Cheat Meal, Cheat Day, Refeed…Is it important?

Posted by on May 31, 2013 in Blog, Challenge, Motivation, Nutrition | 0 comments

Cheat Meal, Cheat Day, Refeed…Is it important?

Why you shouldn’t cheat your cheat meal!

You may have heard the term ‘cheat meal’, ‘cheat day’ or ‘refeed’.  While the term you choose to use is not important (well, maybe it actually is…more on that later), the thing itself definitely is.  “Cheating is good?” you ask?  Under normal circumstances no, you should never cheat on a test or a spouse of course! But when you are ‘dieting’ or restricting your calories to achieve weight/fat loss, the use of a ‘cheat’ can be vitally important!

Why a cheat meal is important

1 Cheat meal is best for those just starting out.

1 Cheat meal is best for those just starting out.

A cheat meal is important for a number of reasons.  Psychologically, especially for those just starting out with a healthier eating lifestyle, the dramatic change in diet can be overwhelming.  Withdrawing ALL of the old favorites at once can be too much to handle, particularly when combined with starting a new exercise program (which is usually the case).  Having to make dramatic changes in more than one area at a time without any flexibility at all will almost inevitably lead to overload and an end to both endeavors.  Since staying on track and making these changes a permanent part of your life is the desired outcome, allowing flexibility while working towards your goal is key, rather than demanding instant perfection. (perfection is a myth anyway, just keep aiming for improvements-not perfection!)  Remember though that it is ONE cheat meal per week, not more than that or you will not maintain an overall calorie deficit which is key to achieving your weight loss results.

Another reason, often overlooked, is the metabolic function of the cheat meal.  When you are beginning a period of restricted calories, your body may respond immediately with a decrease in weight.  Very soon though, your body will ‘reset’ to the restricted caloric intake, thinking that “well, this is all I’m going to be getting now, so I’d better slow down” and your metabolism will slow.  Now you will be forced to maintain this new daily caloric allowance or weight gain will resume.  This is why we see chronic dieters who have damaged their metabolism to the point of only being able to consume a few hundred calories a day without weight gain occurring.  They are literally starving themselves fat.  To prevent this ‘reset’ you need to occasionally ‘surprise’ your body with extra calories.  Keeping your body guessing is key, so even altering your cheat meal for different days or times in the week can be helpful.  At first, this influx of extra calories may be all of your favorite ‘naughty list’ foods, but as you adopt a taste for healthier foods, you may choose to forgo the naughty list altogether, and simply get the extra calories from more of the good stuff you’re learning to love.

So if you have been eating squeaky clean for quite some time but are at a plateau, consider adding a cheat meal to your weekly meal plan and see if that makes the difference that has been eluding you!!

For more on Clean Eating and Fitness, contact me for information on my Clean Eating or Fitness Based Challenge Groups!  I’d love to help you!

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