Do “Cheat Meals” Work? The Truth About Succeeding On A Weight Loss Program

True or False? “Depriving yourself of foods you enjoy hurts your fat loss efforts in the long run.”

That statement is True! The desire to lose weight and melt away fat permanently and healthfully seems like an impossible task sometimes. Dieters go crazy with cravings and battle binges that leave them feeling defeated and discouraged.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

With a different approach you can lose weight and eat right without being miserable.

Before I start, let me begin by saying that eating should be an enjoyable experience. Food is your body’s fuel. If you don’t enjoy your meal and eagerly anticipate the nutrients that will enter your body, you’ll find it difficult to stay on track with any diet plan.

Ok. Now on to my first point.

Let’s address the concept of “cheat meals”. Cheat meals are those foods or snacks you indulge in that are not part of your diet plan. It’s typically junk food like pizza, french fries, ice cream, etc, but it could certainly be some other type of food. Some people also call cheat foods “reward meals”.

The key ideas here are serving size and frequency. You must find a sensible way to work even your most "sinful" favorite foods or snacks into your diet and healthy lifestyle, but you must be mindful of both the portion of the cheat food and the number of times you indulge in it. You cannot allow your cheat meals to set you back or sabotage your lifestyle progress. Often dieters eat cheat foods so often it gets out of hand and throws them off track. And even if dieters don’t eat cheat foods often, they sometimes ruin progress by eating too much of a cheat food.

A helpful way to look at the "cheat meals" concept is in terms of "compliance." This means you track the percentage of your meals that follow the guidelines of the healthy eating program as well as the percentage of foods not on the program. Thinking of cheat meals in terms of compliance helps you maintain balance: eat too many cheat meals and your weight loss results will be non-existent. Attempting an overly strict program may cause you to binge eat excessively.

Every person’s goals and activity levels are different so the level of compliance on diet programs vary. It also depends on how responsive your body is to nutrition and exercise. When making your decision, keep in mind we all have different genetics and body types. There are three body types (somatotype), Ectomorph, Mesomorph, Endomorph.

Ectomorphs are commonly known as endurance athletes. They have thinner frames characterized by smaller bone structures and thinner limbs. Think of long distance runner. Ectomorphs are at their best when they include more carbohydrates in the diet, along with moderate protein and lower fat intake.

Mesomorphs are your “athletic-framed” people. They have medium sized bone structure that supports their athletic build. The more Mesomorphs stay active, the higher lean muscle mass they have. Soccer players, gymnasts and tennis players fit this criteria. Mesomorphs tend to have a higher level of testosterone and are usually growth hormone dominant. Mesomorphs work best on a mixed diet, consisting of balanced carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Endomorphs are the larger bone structure or “big boned” types. They have higher amounts of total body mass and fat mass. They are generally not as active but nevertheless strong. Imagine a football linebacker or a heavyweight boxer powerlifters. Endomorphs diet should consist of a higher fat and protein intake, however the carbohydrate intake should be monitored and controlled as a post workout meal or snack.


The three body types (somatotypes)

Determining your body type is not solely based on how you look physically. Understanding body types can help you predict how your body and genetics might respond to food and nutrients, helping to keep those “Xtreme diet pills” and quick fix diet fads at bay. There is nothing worse than a yo-yo dieting lifestyle.

Although I said earlier that people’s compliance levels with diets vary widely due to differences in goals and activity, there is ageneral rule of thumb. If you want to maintain a healthy eating habit, you should aim to be at least 90% compliant with your diet plan. For the average person to see great transformation, I would recommend a level of at least 85%-90% compliance on a diet.

Think about daily meals in terms of structure. A huge portion of your daily meals/snacks should be high in proteins, vegetables and fruits, while carbs should be eaten according to whatever type of diet program you’re on. If you decide to have a cheat meal or snack, it should be just that- a cheat meal or snack. Not an entire day devoted to cheat meals.

When you avoid approaching meals with “compliance” in mind but instead allow an entire cheat day, you are more likely to slip down the slope of bingeing. Allow yourself some leeway. Enjoy food. Enjoy life. Have your pizza, or chocolate or whatever makes your stomach happy. It will help, not hurt in the long run if you are mindful of your daily caloric limits. When you say you are going to comply 90% of the time, keep your promise to yourself! Your body will thank you.


Fun Fact about your body:

Did you know your epidermis ( outer layer of your skin) regenerates every 35 days? Your liver is renewed every six weeks. Your stomach lining is replaced every four days. And your stomach cells, which are responsible for digestion, are replaced every five minutes. More, your brain replaces itself every two months, your skeletal structure every three months and your entire human body - yes everything- regenerates every 5-7 years!

See how connected YOU are on with food choice: YOU really are what YOU eat.

Eat right and regenerate a better YOU.

I look forward to meeting the “new you” in 7 years.


Editor: Mel Jones

Warren Bloom