The Anglo-Saxon term “cheat meal” means “cheat meal” and is used to designate that meal (or dinner) that is outside the guidelines of a specific eating plan or a weight loss diet.
The practice of cheat meals has become popular among people who carry out any eating strategy aimed at weight loss since cheat meals (or “cheat days” if carried out during a day) can be applied both if they are Follow a balanced hypocaloric diet such as a low-carb diet, intermittent fasting, or a ketogenic diet, to name a few.
- What are they used for?
- Risks of cheat meals
- How to plan a cheat meal in a balanced way?
What are they used for?
The fact of taking small “breaks” in a specific diet is justified, theoretically, on the basis that our body has regulatory systems in the face of caloric deprivation and makes adaptations that cause a decrease in our metabolism and, therefore, a certain resistance to lose weight when the eating plan is very strict and we have been with it for a long time. For this reason, cheat meals were designed mainly to “cheat” our metabolism by increasing the caloric value of a meal at a certain frequency and to make the sacrifice that a weight loss plan entails more bearable. However, the few studies that have been carried out on how cheat meals influence our basal energy expenditure are neither conclusive nor decisive as some indication that this strategy may be effective in maintaining adherence to a diet, but only in the short term.
Risks of Cheat Meals:
The approach of making these “cheat meals” can have a psychological component to keep motivated with the diet since it is a food “license” that also serves to improve our social interactions and our relationship with food. However, at the moment in which these sporadic pleasures lead to certain feelings of guilt due to a loss of control during their intake, eating patterns similar to those that occur in certain eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, etc.) can develop. .) where cycles of very strict food restrictions alternate with periods of excessive ingestion of hypercaloric foods.
Therefore, the psychological need to carry out these cheat meals will depend proportionally on the severity of the dietary plan that we are carrying out: the greater the restriction, the greater the frequency and need to “skip the diet.” If, on the contrary, the cheat meal is carried out coinciding with a social celebration and within the framework of an eating pattern that does not involve great sacrifices and is adapted to your needs, there will be no risk of losing control of this intake or falling into a loop “restraint – compensation” dangerous for both physical health and mental health. Hence the importance of knowing the context of each individual and their relationship with food before prescribing a diet that includes this type of compensation strategies.
How to Plan a Cheat Meal in a Balanced Way?
Once we are sure that our habitual dietary pattern is healthy, feasible, realistic and that it does not lead to hunger, we can consider the fact of having these cheat meals on certain occasions (once a week, for example) without the need to lose control during their intake. However, here are some tips on how to carry them out without causing an imbalance in our final goal:
- Choose to have a cheat meal coinciding with lunch or dinner in a social context: this will allow us to reinforce the pleasant component of eating in the company.
- Accompany your cheat meal with a less caloric starter: it is not the same to have a double hamburger with french fries than the same hamburger with a salad for a starter. This will reduce, to a greater or lesser degree, our appetite before eating the hamburger and will lead to a total caloric intake much lower than the first option.
- Eat what you want by controlling the portions: we understand that in a cheat meal one tends to choose the most hyper-palatable dishes (pizzas, stews, fried foods, etc.). However, before this, the most sensible thing is to reduce the portions or share small portions of these dishes to enjoy a greater variety. About this aspect, it should be noted that, if our usual diet is well planned and satisfactory, we will no longer need to eat large amounts of food and, if we do, it is likely that we will feel too full and unwell when after a few hours.
- Try to eat your cheat meal mindfully, savoring it and chewing it slowly. This will make you feel more satisfied and satiated than if you do it with a distracted mind or watching television, mobile, tablet, or any other device.
- Do not weigh yourself the next day: in the same way that one does not lose weight overnight, a “free” intake should not be a trigger for gaining weight the next day. Many factors condition our weight (fluid retention, poor sleep, hormonal cycles, stress …) so, to avoid regrets, the idea is to weigh yourself one day a week, regardless of whether or not you have done a cheat meal, and see the evolution from a perspective of improving eating habits.