Regarding diet consistency, I don’t do cheat days or cheat meals. I have in the past, but not currently.
Now, that’s not to say I don’t cheat…because I do. Sort of.
I allow myself to eat whatever I want, whenever I want, knowing that I prefer to stay within a specific calorie range. I also know that if I “cheat” too much, I will have to pay the piper eventually.
So in the context of “cheat days” or “cheat meals,” this means we take time away from our regular dietary regimen and eat some “bad” food. It’s seen as a way to satisfy cravings.
While the body can sometimes induce cravings, they are most often associated with the mind. “Cheat” opportunities are often seen as a way to stay sane to keep our minds about ourselves.
We get so overwhelmed by the effort and energy required to “stay on track” with the food that sometimes a break can mentally soothe us, at least briefly.
But is it really “cheating”?
Diet Consistency Is All Part of the Plan
Cheat meals and cheat days. They’ve got a bad rap, don’t they? But let’s flip the script for a minute. What if I told you these so-called “cheats” are actually part of a winning strategy?
That’s right, these cheat moments aren’t random detours on your wellness journey. Nope, they’re more like scheduled pit stops built into your dietary roadmap. You pencil them in, you know they’re coming, and you make sure they don’t spiral into an impromptu food festival. Why? Because a “cheat” isn’t the same thing as a “splurge.”
So, let’s stop saying we’re “falling off the wagon” when we have a cheat meal. We’re not. Actually, these cheats are crucial for staying on track. Think of them as your diet’s version of a reboot, a necessary pause to refresh and recalibrate.
Ever watch the stock market? It doesn’t just go up in a straight line. There are dips, and they’re expected. Those dips offer opportunities for growth and rebalancing. It’s kind of like how an airplane doesn’t just ascend non-stop; sometimes it levels off or even descends a bit to reach optimal flying conditions.
In the same way, a cheat meal or cheat day is like that stock market dip or airplane descent. To the untrained eye, it might look like you’re going off course, but the reality? You’re just following your meticulously planned route to success. So the next time you pencil in a cheat meal, don’t think of it as a setback; consider it your strategic move forward.
God and the Devil Are Raging Inside Me
So why do we need cheat meals?
We need them because they are perceived as “satisfying.” Taking some time to eat foods outside of our dietary plan can give us a brief moment of relaxation from fitness, a moment to breathe. Especially for folks just beginning their fitness journey, these small breaks from the intensity can make them feel normal again. It’s a chance for the brain to let go and the belt to get a little tighter (for a short time).
In short, it gives our brains a break.
But like most indulgences, the joy and gluttony of a day’s worth of slamming pizza, sweets, and booze often leave us with a much different feeling the next day…
What just 12 hours ago gave the feeling of relief and happiness now becomes a mental burden.
Feelings that we have blown all of our progress (you probably didn’t) or that somehow we have lost our fallen off the tracks (you didn’t) become an obstacle to try to tackle.
Along with the physical toll, your body also tries to deal with processing all that excellent cheat food.
And here is where we need to remember about cheating…despite how it makes you feel after, and however it makes you think about your motivation to go forward, this IS a part of the plan.
It’s Not Cheating; It’s Achieving
Ah, “cheat meals,” that term we all love to whisper guiltily. But hold up, why do we call them “cheats” anyway? It implies we’re doing something naughty, something off-script. But is it really cheating if it’s built into the plan?
Think about it. Are we diverging from our diet, or are we actually making a planned pit stop? Here’s the twist: we’re not straying from the plan. This pit stop IS the plan. In fact, instead of taking a step back, we’re moving forward with intention.
Ever wonder why cheat meals exist in the first place? Sure, you might think it’s a loophole to indulge, but it’s more than that. It’s a mental respite. Without these scheduled food breaks, let’s face it, we’d all eventually crash and burn or, worse, go on an unplanned eating spree. So, let’s call it what it is—routine maintenance. It’s about ensuring our metaphorical machine doesn’t break down on us.
And let’s talk motivation. These cheat meals aren’t just calories; they fuel the soul. We’re not just tossing food into the furnace; we’re adding the motivational kindling to keep that fire roaring. So yeah, you’re not cheating yourself; you’re rewarding yourself, and there’s a big difference.
Ever had those moments where it feels like you’re taking two steps back? What if those are actually the steps that matter the most? Those are the moments that test your resolve and keep your motivation stoked. So, let’s reframe the narrative: you’re not cheating; you’re strategizing for the long game.
Rob is a Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. For the past 10 years, Rob has been navigating the health and fitness landscape to better himself and those around him, focusing on tools such as calorie and macro counting, intermittent fasting, and HIIT training techniques.