At Cypress Fitness, our personal trainers get a lot of questions about cheat meals/Free Food and we would like to give some of the reasoning behind why we have people use them.
The allure of the cheat meal is obvious: you get to eat stuff that’s otherwise off-limits and extremely delicious. You get to throw caution to the wind for a few meals
REMINDER: your Cheat meal is 10% of your total meals you have had from Monday. It’s like vacation and you’re a food tourist. But you’re probably asking yourself: Are there actual benefits?
The Psychological De-load
Some people can stick to their strict diets with metronomic regularity. They have no issues avoiding “those foods” and feel zero compulsion to cheat.
But not everyone is like that.
For some folks, staying on a strict no-fuss, I-can-be-stubborn food plan does not work. You constantly think of what you can’t eat, making you want it more. It’s not so much that you’re constantly fighting off temptation, but fighting off all the brain signals being processed by thinking of those foods. Ever wonder why the movie theaters put the popcorn outside the theater? Why does Cinnabon permeate its delicious smell through the mall? Wonder why they are by most entrances of malls? It all has to do with the chemical releases in your brain and what that does to your willpower. Going into these situations during a no carb, no cheat food plan can end in disaster.
The cheat meal is a great way to take a psychological load off, let loose, and maintain your sanity. It can ensure dietary compliance and there’s even recent evidence that it may make your diet more effective:
Women were placed on a cyclic diet consisting of three phases. For each phase, they reduced calories for 11 days followed by 3 days of ad libitum (i.e. at one’s pleasure) eating. After the three phases, they’d lost an average of 8 kg (about 17 lbs) of pure body fat. This surpassed the amount predicted by calories in, calories out. This study didn’t employ all-out cheat days, but the concept is similar.
The cheat meal is like the deload week we use with programming writing, in that it helps the people who need it replenish their willpower to stay the course and comply with the diet. It’s a break from the monotony, the ardor, the hard work — whatever you want to call it and however you perceive it. It’s like the 90/10 cheat principle only planned, and it works. And for anyone going to ask, don’t take the deload week analogy too literally and make your cheat meal a full-on cheat week.
We’ll continue with Part II of cheat meal information in our next blog. Until then, work with Cypress Fitness for the best in personal training! Find your ideal class, check out our schedule, and sign up today with our McLean gym.