Use Cheat Meals to Your Advantage
I think it’s safe to say that everyone has heard this apothegm before, “The harder you work, the better your results.” This saying has a lot of truth behind it, but it isn’t inherently true. There are many times in life when it’s crucial to take a step back, realize our willfulness, and simply stop doing so much, or at least slow down a bit.
As much as we’d all like to think that we’re made of iron and that we resemble the stoic demeanor of a Greek statue, we are in fact all mortal, biological beings who are sometimes in need of a well-deserved break.
You Don’t Have to Cheat
Some people don’t need cheat meals at all. They find sticking to their diet, whether it be aimed at weight loss or performance enhancement, to be an enjoyable experience. However, if you’re like the other 99% of the population, then it’s better for you to enjoy a cheat meal when it’s deserved or necessary.
But, when do you know when it’s deserved or necessary?
This is where subjectivity comes in to play. Only you know how much willpower you have. People who can successfully stick to their diet usually know their mind and body very well. They know when they feel over-trained or mentally burnt out. And when this happens, they take an extra day off from the gym or have an unplanned cheat meal to help them “recharge their batteries.”
You Can Cheat, but Have Control
Most people who implement cheat meals do so on a weekly basis. For instance, having a cheat meal every Saturday or Sunday is usually the norm. Having a cheat meal once a week gives you something to look forward to as you put forth large amounts of physical and mental effort trying to religiously stick to your diet day in and day out. However, some people may only need a cheat meal every two weeks or once a month. Everyone’s willpower differs.
There is no need to feel “weak” or “undeserving” of a cheat meal if you are working very hard toward your goals. The only time you should feel guilty for eating a cheat meal is if you eat due to uncontrolled urges. If it gets to the point to where you can no longer control your desires, then that needs to be addressed.
I’ve experienced this on multiple occasions while dieting for my bodybuilding competitions. I can vividly remember being full-fledged in the beginning of contest prep, going for months without a cheat meal because I didn’t feel like I needed one, and my intuitions couldn’t have been more wrong. After about 10 weeks straight of no cheat meals, I became completely burnt out. I was unable to force-feed myself any more tilapia or broccoli. This led me to cheat on my diet on a near daily basis, taking unwarranted trips to the gas station to load up on candy bars.
You need to listen to your body when it speaks to you. Being extremely motivated is a beautiful thing. It’s a virtue that will allow you to turn your dreams into reality. Look at eating occasional cheat meals as a way to make a deposit in your willpower account. And as you do so consistently (e.g. once a week, once a month, etc.), you can then expect that such an investment will start to work for you, mainly by allowing you to keep your sanity while dieting.
Define Your Cheat Meals
To some people, a cheat meal is eating a piece of red meat once a month, while others may require a couple buckets of fried chicken with an additional bucket of ice cream and a side of whole milk. It is not necessarily the contents of the food that matters so much as it is that you are fulfilling the desire or urge you have to stray away from your diet. This is the main purpose of eating cheat meals.
In addition to keeping your mind happy, cheat meals are also very important for your body as well. For example, if your diet consists of no or very low carbohydrates, then you’re putting yourself at risk for developing ketoacidosis. This is a life-threatening condition that can develop by dieting to the extreme.
If you diet in such a manner, then eating a cheat meal that’s very high sugar can help you to not only reduce your risk for developing ketoacidosis, but it will also help you to fill your empty glycogen stores. This will allow you to reignite that vigor you once had when you first began your diet.
For those of you who have high cholesterol levels, are hypertensive, diabetic, or who have any other life-threatening condition, then consuming excessive amounts of sugars and fats should be undoubtedly abstained. Eating such high quantities of macros at one sitting may greatly exacerbate your condition which would be blatantly counterproductive.
Keep Your Sanity
With the case of dieting, cheating is perfectly fine every now in then. In fact, it’s encouraged. It helps keep a sane mind and a body with vigor and energy, things that are needed in order to go through multiple workouts while being in a caloric deficit. Willpower varies. Some people need a cheat meal every week, while others may only need one a few times a year. Be honest with yourself as you analyze what you feel you are truly capable of. Knowing your mind and body gives you a huge advantage over how successful your diet will be.