For many of us, there’s only one thing worse than being overweight, and that is, being constantly hungry because we’re following a strict diet. Dieting sucks, there’s no way around it, and as necessary as diets can often be, sometimes it is nice to have a little blow out and treat ourselves to the foods that we happen to be craving. Let’s face it, as awful as many junk foods are, they do tend to taste pretty fantastic, especially when we’re hungry and haven’t tasted them for quite some time. Some prefer pizza, others prefer burgers, whilst others are quite happy to sit and munch on a bowl of cereal and skimmed milk. Whatever your preferences may be, sometimes we need to cheat meal to help keep us sane. Before we go any further, calling these meals CHEAT meals, is a little unfair and counterproductive. We plan for these meals well in advance, and providing we stick to our diet and exercise routines for the rest of the week, we aren’t cheating ourselves or our bodies at all, in fact we’re doing quite the opposite, we’re rewarding ourselves instead. Rather than cheat meals, they should instead be referred to as TREAT meals, because you’ve planned for them and you’ve earned them. Treat meals can provide a number of benefits for us when we’re following a strict diet, and not just psychological benefits either. To help you get more out of your treat meals, here are five strategies for fantastic weight loss results.
Plan them in advance
If you’re dieting, one of the worst things you can do is to decide all of a sudden that you deserve a cheat meal and so “just for today” you’re going to have a cheat meal, possibly cheat day, and get back on your diet the next day. This is cheating because you are cheating on your diet, and you’re basically breaking your diet. To help ensure that that doesn’t happen, you should instead plan your cheat meals in advance. Say it’s Sunday and you enjoy a nice meal over the weekend, you can then decide that next Saturday will be your cheat meal, providing you stick to your plan for the rest of the week until that point, and that you get right back on plan the morning after. This is actually beneficial because it prevents you from breaking your diet because it gives you something to look forward to over the weekend.
Never starve yourself beforehand
Some people seem to think that if they drastically reduce their calories a few days before their cheat meal, and if they perhaps step up the intensity in the gym and on the treadmill, that they can eat more for their cheat meals that before, because they’ve “earned” more calories. This is just not the case because when you overcompensate for binge eating by starving yourself, not only do you suppress your metabolism, but you’re also far more likely to binge eat and consume way more calories than you should be. Whereas before you’d be quite happy having a delicious cheat meal, and perhaps a healthy snack afterwards such as fruit and yoghurt, if you’re extremely hungry and think that you’ve “earned” more calories, you’ll be more likely to grab yourself a tub of ice cream or a huge slice of cake afterwards, which may increase your calorie consumption by 1000 or possibly even more than if you’d stuck with a healthy dessert.
Another common mistake that many dieters tend to make when it comes to eating is to turn a cheat meal into a cheat day. They’ll literally be super strict 6 days of the week, counting down the days until they get to break their diet and will immediately begin cramming as much junk food down their necks as possible. By turning a cheat meal into a cheat day, you could be turning 2000 – 3000 calories into 8000 – 10000 calories, which will cause you to gain weight and will take much longer to lose than if you’d stuck with one single treat meal instead. If your cheats become too frequent, or if you consume too much junk, all of your hard work will be undone which will mean that you’ll be lucky to maintain your weight at your next weigh in, never mind lose any. You may even lose a pound if you’re lucky, which a cheat day could then cause you to put on, you’ll diet and exercise and lose it again, and before you know it you’re yo-yo dieting and are barely making any progress at all.
Keep calories low before your meal
If your daily macros require you to consume around 1800 calories to lose weight, if you limit the amount of fats and calories you consume before your meal, and eat small, healthy, low calorie and low fat foods/snacks before your meal, by the time you get to enjoy your meal, you may still be able to hit your daily macros, or at the worst you’ll only go over by a few hundred calories, which won’t cause any real lasting damage at all. It’s important to remember that you should not starve yourself before cheat meals, but at the same time, if you keep your meals small and low in fat and calories, this will help limit the damage caused by your cheat. For example, a mixed leaf salad, grilled chicken breast, and a balsamic dressing would provide sustenance, would provide beneficial nutrients, would help to suppress hunger, and would come in at just a few hundred calories, so that you can hit your macros when it comes to carbs and fats later in the day.
Work your butt off in the gym before your meal
Before you enjoy your meal, if possible, head to the gym and get a workout in to help deplete your glycogen reserves. Glycogen is a form of glucose sugar that the muscles use as a primary source of energy. When we exercise, these glycogen stores diminish. This is beneficial because the body is unable to store carbohydrates in the form of body fat until glycogen stores have been replenished. This means the more glycogen you’ve used, the more liberal you can be with carbs, and let’s face it, with foods such as pasta, pizza, fried rice, and French fries, there’s a good chance your cheat meal will consist of plenty of carbs.