When you’re trying to lose weight, it seems counterintuitive to eat whatever you want (especially if what you want is a juicy cheeseburger or a slice of rich chocolate cake!) However, experts say that you should plan cheat meals into your diet.
That’s right- the pros say satisfying your cravings approximately one meal a week is part of healthy dieting. Cheat meals aren’t just another diet trend.
Here’s how to “cheat” right:
What a Cheat Meal is All About
Depriving yourself of foods you love, especially when you have cravings, is hard. Experts have found that continually denying yourself those foods just makes dieting too tough to stick to.
Since healthy weight loss is about making better choices in general and cutting back on excess overall, it’s okay to “cheat” and eat what you want once in a while.
Healthy cheat meals are often:
- Meals that satisfy a craving you’ve had while dieting
- Planned no more than once a week (some people have a “cheat meal” each week)
- A regular or small portion size
What It’s Not About
Eating a cheat meal isn’t something for the weak, so don’t feel guilty. Experts say satisfying your craving once in a while is better for you, especially since our brain-body connection might obsess over cravings otherwise!
Here are other things you shouldn’t do when it comes to cheat meals:
- Make certain foods out to be “bad,” adding extra emotions and stress to your eating experience
- Cheat for one meal multiple days a week (like cheating for dinner every night)
- Starve yourself all week except for during your cheat meal
- Choose huge portion sizes or start your cheat meal when you’re really hungry
Benefits of Cheat Meals
There are many benefits of cheating on your diet about once a week. These benefits range from helping your mindset to actually helping your metabolism!
The benefits of healthy cheating include:
- Less obsessing over favorite foods you aren’t eating
- Satisfying cravings you could dwell on and stress about
- Improving your thought process about food and enjoying it so you stay on track
- Helping your metabolism keep from plateauing
- Giving your body more energy to work with if you’re going to work out right before or after
What to Do to Make It Count
To ensure your cheat meal helps your diet instead of hurting it, you’ll need to make the meal count. First, be sure your diet allows for cheat meals (hint: the keto diet is great, but cheating won’t work!)
Here’s how to maximize the impact of your craving-satisfaction:
- Plan ahead for when you cheat, knowing what you intend to eat
- Plan the meals after you cheat so you have healthier foods to look forward to
- Eat healthy food before your cheat meal or drink water so you aren’t as hungry
- Earn your burn by working out before or after your cheat meal
- Stick to a healthy portion size of the food you choose to indulge in
- Savor your cheat meal, don’t get distracted while you eat it
- Aim for high-carb and high-protein cheat meals when possible because your body will use those nutrients for good if you work out before or after