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I HATE Cheat Meals!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Man.... I have a real problem with this whole "Cheat Meal", or worse yet, "Cheat Day" concept.

First of all, could we please stop using the word "cheat"? Cheat makes it sound like if you don't over-indulge in foods that are horrible for you, you've failed your mission. Do you really want to cheat yourself out of your healthy eating plan?

Additionally, for someone who is a recovering binge eater (like me), it's an open invitation to gorge. I can easily do 3,000 or more calories worth of damage in the span of just an hour or two. It's really not that hard. (Proof: At Applebees, 1/2 order of onion rings- 645 calories, Riblets platter- 1700 calories, 1/2 Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae- 775 calories. Total: 3120 calories, even when I shared the appetizer and dessert. And I was drinking un-sweet tea!)

One pound of fat is approximately 3500 calories. If I managed to eat 500 calories less than my daily caloric intake for a week, that should add up to about a pound of weight loss that week (500x7 days in the week=3500 calories). Which would be great, except I pretty much packed all of those calories into the above Applebees meal.

And people wonder why they aren't losing weight with cheat meals.

If we move into a bigger meal, or (God forbid!) an entire cheat day, it's easy to see how weight gain could actually occur, despite eating well 6 days out of 7.

Look, I don't mean to be Negative Nancy about enjoying a treat every once in a while. But I think we need to rethink the way we view foods in regards to how we are going to live our life from here on out. It all really DOES make a difference over the long haul.

In David Greenwalt's book The Leanness Lifestyle (which I have frequently referred to as my Fitness Bible), he purposes a Splurge Meal. This is a much better thing to call it, IMHO. You are not going off the rails with cheating, you are planning an indulgence. And it is going to factor into your weekly caloric intake.

How do you make this work? Personally, during the rest of the week I'd shave another 100 calories off of each day. This gives me 600 calories more out of my diet I can "play" with for my Splurge meal. That's step 1.

Next, I'd cut back on my carbs the day of the planned splurge. I'm taking it out of carbs, because, let's face it: people don't usually splurge on turkey breast.

Here's how I'd put it into action:

I'd bring my regular morning oatmeal from 1/2 C dry measure (before cooking) to 1/4 C. That's 75 calories. I'd probably also skip my fruit for my mid-morning or after-workout snack and have just protein powder. There's another 80 or so calories, all from carbs. Lunch would be reduced by about a single portion of carbs, for about another 80 carb calories. So right there, I've got 235 calories in the bank. Add it to the 600 I managed to cut back on during the week, and I'm 835 calories ahead. Plus, I still have my regular dinner calories to factor in, which is normally about 500 for me. Add that to the 835 I already saved and now I'm at 1335. This I can do.

Now, it's time to plan (not haphazardly wing) that splurge.

Before I go to Applebees, I decide what it is I most want to splurge on. For me, it's the cookie Sundae, which I am going to split with my teen daughter (she's skinny).

Knowing this, I look up the nutritional information online before I ever leave the house. Then when I get to the restaurant I order, according to plan, the 9-ounce house sirloin (I'm hungry!) for 310 calories with the garlic mashed potatoes for 250 calories and the seasonal veggies for about 40 calories. That's 600 calories for a very decent dinner that is still a splurge over what I would normally eat.

Dessert is another 775 for 1/2 of that Cookie Sundae. I'm at 1375 calories, just 40 over my 1335. No big deal.

The trick immediately AFTER the splurge is to stick to the plan. If you are anything like me, you tend to go a bit off of the rails once a splurge has occurred. For me, this means I still have my protein shake before bed, even if I don't feel particularly hungry, just to get myself RIGHT BACK on track.

And what's important is that I did NOT cheat, and I have nothing to feel guilty for.

The closer you get to goal, the more important honesty with yourself and planning like this will be. Fat doesn't take a vacation, so please don't believe it isn't going to show up if you invite it by eating with abandon.

And for Pete's sake, stop calling it a Cheat Meal. At least, in front of me.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I call it a treat meal!
    1969 days ago
  • MIZINA730
    I don't do cheat meals and cheat days. I'm nowhere in a position to consider it. If I eat something inadvisable, I get on the bandwagon right away. Before I ever had a weight problem (weighed 100) I planned ahead for occasions such as a wedding reception. I ate very little earlier in the day or at least in consideration of the fact that I would eat without concern later in the day. I did this without much thought. It all made sense and simply seemed the logical thing to do, almost instinctive that if I want to eat wedding cake and dig into the meal, I would take it from somewhere else.
    2010 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/23/2012 3:42:00 PM
    I LOVE this!!! Thank you!
    2018 days ago
    I LOVE this :) My dietician that has taught me a whole lot of amazing stuff about nutrition and using food in the best possible ways suggested a very similar thing. I was getting too wrapped up in trying to be perfect - and following her meal plans to the T. and when (its never an if) i strayed from that plan (even if it wasnt in a very bad way) I would feel like i had failed / cheated and that opened up th. opportunity for my "oh well might as well just binge on junk for the rest of the day anyway considering its no longer perfect anymore" conversation I would have with myself.
    She has given me a GOAL of planning to and following through with having 2 LESS HEALTHY meals in a week - note LESS HEALTHY. i.e have a chicken burger but not with fries. Have a slice or two of pizza but not a whole pizza :) and then at the very next meal I carry on with the plan - which my mind has no problem with as I did not stray from the plan in the first place :)
    2018 days ago
  • LEB0401
    I'm so glad you posted this! I was wondering what I was going to do since Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas being along too many goodies to decline. Now I'll plan out my indulgences and shave calories accordingly. Thanks so so much!!
    2043 days ago
  • OPTIMIST1948
    Quick! Everyone hit the LIKE button. Common sense approach is so uncommon now-a-days that I think everyone needs to read this.

    Seriously, awesome planning. Great work. I love the idea of a splurge meal and will work on its incorporation into my vocabulary.
    2068 days ago
    Thank you for saying this. I have a friend that calls them "cheat" meals as well and it drives me nuts. It's a lifestyle change. A cheat meal reminds me of being on a diet. Even through I struggle, I know I am not on a diet nor have cheat meals!
    2068 days ago
    I'm with you on not "cheating" my diet, because really that means cheating me, and I'm not about cheating myself on anything. Treat or splurge, or just living my life is more how I look at it. I don't track my food anymore, and that seems to be working for me, but I do what you do on the "splurge" meal, which is look online before we go out, plan it ahead, and split something indulgent if I decide that's what I want that day. Also for me, the treats usually come after a long day out doing something active (say 4 hours of mountain biking or hiking for 7-8 hours). And even with that I'm still trying to get the "cleanest" meal I can out of it, since I just feel better when I'm eating clean.

    2069 days ago
    Love this blog and I completely agree with you about planning ahead for the treat. BTW, given any possible spulge food in the world, I too would probably go with the Applebees Cookie Sundae!
    2070 days ago
    I heartily agree! The whole idea of a "cheat" meal or "cheat" day bothers me. If I'm planning for and allow for that extra calorie intake, it's not cheating, it's a planned indulgence. If this really is a lifestyle, not a diet, there's no need to cheat; there are ways to include almost anything (within reason and in reasonable quantities) in my eating plan, just not every day.
    2071 days ago
    I can't eat protein, veggies, and fruit all the time. Call it a splurge, an indulgence, a cheat day, whatever. I just think my body needs something every now and again that is different. Otherwise my taste buds burn out.

    2074 days ago
    I just call it "calorie cycling."


    Even the word "splurge" sounds a little too much like going off the rails to me (I'm a recovering binge eater, too - the last thing I need to do is unleash that inner monster! LOL)

    Although you didn't mention it here, I suspect that you know and agree with the metabolic reason for planning these deficit breaks. It's not so much an indulgence as a necessity, both for the metabolism and the psyche.

    2074 days ago

    Comment edited on: 8/20/2012 2:02:10 PM
    I like the idea of a splurge because it implies that you aren't doing something wrong! I love dessert so I try to incorporate it into my meal plans and kind of do something similiar to you and make the calorie count still work with my treats. I know that if I deprive myself I will have a "splurge" day that will turn into two days and so on. It's hard to find what works for each person and I am glad to not be the only person struggling with this emoticon
    2074 days ago
    My thinking is that I can't cheat because I have nothing to cheat on! I'm not on a diet, I just eat healthy most of the time. If I want the occasional ice cream or dinner out then so be it!
    2074 days ago
  • ROCKMAN6797
    You were reading my mind! What is the point of eating healthy if you are going to adopt this "cheat" meal concept? Besides the whole concept of eating an unhealthy seems to defeat the purpose of eating healthy. I love the splurge concept and I practice it but I will eat a food that I consider to be healthy, just a bit more. Finally, I understand that there are times where there are no other options immediately available (I have had to endure a few) but to plan for a cheat meal? Insane if you ask me!
    (OK, Raúl is getting off his high horse. Thank you for allowing me to vent about a pet peeve!) :)
    2074 days ago
    Excellent and sensible planning - it's realistic too emoticon
    2075 days ago
    Gulp! Kristin holds head down and confesses to having called it cheat night. Actually "Cheat Date night". Thing is I never feel guilty and never go over. It's pretty much "eating out night" or maybe "add cheese to our meal" night. Maybe what I need to call it is date night. Think the boyfreind and I kind of like the "naughtiness" of how it sounds. lol Guess I have been lucky this time around and have never felt a sense of it being out of control, or that I am getting off plan because of it. Just like not calling this a diet anymore. For someone who has struggled with an ED this is HUGE! We really prefer to eat at home where we see what is going into our meals. Also think that it may be a little different for me having had a purging disorder that never really had binges. My struggle lies in getting in enough food.

    So, I will change the "cheat" verbage for next Tuesday. It will just be a get together with friends that will include 1 beer and the usual...Kristin checking out the menu online before I get there to help me make healthier choices:)
    2075 days ago
    Thank you for this blog i very much agree with you. Cheat negative conatation. I personaly am an emotional eater so as soon as i eat sweets i want more of it and i find myself thinking about it a lot once i have a taste of it and i find myself wanting to repeat the experience so it's just too much to bear so i just go without.

    I am not in a place where i would be able to have a small serving of sweets and i dont know if i ever will be able to do that ? It is safer for me to not have it.

    Any time that i think about having some sort of dessert my brain automaticaly think big serving i want a huge bowl or plate of it i want to devour it i think this is called binge eating and i only have this with sweets this insatiable apetite.

    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2075 days ago
    It is amazing what planning can do for us. Loved your blog. Keep them coming. emoticon emoticon
    2075 days ago
    I agree with what you're saying but I do allow for indulgences or cheats with some of my clients. It just depends on their individual situation. Many of the athletes I train simply cannot eat enough "healthy" food to meet their caloric demands, so these high caloric meals are necessary occasionally to keep glycogen stores filled and insure recovery. With some of my college student clients, I give them "time off" windows because I know they are going to party with their friends so we might as well account for it and keep it part of the plan. Even athletes in serious strength training mode have so much muscle mass that they need these extra calories to support growth. The key in these cases is to keep the overall nutrition and exercise plan on point and use these cheats as necessary.

    Thanks for the great blogs Nancy!
    2076 days ago
  • ILOVEJIM851991
    sounds like a plan to me
    2076 days ago
    I love your point of view. Thank so much for th outlook. I will try to remember that in the future. Unfortunately today was not a good day since I was super busy and didn't plan ahead well. We had pizza(which is not in my plan). I'm still new and struggle with what to do on busy day situations. Love reading your blogs and thanks for sharing with us. emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2076 days ago
    Another excellent blog Nancy!!! emoticon
    2076 days ago
    Excellent point of view. I agree with you 100%.
    2076 days ago
  • IRP1114
    Great blog Nancy! Love the way you explain exactly how you make your splurge work with your plan. Thank you so much for sharing.

    You are so right about how easy it is to over do it! Way too easy. I have been working all year on breaking my bad habits of over doing it on the weekends with whole days off. Some are better than others but I am getting better at it. Of course i do include real whole foods too. But calories add up one way or another.

    I hope to one day be in as much control of things as you are!!! Keep sharing your awesome tips. Love your honest and very helpful blogs.
    2077 days ago
    I had a trainer at one time and she told me a "cheat" meal meant eating a small dessert or an extra carb, all within one hour, no longer. It worked well.
    2077 days ago
    LOL at Negative Nancy! You crack me up!
    2077 days ago
    I agree with you. I don't like cheat meals either. Once I start it's hard to stop. I love how you plan you splurge in advance and stick to it. Way to go!
    2077 days ago
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