On paper, weight loss seems simple. You have to be on a calorie deficit, which means you have to expend more calories than you consume. As such, alongside an exercise routine, a diet plan is in order.
However, it’s not as easy as it sounds. If you are used to eating a certain amount of calories a day, from certain types of food, it is difficult to follow such a drastic change all at once. Many lose the motivation to stick to their diet plans and fall off track. Many others don’t get the results they want because they deviated from their meal plans. There are countless pieces of advice to help keep you on track, but the most popular, by far, is to have a cheat meal or cheat day. That is that meal or day in a week when you don’t have to count calories and freely cook or takeout anything you want.
When done correctly, a cheat day can help you stay motivated. If executed poorly, a cheat could do the opposite of what it’s supposed to do. It could send you on an unhealthy spiral away from your goals.
How Cheat Days Help Your Diet
Cheating on your diet — the calculated and expected kind — prevents you from resenting your weight loss plan and giving up on it completely. So even if you took your favourite food (ice cream, pizza, pastries) out of your daily diet, there’s still one meal or day when you can indulge. Spend a week loyal to the clean and green food truck, and you can spend the weekend waltzing near your favourite cheeseburger mobile food trucks.
This type of reward-based diet is useful for many people. Some people are more motivated to follow their green-and-lean meat diet the entire week, knowing that they have a cheat day coming up.
However, they aren’t for all diet styles. For instance, diets like the ketogenic diet require strict adherence and leave no room for cheating. A cheat day would kick the body out of ketosis, which leads to less than optimal results.
The way people do cheat diets varies, as well. Some do cheat days once a week, while others indulge once a month. Some people’s idea of cheating is eating that slice upon slice of chocolate cake, while others believe that parboiled brown rice is enough. Dwayne Johnson’s cheat meals are legendary — one cheat day counted 12 pancakes, four double dough pizzas, and 21 brownies. He’s earned it, anyway (he ate clean for 172 days).
The Right Way to Cheat
There is a danger, however, in cheating. The calories you consume on your cheat day could undo all the hard work you’ve done that week. Cheating could also leave you wanting more, and the temptation for one more chocolate chip cookie or activated charcoal ice cream is hard to resist.
Here are some tips to help you cheat the right way.
- Choose Cheat Meals over Cheat Days — To make sure you won’t overdo it, choose a cheat meal over a cheat day. That prevents you from spoiling the calorie deficit you’ve worked so hard on. Plus, you won’t feel bad at all — you got to eat what you craved, but you’re sure you didn’t undo your efforts.
- Cheat Meals Are Planned — Don’t indulge in a cheat meal just because you felt like having one this particular day. There’s a high chance you’ll end up cheating every day. So schedule the cheating to one meal during the weekend.
- Focus on One Food — Don’t let Dwayne Johnson’s calorie-dense cheat meals fool you. Those are earned and calculated. Moreover, the average person doesn’t have his muscle mass, which means they don’t burn as many calories as he does on a typical day. So to make your cheat day more effective, focus only on one food — that thing you’ve been craving for all week. If you’re craving beer and pavlova now, consume the alcohol now and save the pavlova for the next cheat day.
- Keep yourself Hydrated — Hunger and thirst feel the same. That’s why people on a weight loss plan are encouraged to drink water when they feel hungry—most of the time, they’re just thirsty. If the body is hydrated, it takes less food to make you feel full. So on the day of the cheat meal, drink plenty of water so that you won’t go overboard with the meal.
The most significant bit: enjoy your cheat meal. That is the fruit of your labour and the reward for six days of hard work. It seems counterproductive, but that doughnut or slice of bacon is one of those things that will help you reach your goal weight.