As trainers, we get this question all the time; what is your go to cheat meal? To be honest, it makes me laugh every time for multiple reasons. First of all the assumption is that because I’m a trainer that means I am always on a diet, and therefore have a cheat day. This isn’t true for all trainers, but for myself I rarely, if ever, actually diet. Balance, making health a priority, and being wise about what you eat is far more sustainable than any diet you can do. But that isn’t where we are spending our time today…
The second assumption that comes from that question is that if I did diet that I would have a cheat meal of choice. In any diet for weight loss, the basic idea is caloric expenditure – caloric intake = >0. There are a thousand different schools of thought on what that caloric intake should look like but always, how many calories you eat needs to be less than what you expend or you won’t lose weight. Now this brings us to cheat days/ meals. Often, not always, one day of eating outside of your current diet can increase your caloric intake for the week beyond your caloric expenditure. So for 6 days you worked hard, and in one day your work became irrelevant.
Even if your day or meal doesn’t cause you to tip the equation toward intake, there is a psychological side of it that you need to be aware of as well. For some people, having a cheat meal during a diet encourages them to adhere better throughout the rest of the week. It motivates them to keep going. I would encourage these people to have something outside of your diet, while still being wise about your choices, as a “cheat meal.” For others, a cheat meal is just a way to eat something that actually tastes good and you enjoy again. It reveals that the diet you are choosing is not sustainable for you!
My most common answer to this common question can be summed up like this; “nutrition is all about balance and making your health a priority. Don’t “cheat”, just make decisions that you are willing to live with. But man do I love a good hamburger.”