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Most of us enjoy the liberty of customizing our meal plans. Unless you are under a restricted diet because of a certain medical condition, you get to eat just about anything you want.

But the thing is, most of us want to lead healthy lifestyles too, so we try to stick with a nutritious diet. It’s tempting, though, to have cheat days every once in a while.

Whether it’s a chocolate bar or a few slices of pizza, sometimes when the cravings call, you simply can’t ignore it.

Responding to your cravings may result in only two things: Total diet wreck or a healthy balance.

Some experts say having cheat days may even help you lose weight, but only if you approach it correctly.

So, what exactly is the correct approach to cheat days? Well, you’re extra lucky because this article will discuss just that. Follow these simple tips on how you can be successful at “cheating”.

Aim for a cheat meal

Many people are weighing cheat meal vs cheat day. If you’re one of those, we highly suggest you take a cheat meal instead.

Cheat days often give you an excuse to eat whatever you’re craving for the entire day.

So, instead of stuffing your face with your cravings or random snacks within 24 hours, focus on a certain food or meal that you want to “cheat with”.

Doing this will prevent you from going overboard, and undermining your sacrifices from the rest of the week.

Many people interchange these terms quite a lot, though.

If this is bothering you in some way, just remember to only have one cheat meal within your cheat day. Make this your ultimate goal.

Have a strategy

Whether it’s a cheat meal or a cheat day, having a strategy is important. You have to know exactly when your cheat day is or what particular cheat meal you’re going for.

Experts believe having one diet shift per week is already sufficient. It is also best to have it on a weekend when most family and social affairs occur or during a special event.

By strategizing your cheat meal or cheat day, you may avoid taking in extra calories.

You also get to choose a food that you really want instead of munching on something that’s not worth the calories because you didn’t enjoy it.

Only cheat when you’re not deprived

Some people splurge on food during their cheat day because they believe they’ve earned it. Most of the time, these people severely restrict themselves of calories days prior to their cheat day.

But, this could harm your diet altogether. While having some kind of a buffer is ideal, over-depriving yourself almost always fails.

Your chances of overeating increase when you constrict yourself too much.

Cheat moderately

Deciding whether to have a cheat meal or a cheat day plays a crucial role in your weight loss efforts. Obviously, having more than one cheat day defeats the point of dieting.

A well-balanced diet coupled with a fitness routine will help you shed one to two pounds or about 3,500 to 7,000 calories every week.

But, you have to know this: The average meal served in a restaurant contains up to 1,200 calories.

Even when you only consume one big cheat meal because you think you “deserve” it, your efforts from the previous days can be easily undermined within just a few hours.

If you really want to lose weight, cheat moderately. Plan it, pick a fair meal, and avoid overeating.

Decide your order beforehand

It’s easy to be carried away by the vast choices you see on the menu, which could potentially lead to you ordering and eating more.

According to studies, people are likely to eat more when there are various food options to choose from.

So, what’s the best thing to do?

Before even going to the restaurant or before the waiter gives you the menu, have a clear idea already of the kind of meal you want and stick to it.

Setting up your mind on a particular meal will allow you to focus on that, and ignore the rest.

Turn the television off

Switch off the television when you’re about to eat. Studies reveal that people consume 10 percent more food on an average when they eat while watching TV.

Also, “distracted eaters” take up 25 percent more calories throughout the entire day. So, resist the urge to binge-watch your favorite shows or a sports game while you’re eating.

Pick an ideal cheat meal

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Apparently, cheat meals are not created equally as some are better than others. Cheat meals that contain significant amounts of protein and carbohydrates can help keep you on track.

How did this happen? Protein-rich snacks such as jerky, granola, and fruit and nut bars help keep you full for longer, suppressing your appetite.

Meantime, foods that contain the right carbs speed up your metabolism, aiding your weight loss efforts.

Also:

Consider cheat meals that still come with nutritional value instead of snacks that have empty calories. If you’re weighing between packed chips and a loaded burger, pick the latter.

Choosing foods that contain carbs, protein, fat, and even higher calories is better than consuming artificially flavored and processed foods.

Avoid pigging out

You might think it’s okay to “pig out” after making all those sacrifices from the previous days. Apparently, it doesn’t work that way.

Your cheat day gives you the chance to eat what you like, not eat everything that you can. Fortunately, there are some tricks that you can do to avoid this from happening.

First, set a specific time when you can eat the food that you want.

Remember:

The goal is to have a single cheat meal within your cheat day, and not eat several cheat meals for the entire 24 hours.

Experts also suggest controlling your meal portions, preferably half the size of its regular serving.

Drink lots of water

Many restaurant meals contain high sodium content, which can affect your urination and hydration.

You’re also more likely to feel bloated when you consume meals or foods that are high in sodium.

You can replenish your body by drinking a few glasses of water while you’re savoring your cheat meals. If possible, ask for lemon or lime water.

Citrus fruits are rich sources of limonene, a chemical found in the citrus fruit’s peel that helps get rid of toxic compounds from the body, and even promote weight loss.

Take your time and enjoy your cheat meal

Savor your cheat meals! After all, you’ve waited for this moment to come all week, so take your time and enjoy your favorite foods.

Savoring that dish you’ve been eyeing the entire week will help you slow down, and allow you to recognize that period when you’re already full.

This will prevent you from eating more than you should.

Work out before you consume your cheat meal

Another effective way of reducing fat gains from your cheat meal is to work out before you take it.

So, how can this help in your weight loss efforts, more so during your cheat day?

Fitness workouts, especially the high-rep ones help deplete your glycogen or the principal storage of sugar in the body.

Here's the thing:

Your body will not store carbs as body fat until its glycogen reserves are full. So, the more vacant glycogen you have, the more space you have for your favorite meals.

A 20-minute fitness routine can already make a difference.

If you want to boost this strategy, you can drink a cup of black coffee before your workout session.

According to research, caffeine boosts metabolic rate in both normal weight and obese individuals. Therefore, taking caffeine as a pre-workout supplement can help improve your metabolism.

Return to your nutritious diet right after your cheat day

While it’s okay to have a cheat day, it is important to remember that it should stay as it is: A cheat day. Not a cheat week, not a cheat month.

Many people start to give up on their diet when they think they’ve already messed it up altogether.

This normally happens when the cheat day is filled with cheat meals (Remember that you must only have one cheat meal on your cheat day).

Even if you indeed got carried away by your cheat day, it’s still essential to return to your nutritious diet immediately. This will help you thread the right direction and prevent long-lasting setbacks.

Takeaway

Once you’ve done your regular cheat days correctly, pay attention to how you feel. First, assess if you’re feeling better physically, and then the more important thing – emotionally.

If your cheat day makes you feel guilty, it’s probably because you overate at one point.

If you’re feeling something else like stomach pain or heartburn, it may suggest that the cheat meals that you chose are not worth it.

The bottom line is, you must feel emotionally and physically good after wrapping up your cheat day and prepared to return to your healthy ways for the coming week.

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