Cheat meals are a super-fun way to incorporate all your old favorites into your diet. For many people, they provide motivation to stick to a diet’s rules to the letter because they know they will be able to eat whatever they want on a specific day of the week. After all, the idea that you can eat carrot sticks for your snack all week, then eat a whole medium-sized pizza for dinner on Saturday is awesome, right? Especially if you still lose weight.
That said, as sad as it sounds, cheat meals may not be as beneficial as we’ve been led to believe. Many weight loss experts and a growing body of research is indicating that this technique does far more harm than good. The reason this technique stuck around for so long is that its downside is a tricky one. It has been very hard for scientists to measure.
If you follow a diet exactly for six months, giving yourself cheat meals once per week, you will likely lose weight (assuming your diet is a good one). People who carefully count their calories and macronutrients all week long, then pretty much starve themselves on Saturday only to eat whatever they want for dinner will drop the pounds.
Moreover, it means that those dieters can continue to use their cheat meals to still enjoy the foods they love the most in the quantities they enjoy. Unfortunately, the fun doesn’t last. The challenge is in the relationship it builds between the dieter and his or her food. It can’t keep up over a lifetime. Any diet that can’t be maintained over a lifetime is doomed to fail eventually.
Over time, particularly if you have lost weight and are feeling pretty good about your results, cheat meals can start to spread. They can become cheat days. This way, you might be good all week, but then suddenly there is an entire day in which you’re not paying attention to what you eat. That does a considerable amount of extra damage to your progress than a single meal.
In fact, that cheat day can actually erase much of the careful efforts you made throughout the week. Furthermore, it starts to rebuild the eating habits that caused you to gain the weight in the first place.
Once cheat meals become cheat days, the majority of dieters will start gaining weight once again. It is a slippery slope and eventually nearly all dieters using this technique will fall victim to it. Instead of permitting yourself to cheat on your diet, talk to a doctor or nutritionist about how you can build a healthy relationship with your food – all foods. This will let you work your most loved junk foods into your diet now and again while never actually having to “cheat” on yourself.