Adhering to an intense diet plan for weight loss can be quite stressful at times, especially when you are going through a phase of anxiety and cannot indulge in your favourite food items to cheer yourself up. Cheat meals or entire cheat days can be an effective way to relax and take a break from such a diet plan. But if not done properly, it can offset all your weight loss goals and prove to be counterproductive.
What is a Cheat Meal?
A cheat day diet is essentially a diet for a single day where you give yourself the freedom to eat your favourite food items that are not part of your strict regular diet. Such a day can act as a motivator for you to stay on diet for the rest of the week. It is a reward-based strategy that gives you a brief period of leniency so that you do not get stressed out from adhering to a strict diet throughout the week.
For example, if you follow a keto meal plan from Monday to Saturday, you can afford to cheat on your Sunday brunch where you indulge yourself in some carbohydrate-rich food like multigrain bread, kidney beans and maybe a dessert or two. But the biggest hindrance to such an indulgence is the popular belief that it can negatively impact your metabolism and diet patterns.
Cheat Meals and Metabolic Changes
Consuming a well-planned and calculated cheat meal on your cheat days can lead to the regulation of a hormone produced by the fat cells of your body, known as Leptin. Leptin is responsible for maintaining energy balance in your body and sends signals to the brain so that your body understands the right time to stop eating.
There is quite a lot of debate in the scientific community about Leptin but one particular research has suggested that temporarily increasing your calorie intake allows Leptin levels to shoot up in your body by 30%. Since higher leptin levels make you feel full and satisfied, it can be considered beneficial for weight control.
Cheat Diet – A Motivator in Your Weight Loss Challenge
Besides the metabolic benefits of a cheat meal, there are mental health benefits too. While some people are well aware of their need for a strict diet and are easily able to control their urges, others may not. If you know that you have a cheat day coming up in a day or two, you are more likely to not give in to momentary urges of deviating from your diet meal plan. In this way, you can stay less stressed and more motivated throughout the week knowing that there is a cheat day at the end of it.
Can Cheat Meals Encourage Binge Eating?
While cheat meals can be an effective motivator, not planning them in advance can, in fact, be counterproductive. Influenced by social media personalities and popular fitness models, you may sometimes consider indulging in an extravagant cheat day diet. But this may not be right for your body. You need to consider several factors like your body weight, body fat percentage, metabolic rate, regular caloric intake, etc. to plan the best meal for you on your cheat days.
For example, if your daily caloric intake is 2000 calories and your intake on cheat days increases to 4000 or 5000 calories, then, despite the increased leptin levels and metabolism, you are bound to put on weight. More importantly, such an unplanned and unregulated cheat diet plan can also get you into the habit of binge eating.
Cheat meals can definitely be a way for you to unwind and take a brief break from a week-long weight control diet but they should also be planned. Going overboard with such meals can be counterproductive and achieving the right balance is key to weight loss and an overall healthy lifestyle. The best way to go about this is to consume small indulgent yet calculated meals throughout the day on your cheat days so that you can keep better track of the calories consumed and also escape the dangers of binge eating.
Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.