These are very popular terms in the fitness world.
I can't stand how people loosely use those terms. It basically means you need to put a label on why you deserve to eat whatever you want in a specific time frame.
The idea behind cheat meals and days is that you schedule a specific meal(s) or day during the week when you eat anything you want. It boils down to eating foods that are off limits at other times during the week. You stick to whatever regimen you have during the week, and then the weekend comes and you let loose.
This works for some. Scheduling a meal where you can enjoy some of your favorite foods could be a positive experience. Having something to look forward to could lead to good adherence to stick to a plan. In my personal experience, this takes an extreme amount of discipline and willpower. And willpower is a limited resource in this lifestyle. You have to be a very mindful eater before entering that arena or a lot of things could go wrong.
For instance, when some people have foods they believe are off limits they will think about those foods all the time. It can even lead to an unhealthy obsession of those foods. Since they think some foods are restricted then they crave them like crazy. They will place foods like pizza, cookies, and cake on a pedestal. The thought of knowing something is “forbidden” or “off limits” makes those foods more desirable for many people.
Scheduling reward meals or having cheat days might not be ideal for you. In my opinion there isn’t one thing that works for everyone.
Here are some other problems I’ve seen people experience with cheat meals:
- They over eat a ton of junk during the scheduled cheat day/meal since it’s the only day they can eat whatever they want.
- They eat foods that they could care less about because it is off limits on other days.
- Cravings are out of control until the scheduled cheat day.
- They lose control and eat until they are over full.
- They experience huge food guilt which leads to cycle of disordered eating.
I believe we need to approach a healthy lifestyle in a different manner. My approach to nutrition is different than most health professionals. I don't believe in diets, or restrictive nutritional regimens. If you want to make this a lifestyle then you have to look at things from a broader scope. Can you sustain your eating patterns for the next 5 - 10 years? If your answer is no, then you have to find a new way.
The issue with my approach to nutrition is that it takes time. Of course you don't like that statement. But you should be tired of trying diet after diet and losing the same 10-20 pounds over and over again. It takes a little time to attain some consistency in planning meals, preparing your food, and become a more mindful eater. But once you gain that momentum you will be able to include some foods you love when you want them. If it’s Tuesday and you want a few cookies, you will be able to eat the cookies and then move on with your life. It will no longer be cheating because you understand your body well enough to satisfy a craving without your world is coming to an end. You will be able to eat them, enjoy them, and then move on. You will gain a better mind and body connection and understand you can have whatever I want. Because you will understand portion sizes, proper planning and mindfulness.