Cheat Meals and Cravings
When it comes to healthy eating and weight loss, is there a place for cheat meals? What about dealing with cravings?
In my opinion and through my experience as a trainer, I have found that there are two types of people when it comes to cravings and cheat meals.
It sounds a little harsh, but eating, namely binge eating or disordered eating, can become somewhat of an addiction.
For some, it is all or nothing. If they give in to their cravings, they get absolutely derailed. If you are this type, it may be better to avoid cheat meals altogether. Where there is no moderation, it is better not to go there at all. A concerted effort to stay consistent is key.
That doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. But you do have to try to stay on track. You don’t want to go down that road of giving in and giving up. Keep up overall consistent healthy eating.
Others can be disciplined all week long, and even more so, when they look forward to a cheat meal or whatever it is that they miss being able to eat. For this person, it does not derail them at all. It actually helps keep their cravings in check.
One cheat meal a week is reasonable.
I have heard it said about cheat meals: “Note that it is called a cheat meal not a cheat day: When your butt leaves the chair, it is over“. That means you can’t get up and start rummaging through the cupboards looking for more stuff to eat. You are done.
This is good advice. One cheat meal is not going to erase all your efforts. It may actually be a good idea to challenge your metabolism once in a while.
But after the meal, do not continue with the extra calories. That is where the cheat meal stops. Let your metabolism get to work.
Personally, I do not need to schedule a cheat meal. I find that “cheat meals” inherently happen because of life. For me, I suppose a cheat meal happens when I plan an easier-to-prepare meal because I know I will be short on meal prep time. Or, there will be days that do not go according to plan and we have to resort to less healthy options for convenience. Also, I take into consideration the variety of preferences of my family of 6.
The 80/20 Rule
For me, 80/20 rule works well. If we put effort, a lot of effort, into eating whole, unprocessed, real foods, 80 percent of the time, the body can deal with the 20 percent. That would be the occasional cookie, the occasional protein bar, the occasional slice of pizza.
This is especially true for a weight maintenance phase. Weight loss may require even more consistency.
So what if your goal is weight loss? How do you stay consistent?
Of course, it would be great if everyone learned to love eating healthy foods to the point that they don’t even crave the less healthy choices. Typically these foods are high in sugar and calories and are not beneficial to weight loss.
Here are some tips to manage cravings, from the Plant-Based High Protein Cookbook by Jules Norman.
1. Increase your protein intake
The number one tip to improving body composition is having a high protein breakfast. If you start your day with carbs, it can lead to sugar crashes. If you start your day with protein, it will set you up to make better choices for the rest of the day. High-protein foods will stave off hunger and keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer.
2. Increase your fiber intake
Foods high in fiber not only helps the digestive system but will also keep you full and satisfied.
3. Find alternatives for unhealthy foods
Always have a healthy alternative in your mind when you start thinking about a certain snack, fast food or junk food. Do you have yogurt and berries in the fridge? Can you snack on some veggies? If you need to grab fast food, is there a healthier option on the menu? Would it be better to keep a protein bar in your purse to stave off the craving?
4. Drink more water
Sometimes we feel hungry when actually we are just thirsty. Try drinking a glass of water first and wait 20 minutes to see if you are still craving food. Drinking adequate water throughout the day is key to a healthy lifestyle.
5. Stay busy
Boredom often results in cravings and habitual eating. Keep your mind and your hands active. Remember your goals and desired-outcomes of your diet.
Whether it is having one cheat meal a week, maintaining an 80/20 balance, or staying consistent by managing cravings, I am here to help you make good healthy eating choices to help you reach your goals.
For a personal training and healthy eating consultation, contact VAL.