A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

Weight Loss Wednesday: Cheat meals?

on September 3, 2014

My husband and I had an interesting conversation on Sunday about how to handle Monday with my new hybrid Simply Filling-counting points approach. Are holidays treated like a weekend day, a la Simply Filling or do I count like a typical weekday? I ultimately decided that holidays are more like weekends in spirit, so I would go with Simply Filling and focus on healthy family meals without weighing, measuring and tracking. I appreciate the break from the nitty gritty of tracking, undoubtedly, but I don’t think a true cheat day or cheat meal would really work for me.

I know many who can incorporate them into their eating plan without any trouble, and envy that a bit certainly. The biggest purported benefit to a cheat meal/day is the idea that knowing that you  have a day where you can eat “anything” coming helps keep you from feeling deprived the rest of the week. There are also some that claim it can tweak your metabolism and keep things from stalling out too much with weight loss, but the data on that is less clear.

For me, the idea of a cheat day doesn’t work for a few reasons:

1) If I spend all week thinking about the day I get to have whatever I want, I’d just feel more deprived on all of those other days. I like that I really don’t ever feel deprived with my current eating plan and have done well without cheat days for the last two years. While I have had my problems with Weight Watchers, I do appreciate that with the weekly flex points and the ability to earn activity points to eat more food, I never felt like I needed a cheat day. I can eat anything at any time so long as I make room for in my points. Plus, Simply filling gives me enough of a feeling of freedom from tracking for now, but like everything else that may change with time. This is definitely an area where every individual has their own happy medium between balancing food choices without feelings of deprivation. I will admit that there’s a fine line, if any, between the WW earned activity points or weekly points and a cheat meal, but for my mind they have very different connotations and I suspect our mental perceptions of things are more important than anything else.

2) As a binge eater, I could eat A LOT of food in a single cheat meal – I don’t even need a day. I could eat thousands of calories in a single setting easily and undo at least a week’s worth of work (and yes, I assure I am not exaggerating, unfortunately). As much I would feel deprived during the week when I was looking forward to my “cheat” day, I suspect I would feel even worse afterwards. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of shame and self-disgust.

3) The whole idea of a cheat meal just reinforces the idea for me that there are foods that are inherently good and bad. Some foods are definitely healthier and some may make us feel better or worse, but that doesn’t make them inherently good or bad (or us good or bad for eating them). Keeping everything in perspective as part of a big picture healthy diet is key for me in keeping this “life long change” mindset. The mental approach to weight loss has been just as important to me as calorie tracking, so I have to keep my frame of mind right.

4) Because I have spent a couple of years eating progressively healthier and more whole foods, I find myself getting more and more sensitive to the effects of “cheat” foods. That’s actually a good thing because it makes it easier to stick to healthy choices when the healthy choices are the ones that taste good and the less-healthy choices make me physically feel icky, either from a binge-y feeling or actual gastrointestinal distress. I wonder if I would experienced these changes if I had allowed myself cheat meals more often?

5) I know now how hard it can be to pull myself back into a healthy mindset after vacation or a slip up. If I had to make that effort every week, after a cheat meal or day, I don’t know how successful I’d be. Cheat days/meals work when you keep them confined to a small part of your overall diet. Honestly, for non-bingers, one cheat meal a week won’t undo all the good you’ve done. However, could you keep to one meal a week? I don’t know that I could.

I think, like everything else with weight loss, you have to spend some time trying out different approaches and getting to know yourself and your issues with food. Cheat meals may work for some, but not others and that’s okay. We all have our own road to walk. Who knows – down the road, I may have better control over my binge issues (not there yet – had a binge episode with broccoli of all things last week, where I could not make myself stop until the entire pan of roasted broccoli was gone, even though I felt physically ill I was so full and disgusted with myself all night). When that happens, I may be able to take a more 80/20 or cheat day/meal approach. Until then, I have the comfort of knowing I’ve earned 47 activity points so far this week which has earned me one of these “brookies” if I decided I wanted one.


Brookies = a brownie base with peanut butter cookie layered on top – “yummy” per Oliver

Do you allow yourself cheat meals or days? How does it work for you?

A couple of articles about the pros and cons of cheat meals:

7 reasons not to have cheat meals or days

How to use cheat meals to stick to your diet

The art and science of cheat meals

5 ways cheat meals can improve your body



8 responses to “Weight Loss Wednesday: Cheat meals?

  1. Brookies look yummy!!

    I totally agree that everyone has their own balance between healthy and cheat foods. And I am right there with you on how my favorite cheat foods affect me more now that I eat healthier. I had pizza on Saturday last weekend and I felt SO bloated and gross for the next 24 hours. Makes me never want to eat greasy stuff again!

  2. Kristin says:

    Hey!!! Great post!! Thanks for the food for thought!! I LOVE sweets and if I try to go all week without eating sweets, I go crazy and overindulge on the weekends so I don’t do cheat meals (it doesn’t work for me). What I’ve been doing lately is making granola/energy bars (with dark chocolate chips in them and peanut butter, etc). Just to mention, chocolate and peanut butter is my favorite combo. I eat when I want something sweet. It really works and bonus, it’s filled with lots of healthy goodness, too that gives me energy.

  3. courage2run says:

    100% with you on this. I am restarting WW and the reason behind this decision is it has built in ‘cheat’ points (aka Weekly Allowance) and tracking keeps me accountable. To me weekly points is ‘cheating’ with boundaries, which I clearly need.

    Like you I can easily pack away 1000’s of calories in one sitting. I LOVE food! ALOT. (I am now coming to the realization that I too, am a binge eater). Allowing myself to cheat, really cheat, (aside from the Weekly PP) does nothing healthy for me, mentally, physically, spiritually. I beat myself up, get defeated and then just plain give up.

    I love that WW has Simply Filling in addition to tracking points. I really think the WW ‘diet’ could be used for a persons lifetime. The ability to switch it up is soooo important! The only thing about Simply Giving which has kept me away from trying it, is because I too could eat an entire tray of broccoli. Too much of anything, in my book isn’t good.

    I’m going to need to read your hybrid plan…you’ve got me curious!

  4. leannenalani says:

    Those brookies look tasty! Mmmmm I’ve been so busy that food hardly registers on the radar lately. But then there are the binge issues. It’s just a matter of time. Still battling!

    I go back and forth on the cheat meal/day thing. It seems like I am the least successful when I designate a cheat-anything. Right now I’m not doing that. I’m still exercising and tracking but am trying not to spend too much time and energy thinking about food. Just go with the flow right now and a focus on intuitive eating for the times I really want to partake in yummy food.

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