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Friday Flex: The upside of cheating on your diet

The cheat meal. Just the word “cheat” makes it sound bad; wrong; clandestine; something done behind closed doors. But in the fitness community, the cheat meal is often touted, and frequently taken to new heights.
Diet

The cheat meal. Just the word “cheat” makes it sound bad; wrong; clandestine; something done behind closed doors. But in the fitness community, the cheat meal is often touted, and frequently taken to new heights.

Think sushi train and a literal plate full of hand-sized cookies, consumed every Sunday by Dwayne Johnson.

I love the concept of the cheat meal, but it’s not for everyone. I personally include treats in my diet on a daily basis. If I want chocolate, ice cream, or a cookie, I eat it. However, I practice calorie control (similar in concept to willpower) when it comes to including fewer quality calories in my diet. I know how many calories I need, so I build my treat into my daily intake. However, for some of us this can be very challenging. One treat can lead to another, and then another, and then another. So before we know it, we’ve consumed our daily calorie intake in one meal.

This is where a cheat meal can be a very rewarding dietary tool. Setting aside one meal to splurge on after all of your hard work staying on track and eating quality calories during the week can be just the reprieve you need to start again next week with your diet plan. But, be wary. There are some things to consider before jumping on the cheat-meal bandwagon.

Cheat meals are meant to be just that, a meal. They are not cheat days, weeks, or months. You still need to exercise some restraint in limiting your splurge.

Don’t overindulge on the cheat meal. It’s not a free for all, but an opportunity to include some foods you wouldn’t normally include in your daily eating.

Don’t get wrapped up in your own guilt. The word “cheat” here isn’t the bad kind. And the rise of labelling food “good” or “bad” does not in turn label you as “good” or ‘bad.”

The bottom line is, if you’re going to indulge, enjoy it. And remember, one overindulgence does not send you back to square one.

Don’t starve yourself for the cheat meal. The concept is an indulgent meal, not an all out attack on your body and metabolism.

Cheat meals aren’t right for everyone. And the same goes for including treats in your everyday diet. I wasn’t always as consistent in my dietary habits. So I made a goal for my diet, and for my body, and my long-term health. And I empowered myself with knowledge, and searched out professional advice. I recommend the same.

Do what you can with what you have where you are, and always prioritize the positive. Now go eat a cookie, and feel good about it.

Daily dietary tips and tricks that I live by:

Make at least one meal meatless.

Don’t drink soft drinks.

Use measuring cups when you serve food.

Learn how many calories are in the foods you eat, and learn how many calories you need on a daily basis.

Don’t overestimate your caloric deficit from exercise; it’s probably less than you think.

Eat a little less. You can always go back for seconds or have a snack.

Don’t make foods taboo.

Melissa Sloos is a certified group fitness instructor, spin instructor and studio manager at Coast Fitness.