Should I plan cheat days or cheat meals?
Adding a cheat day or a cheat meal is one of the ways people try to stay on track with their nutrition plan. We tend to give in to the feeling of deprivation and “reward” ourselves with food that we miss. Everyone has to decide for themselves but I’m going to share with you why I choose not to include cheat meals or cheat days.
Who are you cheating?
One reason I don’t cheat is that I’ve realized over the years that the only person I’m cheating is myself. Allowing junk food back into my eating plan has undermined my success over and over. Not only is it a slippery slope for me, it leads to increased hunger and cravings. I worked hard to kick my cravings and I have no desire to fire them back up again. Cheat meals feel fantastic in the moment however there are consequences.
Eating foods with poor nutritional value and unhealthy ingredients causes inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a major contributor to many chronic diseases. It affects your gut health and your mental health. It can also feed any food addictions you may have and can be a starting point for a relapse with subsequent weight gain.
Why Do We Cheat?
We cheat for various reasons:
- to numb difficult emotions or as a coping mechanism
- we feel stuck in a nutrition plan that isn’t bringing joy in the moment
- old habits and associations with activities (family functions/traditions, going to the movies, eating out)
- we are unprepared in a situation where there doesn’t seem to be a good choice
- alcohol consumption impairs our ability to practice good discipline
The list could go on and on but you get the idea. Next time you are tempted, ask yourself what’s really going on.
Cheat Days on Keto
When you have cheat days on keto you have an additional set of consequences. You run the risk of knocking yourself out of ketosis. If you have been on a ketogenic diet for long enough you are fat adapted which means you are a fat burning machine. If you are not close to your goal I don’t recommend jeopardizing that fact. Cheating can cause an insulin spike and messes with your stabilized blood sugar. Eating junk food can increase hunger and re-ignite cravings. If you are hungry for certain types of foods I recommend that you find a keto friendly recipe that will help satisfy your craving with ingredients that won’t sabotage your progress. Sometimes it’s just about staying the course, getting used to eating real food, and learning a bit of something about our relationship with food. It’s OK to be uncomfortable and not give into temptation. There’s room for serious personal growth in those moments.
What if you already cheated?
If you do cheat OWN IT. Remember you never “have to” cheat. Don’t play the victim Learn from it. Move on. Don’t use it as an opportunity to continue down a spiral of giving up on your goals. Anticipate the fact that you may feel some negative effects from it and you may be hungrier than usual. Forgive yourself. Don’t dwell on it. Set yourself up for success. Focus on creating better habits over time.