A cheat meal is a meal that falls outside of your regular, healthy meal plan. It’s typically a meal or treat that you, 1. Wouldn’t eat every day because of its high fat, sugar or sodium content, and 2. One you might enjoy once or twice per week.
Why cheat meals work (sometimes)
There are just as many cheat meal (or cheat day) lovers as there are haters out there. For some people, looking forward to a cheat meal helps them stay accountable. It’s kind of like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. You’re motivated to eat healthy all week long because you know that something indulgent and tasty is coming your way soon.
When cheat meals don’t work
For others, cheat meals can undo a lot of hard work — especially those new to healthy eating. When we indulge in an unhealthy food that we used to eat before we began our journey to health, we feel joyful and our taste buds are teased with something familiar. This could trigger cravings or lead us to justify more cheat meals during the week.
Another dangerous thing about cheat meals is that they can lead to binge eating or overeating. For someone trying to get a better handle on their portion sizes, cheat meals can cause them to sink back into old habits.
8fit philosophy on cheat meals
First of all, we’d like to do away with the word “cheat” and use “reward” instead. We believe every meal should feel like a reward but when they don’t, go with the 80/20 rule. Eat according to your meal plan 80% of the time and go slightly off path 20% of the time. We also advise that you don’t reserve your 20% for one day. Sprinkle it throughout the week to bring some wanted joy to your nutrition plan.
At 8fit, we believe in balance. We believe that you should love what you’re eating and that you should enjoy each and every one of your meals. Our in-house nutritionist, Coach Lisa, says it best:
“I don’t believe in cheat meals, but I do believe in balance and the importance of creating a pleasurable eating experience. Rather than feeling bad about a meal, I recommend that you eat what you want to, but just be mindful of it. Think about how that meal or treat will make you feel in the long run. If you want a piece of chocolate, go for it! Just really taste it and think about how you can find balance for the rest of the day.”
Coach Alba has something similar to say:
“I don’t really eat “cheat” meals. I try to eat whole foods at every meal, every single day during the week and I really love my lifestyle. However, I also eat what my body and mind needs to feel as balanced as possible every day. This means that if I don’t sleep well one night, I know my brain will probably crave sugar the next day so I treat myself to a brownie or an ice cream after lunch. It’s best when it’s a homemade brownie though, not that supermarket stuff.”
All that said, we still wanted to know what our 8fit coaches reach for when they are reaching for a treat or reward. Here’s what they said:
“Sweets, specifically chocolate. I choose brownies!”
“Cakes, especially carrot cake or cheese cake. When I treat myself, I like to treat myself properly.”
“Double cheeseburger with fries.”
“When I reach for sweets, it’s a brownie or Reeses. When I want something savory, it’s pizza and wine.”