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Cheat meals – can they actually set you up for failure?

Cheat meals – can they actually set you up for failure?

 What is a ‘cheat meal’ really? 

Never underestimate the power of self talk!  So be careful what you say to yourself. The implication here is that you are cheating on your diet. Does that mean you don’t like your diet and it deserves to be cheated on?

For me, the term ‘cheat meal’ sets the stage for a poor relationship with food by acknowledginh the good food bad food concept. This paints the picture that there is a devil and an angel perched on either shoulder: one is munching broccoli miserably, the other is loving life gorging on pizza and ice-cream. If you tell yourself you can’t have something, you want it even more. And if you do hold out until cheat meal time, you tend to binge under the pretence that you deserve it.

For whatever reason we all accept this scenario, where this cycle of restrict then binge is allowed/ encouraged. It’s a relationship that only gets worse with time because it is linked to a short-term goal rather than lifestyle change and emotionally cripples us.

The formula for weight loss is calories in versus calories out. Burn more calories than you consume and you will lose fat. Let’s ignore the requirements for body composition and muscle tone for now because that’s where macronutrient percentages come in.

The truth is fat loss occurs over seven days, not just one day. Say you put yourself into a deficit of 200 calories a day: over six days you are 1200 calories down and if you maintained this deficit over seven days, you would be losing approximately 0.55lbs per week.

Now, if you ate a cheat meal on day seven that consisted of pizza (2000 calories) and a tub of ice cream (1000 calories), coupled with a standard 400 to 500 calorie lunch and breakfast, you would have consumed 4000 calories in a single day. That is at least, 2000 calories above  your maintenance calories. This one ‘cheat meal’ has singlehandedly shifted this otherwise ‘diet compliant’ innocent from calorie deficit and anticipated fat loss, into a calorie surplus and almost certain weight gain.

So what should you do instead of a cheat meal?

What I recommend is carb cycling never exceeding maintenance calories once per week.  For women carb up once a week until you are below 20 per cent body fat then twice per week always below maintenance.

To work out your approximate maintenance calories, multiply your body weight by 15. For example, 154lbs, x 15 = 2310 calories. For an accurate figure book an appointment with me for a Baseline Body Diagnostic 

The easiest way to work out your maintenance calories macro breakdown would be 40 per cent protein, 30 per cent fats and 30 per cent carbs OR, if you want to get technical, use 1.1g of protein per lb, 25 per cent of total calories as fats and the rest as carbs.

As long as you ensure you are eating 90 per cent wholefood and 10 per cent flexible foods, you would work your ‘Carb up’ meal into your target total calorie and macronutrient intake as outlined above. This is why this method is arguably the most sustainable fat loss approach – no food restrictions!

Let’s write down the word cheat meal on a piece of paper, scrunch it up, stomp on it and burn it in a dramatic break-up bonfire. You should never cheat on your diet, you simply eat according to your plan – and fit in the foods you love.

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