March 9, 2018 Lisa Austin

Cheat Meals… to cheat or not to cheat?

cheat meal

At one time, I used to have cheat meals and I used to look forward to them! They were my opportunity to indulge and have those foods that I wouldn’t eat through the week.  Pizza, Chinese food, a burger and fries … oh, and don’t forget the dessert! After all it will be a whole week before I can have such delicious food, again.

Does that sound familiar? Can you relate?

For me, that was a couple of years ago. I don’t have cheat meals anymore and I eat a little decadent piece of brownie or ice cream as my after-dinner snack.

My tastes have changed. My brownies are made from avocado and bananas and my ice cream is made from coconut yogurt and frozen fruit.


Food can’t be Good or Bad

Food is not inherently bad. If you have allergies or intolerances, a food may be bad for your body but otherwise, we make it ‘bad’ with our thoughts and feelings around the food.  Maybe, we have a hard time controlling our ability to say no to a food or maybe we have the idea that you shouldn’t eat a particular type of food.

Food is a way of getting nutrients and fuel for our bodies. There is a place for all foods in a person’s diet depending on what their needs and goals are, the food will either take you closer to your goal or move you farther from it.

If you are eating a healthy balance of lean meats, colorful vegetables and energizing carbohydrates, along with a little bit of healthy fats regularly, then occasionally, enjoying a dessert or having something else you enjoy will keep you in line with your goals.

Now don’t get me wrong, I get that when you are working towards a goal that you need to change your eating habits. I just don’t think that submitting yourself to having cheat meals is going to be the best way of going about reaching that goal. It’s too easy to relax and allow yourself a cheat snack to go along with that cheat meal. Oh heck, it’s the long weekend, let’s make it a cheat day since you have an extra day to get another workout in. The next thing you know your cheat meal has turned into a full-blown cheat weekend. Before you know it you are back to eating the way you were prior to your healthier food choices.


Reasons not to have cheat meals:


  1. The ‘FORBIDDEN’ Fruit.

OOOH… why is it forbidden? I want to eat it!  Have you ever been told to stay away from something and you want it so much more? For example, do you remember when you were a kid and your parents came home with the groceries, you knew that there was going to be chips in the pantry. You were told to stay out of them! I don’t know about you but I wanted them that much more because they were that forbidden treat. We were only allowed to have them while watching family movies.


  1. To Fully Adapt to the Healthy Diet

When you abandon the standard high calorie, fried or processed diet and start eating more real foods, you will find that your tastes will change. If you ‘cheat’ and eat junk foods regularly, your taste sensations won’t adapt completely, and you won’t be able to experience the same satisfaction from real foods.


  1. It Can Feed the Addiction

Depending on your ‘cheat’ meal, junk food can feed the addiction. Junk food is addictive and it plays with the serotonin and dopamine in our bodies. How many times in a weak moment have you said f*** it and ate whatever it was that you thought you shouldn’t because you just felt you needed that comfort or you were just too tired to resist.  There’s that forbidden fruit, again. If you crave junk foods all the time and keep giving in to these cravings, that will just make the cravings even stronger. Avoid these foods completely and the cravings will diminish over time.

Abstinence is the only thing that works for addiction, period.

  1. Cheat meals mean you have food rules:

  • what you can and can’t eat,
  • when you can or can’t eat it,
  • how you can or can’t eat it, and/or
  • how much you can or can’t have.


Spreadsheet time! These rules take up an awful lot of mental real estate. They also set you up for disinhibition… aka “the F*** It Effect”. Like the “F*** It Effect”, Cheat Meal or Day depends on scarcity. Scarcity makes us feel anxious, needy, and greedy. The counter to a scarcity mindset? Abundance. Nothing is forbidden, just eat slowly and mindfully.


Begin by changing your relationship with food.

Word ‘cheat’ has a negative connotation. I wonder, how can you put a positive spin on it? instead of calling it a cheat meal what else could you call it? We have date nights, movie nights, girls nights, what about having new recipe nights or decadent foodie nights?

Earlier I said that I used to believe in cheat meals and I don’t anymore. If you can change your relationship and your thoughts around food you can get out of the diet mentality and enjoy a healthy lifestyle eating foods that you enjoy. Prepare meals that will nourish your body and that you will WANT to eat. Eat slowly and enjoy your food. If you want to have a treat once in awhile, have a treat. Those treats are only a problem if you are having them too often.

If there are meals that you really love to have and you would like to still have them, how can you make a healthier version? Look for recipes to help you move them down the continuum into something healthier.


Do you need help picking your way along this journey to a better healthier lifestyle? I invite you to my Facebook group Simply Fit with Lisa Austin where I share recipes, tips, challenges and workouts to help you along so that cheating won’t have to fit into your plan..

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