Monday, 27 October 2014

Cheat Meals

Anyone dieting has probably heard of or used a “cheat meal” or even a “cheat day”!

So is this good or bad?

My personal opinion – don’t do it! Certainly not every week.

For most people trying to lose weight, it’s really NOT just a case of calories in vs. calories out (i.e. eat less, move more); it’s a case of an inefficient hormonal profile.

If you’re lean, and weight loss isn’t a goal, chances are you’re able to handle a “cheat meal” without any negative effects because you have an efficient system (balanced hormones, efficient digestive system, good carb tolerance, good insulin sensitivity etc.). In this case, ‘calories in vs. calories out’ is far more likely to work – because you have an efficient system.

But if you’re overweight, chances are high that your hormones have, over time, become imbalanced. Insulin resistance is likely an issue, reducing carb tolerance; and digestion may be compromised. And it will take time to rebalance them, through both diet and exercise.

If you put in all that effort to follow a diet for a few days, and then have a cheat meal (read: blowout) it WILL, almost certainly, undo all your hard work and send you right back to the start hormonally. You may lose some weight initially, but you’re setting yourself up for failure. The weight loss will soon stop and your hormones are still out of balance (possibly even more so).

It’s like giving an alcoholic a drink a week. Will they have one and stop? Or go overboard and have more than a few?!

If you’re following a healthy diet, you can use a “re-feed” day, but you still need to follow the same rules. There’s never a good reason to have junk food. On your re-feed days (maybe once every 4-6 weeks depending on the individual) it should be with good, clean, real foods. It means you can eat more of the good stuff for a day, not binge on crap and expect it not to have an effect.

Your aim here isn’t to eliminate all the things you enjoy forever, but to eliminate them temporarily until you get to the point that you CAN indulge occasionally without any negative effects. When you’re in this position, there’s no need to feel guilty about the odd night out. You won’t gain a stone on a one-week holiday (that took you 6 months to lose!).

When your system works efficiently, you can enjoy the foods you want, when you want them (within reason). But until then, you need to rebuild your system, and that means spending some time being good, cutting out the foods/drinks you know you shouldn’t be consuming, and following a good training plan.

As you get leaner, you’ll be able to introduce more of the foods you love, but until then – fight on!

If you want help, visit for information on Personal Training, Nutrition coaching or Bootcamp Fitness classes.

And follow us on Facebook and Twitter (do it now……) for extra tips, advice and motivation.
Mark Broadbent