More than likely if you’ve tried out any type of diet for more than a week at a time, it’s taken a toll on your cravings — whether you look and feel better or not. It can be hard to stay on track, even if you’re dieting right. If you’re consuming a slow and steady decrease in calories and increasing cardio at a gradual pace, this might keep you going, but there will always be cravings. So, what’s the right way to deal with these hunger hankerings without derailing your diet? The art of the cheat day or meal, of course. You’ll need to correctly prepare for, execute, and regroup from a day or meal of cheating, however. It’s time to work out how to cheat and what to do after a cheat meal.
Cheat Day or Cheat Meal?
A big debate for dieters everywhere is whether to dedicate an entire day to throwing your diet out of the window, or just one meal. How far should you go and what should you do after a cheat meal? The best way to solve this is with simple math — don’t worry, it won’t get complicated.
Let’s say you’re eating in a 500 calorie daily deficit. This will equate to 3,500 calories under your maintenance calories for the week. It’s better to look at fat loss from a weekly perspective as our daily weight will fluctuate, and the amount of fat we can lose in one day is much less than you might think.
If you usually eat 2000 calories a day to stay in a 500 calorie deficit, you’d have to eat about 5,500 calories in a cheat day to undo your entire week’s progress. Put into food terms, this means one pizza (~2,000 calories), a pint of ice cream (~1,000 calories), 10 extra crispy fried chicken tenders with sauce and sides (~1,500 calories), and a full combo meal at a certain golden arches fast food chain (quarter pounder with bacon=~750, large fries=~500, and soda=~250 calories).
Some of you could easily devour all of that food in a day of cheating — especially after a whole week of restrictive dieting. This wouldn’t only completely undo your entire week’s deficit, but possibly put you into a calorie surplus. And when this is done every week, you would basically be spinning your wheels with no progress week after week — and maybe even gaining weight back.
This is why a cheat meal is recommended instead of a cheat day. It means you’d stick to your diet for 75% of the day, but allow yourself to go crazy with one meal. Since your stomach can only hold so much at one time, you can go out for dinner and eat whatever you want, while still staying in a weekly calorie deficit. Now that we’ve got that question out of the way, let’s find out what to do before, during and what to do after a cheat meal.
Cheat Meal Tips
Controlling how you feel and what to do after a cheat meal is all in the preparation. If you go in with goals and feeling guilt-free then you can enjoy your treats and still stay on track. It’s worth remembering that whether you plan it or not, a little slip up here and there is very normal — be strong and jump back on the wagon after and you’ll be fine. Here’s some tips to stop diet devastation.
1. Keep your cheat meals to once a week or less. At the beginning of a diet executed properly, you shouldn’t need a cheat meal for the first few weeks.
2. When you eventually do need one, try not to set it for a weekday. Instead, wait until the weekend and save one meal. You’re more likely to go out with friends and have a lot of food — this way, you don’t have to stick to salad.
3. If you cheat throughout the week because you couldn’t control your cravings, that’s ok. Just don’t have a cheat meal over the weekend.
4. If you go the whole weekend without the opportunity for one, don’t think you need a cheat meal. It’s important to remember all the extra calories you eat will ultimately go against your weekly deficit
5. If you’re going out to drink and eat junk for a celebration, try to eat a little less in the lead up to it. This will decrease your daily calorie surplus compared to eating your normal amount, then the cheat meal.
6. Try to fit in some extra exercise before or after lighten the caloric load for the day and week.
7. Drink lots of water before your cheat meal to fill you up quicker. This will give you the sensation of being filled up and satisfied sooner than you would usually.
8. Try and plan your cheat meal for your last meal of the day, so you can go to bed full and satisfied.
9. If you do have your cheat meal for breakfast or lunch, eat a little less for the rest of the day.
10. What to do after a cheat meal — the day after, go back to your regular calories and don’t weigh yourself. You may be a few pounds heavier due to water weight, but this is nothing to worry about. Get back to being healthy and you’ll lose this before you even have time to notice it.
Take Home Message
With a proper diet and exercise routine, it’s difficult to know what to do after a cheat meal to stay on track. Turns out, it’s all in the preparation. If executed smartly, and limited to one meal, it’s possible to go all out on a pizza or bucket of fried chicken and still achieve your goals. Now go out there and don’t be afraid to splurge — you earned it!