Wait a sec, Coach.. You want me to cheat on my diet?!

First of all, I’m not a huge fan of the word ‘diet.’  I get it.  It’s a buzzword.  However, the word ‘diet’ has a certain underlying assumption that there is a start and a finish to your diet.  When I use this term, I simply mean the food that you put into your body. 

Another preface:  I’m not condoning a lack of discipline.. Instead, I’m encouraging you to shake things up and do what keeps you adhered to your diet.  A plan without execution is just an idea.

In today’s article, we dive into how to successfully ‘cheat’ on your diet without throwing yourself into a downward spiral.

Do You Need to Cheat?

In my mind, sticking to a diet is almost like a game.  All week long, I practice intermittent fasting and fairly rigid calorie restriction.  When it comes to the weekend, there are times when I absolutely indulge, but it feels like a reward for being disciplined all week long.  

If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the human body needs periods of rest/recovery.  Treat your diet like you would a training program:  Hit it hard the majority of the time and take a break once you’ve earned it.  Key word: “Earned.”

Don’t have a great nutrition day on Monday and then destroy your week by binging on Tuesday in celebration of your 24 hours of discipline.  You have to earn those cheat meals and that includes working your butt off in the gym (or wherever you workout) as well.  You and your coach have to be the judge of when you have ‘earned it.’  

When to Cheat

I have always been someone who trusts myself with my overall nutrition.  It’s important to establish (and maintain) a healthy relationship with your food.  Having a firm understanding of what your body needs is a crucial step in following your nutrition plan.  Sometimes, a nutrition coach can be hugely beneficial in getting you started and keeping you on track.

Like I said earlier, we want to avoid the ping pong effect of having a good day (or two) and then a bad day.  My personal protocol involves a few different variables that include 5 days on, 2 days off or even a 6-to-1 split.  This keeps me accountable during the week because I know I’ll get to enjoy my once-weekly Sunday brunch to interrupt the intermittent fasting.  You can apply these same principles to dessert, alcohol, and other things that you want to moderate.

How to Cheat

Again, everyone is different.  I do believe that it’s important to build trust with yourself.  Don’t cheat too much – it should be a mechanism that helps you maintain balance rather than a way out of your diet.  

One thing that I have done is learned to find enjoyment in foods/drinks that aren’t too deleterious to my nutrition plan.  For example, I have a dessert parfait that I make with greek yogurt that’s actually quite healthy.  However, it feels like an absolute cheat when you go a week without dessert!  The same goes for my homemade organic banana bread.  It’s really a healthy, powerful carbohydrate, but tastes decadent!  Have your list of go-to cheat meals and establish what are reasonable quantities for each. 

My last tip is to cook most of your cheat meals at home.  There will be another article on this, but you can save yourself so many unnecessary calories and not sacrifice flavor by preparing foods yourself – especially cheat meals.  Go ahead and go out for some, but the majority should be cooked at home.. Work on those culinary skills!

Closing Thoughts

Cheat meals aren’t for everyone.  Some people are all-or-nothing (that’s usually me).  However, cheat meals help us mix things up and can provide some much needed levity when we are suffering with our diet.  

You must explore what works best for you.  Learn when to cheat and what cheat meals best fulfill your needs.  I plan to follow up this article with some recipes so that you have some of my favorite cheat meals at your fingertips!

What’s your favorite cheat meal?  I can think of about 10!  Let us know in a comment below and until next time.. Stay moving!

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