The Infamous Cheat Meal

You’ve been on the search for the “perfect” diet and you think you have finally found one!!  It seems tough, hard core and you are really excited about it.

You have armed yourself with all the recommended foods and you are getting started on Monday.  You continue to have pep talks with yourself, this is it!  This is the “one” that is going to make all the difference in the world.  Yes it is quite restrictive, but that’s ok, that is what I need.  I can’t have any wiggle room or it’ll all go to hell in a hand basket quickly!  I don’t trust myself so restriction is the solution.  I need to be held accountable so that I don’t slip off the deep end.  Ok I got this, I am ready!

On Monday you execute the plan and continue to do so for the rest of the week.  You’ve made great progress buuuut, oh these cravings got you like……  it’s overwhelming!!  You think to yourself, well I did really great this whole week.  I am super proud of that and I really need to settle this craving down a notch so I am feeling pretty good about having a cheat meal.  I know…. it’s not on my super restrictive plan, but one meal can’t possibly hurt right?

The next thing you know, that one cheat meal turns into a cheat day followed by cheat weekend.  Then guilt and disgust sets in.  You beat yourself back into submission and get back on track on Monday.

Again, all week you do extremely well, but dang there’s that craving AGAIN!!  Ok I will not repeat what I did last weekend.  But the cravings win over and before you know it, another weekend of cheat meals.


The problem here is not the cheat meals, it’s that the plan is SO restrictive.  It’s a one size fit’s all approach and does not take into consideration of your needs.  The diet may help you to achieve short term weight loss, but what about keeping it off long term?  What are you learning from a diet plan that is so restrictive?

You learn nothing because it simply is not maintainable, you cannot sustain it.

What if I told you I do not believe in cheat meals… EVER?  Would that shock you?

When I am coaching a client, I want to make sure that we are meeting 3 points:

  1. Protein
  2. Carbs
  3. Fats

They are given a certain number in grams for each macronutrient.  How they fill their requirements is up to them.  I encourage whole unprocessed foods 80% of the time, but that leaves 20% wiggle room each day to calm their cravings.  My clients get to decide what they are ok giving up and what they are under no circumstances willing to give up and we work around that.

Food should be enjoyable every single day.  When you focus on what you love and making your food taste great, it lessens the all or nothing approach that most diet programs promote.

When you are satisfied on a daily basis, there is no need for a cheat meal.  A better solution would be to become aware of your needs and emotions.  To meet yourself in the middle rather than restrict yourself and end up 10 steps behind from where you started!

If you need a bite of chocolate every day to take the edge off, go for it.  Whatever that food is for you, I encourage you to incorporate it in frequently.  Why?  Because restriction is NEVER the answer.

When you tell yourself you can’t have something, what ends up happening?  You end up wanting it even more, that food immediately goes up on a pedestal that you are not allowed to touch.  These are very dangerous waters to tread.

Maybe you overindulge in a certain food frequently, more than likely it’s not because it’s so amazingly delicious and you can’t help yourself from gorging out on it several times a week.  There’s usually an emotion behind it and this certain food helps you feel better in that moment.  But then it’s usually followed by shame and guilt surrounding this situation.  Be present with yourself in these situations.

What are you feeling when you reach for that food, how do you feel while consuming it?  Whatever the emotion, it’s best to address it head on.

This is where everything starts to change when you are aware of your actions.  If you continue to relieve the emotion with a certain food, the fact that you have made yourself aware of why you are reaching for it gives you the opportunity to stop at the moment you feel satisfied.  Maybe it only takes a couple of bites to feel satisfied vs overindulging.  Or maybe understanding the emotion can help you find alternative solutions.

For me I tend to de-stress with wine. If it’s a stressful week, night or whatever…I reach for wine.  I used to get so upset with myself if I drank the whole bottle.  Until I recognized the situation for what it was, nothing was going to change.  I would often find myself thinking I am sooooo done with today, I am ready to zone out and have a glass of wine.

Once I became aware of those thoughts and acknowledged them, I was able to make a rational decision.  Do I truly want wine or would taking a walk help me to de-stress?  After taking a nice walk, I could then come back to the question, do I truly want wine??  At this point my emotion has been met and some nights I would say yes, I do want wine and other nights I honestly didn’t want any.  It’s constantly a practice of checking in with myself to see how I can best serve ME.

When our needs and emotions are met on a daily basis and we feel satisfied with our food choices, there is no need for a cheat meal.  If you want pizza today, then have it.  Do you need the whole thing?  Nope.  Stay present with yourself and eat slowly for enjoyment.  Once you have reached that level of satisfaction, it’s time to stop.

Anything past this point will create negative feelings because you will feel miserable and stuffed and that’s not how you planned on spending the rest of the day or night.  That being said there will be times when the whole pizza magically disappears.  Just own it and move on, there’s no need to add in extra exercise or restrict at your next meal.  Just move on and keep practicing.


Because in the end….  that’s what it is all about PRACTICE not perfection!




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