEAT meals!)
2. Don't binge.
A treat meal is exactly that but it isn't a licence to eat the entire menu in a fast food restaurant! Indulge but don't overindulge. Gluttony isn't going to get us to our goals!
3. Don't undereat or skip a meal before it or you'll overindulge.
In fact, quite the opposite, before going out for your treat meal, why not have a couple of boiled eggs or a light snack? That way, you'll get the treat you want but won't overdo it. By all means save some calories for the cheat meal by eating less calories at breakfast or lunch but do it by eating filling foods which are less calorific foods so you don't starve yourself and go at your treat meal hungry.
4. Avoid trigger foods.
This one is a big one. If we know we have foods that we're almost addicted to and we know that we can't eat them only occasionally, then avoid them. Last thing we want is to eat well for the whole week then the treat of a trip to the chip shop gets us back into poor food choices and we can't get back to eating right!
5. How often we treat depends on the plan we are following.
If we are on a really focussed fat loss plan with some short term goals (eg slimming for a wedding) then maybe your 'treat' is just something small which boosts your carb levels to get the leptin back up. Maybe just a jacket potato or something. If our goals are more long term (or permanent) as they should be, a weekly indulgent treat isn't out of the question. Remember, it's our own choice how often we cheat/treat and what we use as the treat. Just remember, the more we do, the lesser our results will be. We are grown ups, we make choices, just understand the results of those choices.
6. Treat MEALS not treat DAYS (unless you've stuck to plan for a Few weeks without treating).
If we want to indulge all day, at a wedding for example, that's fine if its planned, scheduled and we've stuck to plan for a few weeks in advance.
7. It gets easier the more you learn
Remember, the more we eat clean, the more we'll find plenty of foods and meals that FEEL like a treat but are actually clean and fine to eat whenever! Go through the recipe section in our members area and find healthy versions of your favourite foods. Pizza with a chicken or cauliflower base, for example. The clean brownies and clean chocolate cheesecake are my favourites at the moment!
8. Let's not hate ourselves for a slip off the wagon.
It happens. The important thing is we get straight back on the wagon and acknowledge why results have slowed.
9. If we can't treat without doing damage, don't!
If we're not the type of person to be able to take things in moderation, if we are the all-or-nothing person, maybe we should stick to the occasional jacket potato or white rice to raise the leptin levels but stay eating clean. We can't change the way we look without changing the way we eat. It's probably because we are the all-or-nothing type person that's got us in a position to need the fat loss programme in the first place! If it's a choice between all or nothing, one will change us for the better, the other won't. It's OUR choice which we go for.
So there we have it. We don't have to avoid any foods forever, we can in fact use them to get closer to our fat loss and fitness goals. Get "cheat" out of your head. Don't feel guilty about the weekly indulgence, we've earned it and it's helping us get where we want to be.