The concept of “Cheat Day” and “Cheat Meals” has been in practice for decades and has become extremely popular in the last few years. People who follow a regimen of a diet, use this strategy for its supposed benefits of boosting metabolism, and apparently saving restrictive dieters from feeling deprived. By having a “cheat day”, often during the weekends, it gives us an illusion of satisfaction.
To cheat, or not to cheat
Let us first agree on and understand the important fact that getting healthier (regardless of if your goal is to lose fat, gain muscle, or just maintain your weight in a healthy way), is strictly connected to and controlled by our mindset. Getting into the right mindset if crucial for optimum health.
Using the word “cheat” for a meal, or a pattern of eating, leads to building a negative relationship with food. It is no wonder that feelings of guilt, regret and shame after a “cheat meal” or a “cheat day” are prevalent.
Often, the foods that people include in their “cheat” days, are an important part of their lifestyle, culture, identity, religious ceremonies and traditional celebrations. Do we then really want to refer such a key part of our culture and tradition as “cheating”? I don’t think so.
So what is the alternative approach and better mindset to adopt towards food, so that you can achieve your health and nutrition goals, and still be able to appreciate the food that you enjoy most, and include it in your diet, guilt-free?
When you make a commitment to a long-term and sustainable lifestyle change, intuitive eating is the strategy that comes into play. Which means tuning in to your body, listening to it, and enjoying each single meal without labeling it as a “Cheat Meal”.
How is Intuitive Eating different?
Here is why Intuitive Eating / Mindful Eating is a more effective approach than a “Cheat Meal” mindset:
|Cheat Meal / Cheat Day||Intuitive / Mindful Eating|
|Mindset||• Negative relationship with food.|
• Induces feelings of guilt.
• Foods control decisions in your life.
• You feel restricted during the other days / meals.
|• Healthy attitude towards food.|
• Induces feelings of satisfaction.
• You are in control of your eating habits.
• You feel free around food the whole week.
|Frequency||Systematically scheduled (for the weekends in most cases).||Eating is based on natural cues from your body’s signals.|
|Eating Pattern||• Binge eating and uncontrolled portions. |
• Calories eaten during cheat meals are not part of the plan and can ruin a whole week of great nutrition.
• May slow down your progress overall.
|• Mindful eating and controlled portions. |
• Calories eaten consciously and with pleasure, are part of the plan and will help you maintain your progress.
• Builds a holistic lifestyle.
|Lifestyle||Part of a restrictive diet.||Part of a balanced and flexible diet.|
How to maintain a healthy balance of satisfaction and nutrition?
Intuitive Eating will allow you to introduce meals that are indulgent or high calorie, based on your body’s cues of hunger and fullness.
Aligning with your body’s rhythm as part of your journey to a healthy lifestyle, will keep your metabolism at an optimum level. Which means you can eat the food you enjoy the most and still reach your goals in a sustainable way.
Here are 3 simple steps you can follow to adopt intuitive eating into your daily life:
- Change your mindset.
There are no “good” or “bad” foods. There are foods that will help you reach your goal and support your health, and others that may slow down your progress and harm your health, if consumed in an uncontrolled manner.
Intuitive eating means that to achieve your health goal, and maintain a balanced lifestyle, you will be eating healthy and nutrient-dense foods 80 to 90% of the time, and enjoy the treats that are less nutritious, and highly processed, up to 10 to 20% of the time.
This strategy will allow you to feel satisfied, and still reach your goals without feeling deprived, guilty or judging yourself about it.
- Plan ahead.
The best time to enjoy your calorie-dense foods is during special occasions and celebrations. If it is your birthday in a week, indulge in that slice of cake! Until your birthday, enjoy your colorful and nutrient-dense meals.
- Control your portions.
An indulgent meal should be part of the calories / portions calculated for your body’s needs, not a license to binge eat.
If you are craving that juicy burger, get it. There is no need to deprive yourself, but make sure you balance it with a nutritious side dish, so you can have the best of both worlds!
Still not sure on how to regulate your fullness and hunger cues, or tune in to your body’s rhythm?
Let me help you!
Send me a message to book your complimentary assessment session, and I would love to guide you to achieve your health and nutrition goals.
I enjoyed reading your article, Marwa. You’re inspirational 🥰
I love the connection with the mindset and how you pointed out to the power of words in shaping our relationship with food . I certainly will take with me this concept of intuitive eating and be more observing to what my body wants. Thank you Marwa!