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How To: Cheat

Intense and definitely OTT! 

Cheat Meal: A blowout meal not within your usual diet/nutrition plan; A carb loaded, fat & sugar filled meal of pleasure commonly used as a successful dieting tool; My “Cheat” was glorious. The domain of bodybuilders and fitness junkies another one of “their” words they like to throw around as they drink protein shakes and flex their glutes in the mirror. 

In all seriousness though, it sounds pretty easy right? Eat great 80-90% of time and then loosen your belt for the “cheat meal” but are there certain guidelines or ‘better ways’ of indulging without letting all your hard work (training and eating clean week in and week out) go out the window? Yes! I’ve complied a short list of effective cheating. 

Natalie Carter’s How To Cheat Guide:
(not on your car repayments, husband or the tax man….with food!)

– All well designed food/meal plans should schedule in a cheat meal. A meal off the plan, time to refuel and get ready for the next, new training week.

– Remove the guilt. As long as you have been on your best behaviour throughout the week then you are entitled to this meal. Enjoy it. Don’t start on your weight loss journey and think “Oh there goes my life, I cant have this and then I’ll never eat that again”. You can have it all (in moderation and at the appropriate time)

– Don’t call it a “cheat meal”! Again, we remove the guilt and put a positive spin on it. “Treat meal”, “Free Meal” are some good options.

– The reason we have a cheat meal in the first place is to help us prepare psychologically for the “dieting” road ahead. Yes you may think week 1 into your diet: “Wow, this is amazing I feel excellent and I’ll never eat a dessert again” However trust me, you are setting yourself up to fail. Providing yourself that time to indulge and eat something off plan will do you the world of good. 

– You have ONE cheat meal per week.
  Charles Poliquin recommends a cheat meal once every 4-6 days and also recommend to include protein in the meal (I’m a strong advocate of this too. Think Peanut butter AND chocolate brownie!). Nia Shanks finds she removes cheat days from her life and has the junky stuff when she truly craves it. There are no forbidden foods. You can read more here

– You don’t want to become a social outcast right? So a cheat meal will allow you to go out to a restaurant with your buddies and be a little “normal” (ewww who wants to be normal?) for a few hours.

– Cheat meals are great to be saved for heavy training days. Generally you’re volume of training will be higher so the extra calories won’t matter so much.There is no set method to this but it does work well for some. Others like to use their cheat meal on their rest day. Do what best suits your body.

– Once your cheat is over, you will need to keep to your normal food routine. If you have a cheat meal at lunch sticking with your normal schedule snack then dinner or just straight to dinner (however you usually eat) is helpful.

– Make it special and fancy it up a little: get the best quality money can buy and sit down to enjoy it. Don’t scoff your chocolate brownie in the broom cupboard, sit at the table. Be proud of the fact that you can have a treat and then successfully switch back into clean mode once that meal has been eaten. REMEMBER: When your arse leaves that seat, eating is over!

– Some people are more savory inclined than sweet. Choose your cheats according to your  favourite things. Whilst I’ll provide you with a list of my favourites, essentially the choice is yours. I am not you and you are not me. Also others will feel satisfied with a good old fashioned hamburger whereas foodies (that’s me!) will what truffle pecorino with a Pinot Noir. It’s very individualised. 

– Personally, I feel you should plan your cheat. “Ok, I’m going to eat beef fajitas on Friday”, ‘This Saturday is my wine night” or “It’s so and so’s birthday on Tuesday, I’ll make her cheese cake my cheat. You can stick to the same day every week or mix it up.

– Try to keep it gluten free where possible. Gluten can hang around in your gut for up to 6 months and also effect joints. All that work you’ve been doing (avoiding gluten and other additives) will be undone in a single bite. There are many options when it comes avoiding gluten. You can have a gluten free pizza base, a gluten-free cake/cookie or anything in the rice/noodle land (be aware of sauces though). Yes, I understand I’m putting a limitation on you here but again do what works for you. If you never feel bloated or chunky after consuming gluten then be my guest, eat it. 

– If you wake up the next day feeling sluggish and bloated, you have over done it. You’ll need to back off a little next time. I know that seems like a bit of a downer but especially where carbohydrate is concerned (sugar) we don’t want to play around with getting those ratios off balance by too much.

– Understand you are different to me, your friend and the next person. What works well for one will not ultimately work for you. That’s why developing a strong relationship with you and your body is essential. Understand what it feels like to be hungry, know what a craving is and understand when your body is satisfied. We should question why we eat certain foods, are you really hungry or could you be emotional?

– There is a small percentage of people who will go without a cheat meal and still successfully achieve their goals. Why not try it out cheat meals and see how your body (and mind) responds. If it doesn’t work for you then dump it!

Awesome cheats…some of my personal faves:

– Organic Chocolate (Conscious Chocolate or Green & Blacks 70%)
Spelt Brownie from Agape
– Pavlova
– Hot Chips
– A Thai Noodle dish
– Good quality Ice cream (organic where possible)
– Couple of glasses of Pinot Noir & a hunk of Pecorino
or who can go past a slice of Pizza (GF base of course)……

Some of my readers share their Cheat Meal experience. Some are advocates while a cheat meal just doesn’t work for others. 

Deanna and the Cheat Meal:

‘I think cheat meals are a necessity. They stop your from over indulging and it gives you something to look forward to after a tough training week. I always eat mine on a Sunday night.  I never go overboard, Just a simple thing like a piece of cake or some something else sweet!!  Food is there to be enjoyed and it’s a great treat to look forward too. If I do over do it I do feel guilty. I can’t help but feel remorse. It can get you down so now I just don’t do it. Eat your cheat then walk away!”

Amanda Weekes and her view on cheat meals: 

Cheat meals can be very beneficial not just mentally, but physically too.  The mental benefits are great – it gives you something to look forward to and therefore prevents you from cheating on your diet day to day.  Physically, a cheat meal can give your system a nice little jot and boost your body into weight loss mode again.

During off-season I enjoyed cheat meals weekly.  At first it was hard to get my head around – I can eat ANYTHING I want?  No way!  I found it hard to let go and kept sticking to safer and healthier cheats.  But then I realised the effects that a good cheat meal could have on the body and how the muscles look fuller and more defined the next day.  That’s when I started to let go of the guilt and would excitedly look forward to my cheat each week!

Comp prep is a slightly different story though.  As I strive for a much lower body fat,  my cheats are all within reason.  My coach will assess my progress pictures each week and decide if a cheat is allowed.  This could be anything from two slices of wholemeal bread with jam and peanut butter to a homemade lean beef burger.

I am very much looking forward to off-season again!  I will continue to eat healthy, as that’s what I enjoy, but nothing beats the feeling of indulging in something you REALLY enjoy once a week!

Trace, Twitter 

Cheat meals are a fail for me! Everything that follows end up being a cheat then I feel worse and start spiralling into emotional eating. I feel so bad and guilty that know I just avoid a cheat meal. The word cheat makes me feel like I’ve let myself down and it spirals from there. If I have a (naughty) food craving I try to distract myself by doing something else. I make myself wait 24hrs and then if I still want I’Il have a small chocolate frog. Most times though (after that 24hr period) I don;t even want it. It’s been the best method that works for me. 

Karina, Twitter

As soon as I have a cheat meal I struggle for a day or two to eat clean. I find being strict all the time is best for me. As soon as I allow myself to give into temptation once (as a cheat meal) that one meal turns into 3 or 4 meals. I am still very new to weight loss and I have a lot to learn. I hope over time I can eventually allow myself one cheat meal per week and not blow it out into a cheat weekend. 

Do cheat meals work for you? Whats your favourite cheat meal? Let’s all salivate together! 

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One Response to How To: Cheat

  1. My trainer gives me 2500kj budget for a weekly splurge this works well for me, unless I have a limit i just go crazy.

    I normally have a magnum and chocolate.

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