Cheat code for your cheat days

Cheat meals are described as brief eating episodes that depart from the routine dietary practices to consume certain prohibited food items.
Cheat code for your cheat days

CHENNAI: Cheat meals are becoming increasingly common these days. This form of eating behaviour can be characterised by body change strategies aimed at increased lean muscle mass and reducing fat and can include excessive exercising and weight lifting, protein overconsumption, ‘bulk’ and ‘cut’ food intake cycles, intermittent fasting, performance-enhancing substance use, and ‘cheat meals’.

Cheat meals are described as brief eating episodes that depart from the routine dietary practices to consume certain prohibited food items. They are an increasingly common eating behaviour among adolescents and young adults. They have previously been described as eating episodes that temporarily deviate from one’s established dietary practices (i.e., restrictive and/or restraint) to consume prohibited foods momentarily, only to return back to the previous dietary practices (i.e., a “cheating” deviation from regular rigid eating practices).

Within the context of muscularity-oriented eating and body-change behaviours, cheat meal engagement and the often-times accompaniment of high-calorie consumption is intended to manipulate the body to use dietary fats as energy and enhance body fat reduction without negatively impacting muscle development.

Cheat meals help control food cravings, which may be seen as a mechanism to avoid binge eating, supplement fitness and exercise activities and improve metabolism. Even though engagement in cheat meals is associated with greater eating disorder behaviours and greater eating disorder psychopathology, they are not bad for you.

How to have a cheat meal without disturbing your diet

Know the importance of  a cheat meal
It is important to understand that a cheat meal is a meal that allows you to get out of the monotony of your daily diet and provides you with the satisfaction of incorporating your favourite dishes into your diet. Cheat meals also help you stay motivated to your dietary goals while having your favourite meals too. Devour your cheat meal, but remember that you have to earn it, which makes it special.

Plan your cheat meal in advance
Planning your cheat meal one or two days prior helps you better understand your portion size and calorie intake. This helps you to stick to your set plan and prevents you from going overboard. You can also make a list of things that you’re craving during your daily diet and have the one that’s most exciting as your cheat meal. A well-planned and portioned meal will take away the guilt that may come after a cheat meal.

Cheat meals, not cheat days
Choose cheat meals over cheat days because the former helps you stay within your calorie limit by adjusting your other meals while also permitting you to enjoy your favourite meal. Cheat days can sometimes ruin a whole week’s hard work depending upon the food choices made. Cheating throughout the day would only encourage more cravings, eventually losing complete focus. Excessive bingeing has been associated with the hormonal response that makes you want these foods more, which makes it hard for you to go back to your healthy diet regime over the next few days.

Don’t resort to food when you’re emotional
Never indulge in a cheat meal when you are feeling emotional and vulnerable, especially if you are a person who ties food to feelings. Even though the theory of ‘comfort food’ exists, remember that food is just fuel. Once emotional eating becomes a habit, it stays longer than expected.

No buffet for cheat meals
A heavy buffet for cheat meals can cause you to exceed your calorie intake while trying out all the dishes served at the buffet. A single dish that is well portioned and serves your taste buds should be a better choice. Cheat meals are better than cheat days. A cheat meal shouldn’t let you deviate from your main goal. It should only motivate you to do better while not depriving you of your desires. Remember, you’ve got goals to achieve.

Sadhvika Srinivas

@sadhvikaaa (dietitiansadhvika@gmail.com)

(Sadhvika is a clinical nutritionist who attends to metabolic disorders. She also works towards sports nutrition.)

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