When I was 18 years old I embarked on a serious weight loss journey. And I successfully lost 50 lb over the course of several years. In the beginning of my journey I would treat myself to a weekly “cheat” meal where I would go with my friends to a restaurant and order whatever I wanted. At first, this weekly outing didn’t seem to have much of an effect on my weight loss progress.
Until it did.
Suddenly, I was at a standstill with my weight. I would work my BUTT off all week – I was hitting the gym – I was eating within my calorie targets. But the scale wouldn’t budge.
Finally, I gave up my weekly cheat meals. Instead of eating “whatever I wanted” – I allowed myself to still indulge in treat foods (i.e. pizza, fries etc), but I moderated the portions. That way I could still enjoy the social time with my friends, taste some delicious food – but stay on track to my goals.
That being said, I never ever advocate for cheat meals with clients, let me explain.
The first reason I don’t even like the term “cheat meal” is because it associates food with something “bad” or sneaky. Food is neither good nor bad, sure there are foods that are more nutritious than others, but I refuse to give in to the mentality that food should always be grouped into a good or bad category.
When it comes to reaching our #weightlossgoals, we’ve got to make sure we are in a calorie deficit (given everything is OK hormonally).
What I see happen with a lot of people is that they hit their calorie targets Monday – Thursday and then have a “cheat” weekend/day or meal during the weekends.
Let’s go with the common rule of thumb that you need to create a 3,500 calorie deficit to lose 1 lb and based on your goals/size/lifestyle you’ve determined that your daily calorie target is 1500 calories per day to lose 1 lb per week. (NOTE: I understand that there is debate around if a 3,500 calorie deficit results in a true lb of weight loss – after all we are humans and not machines – but it’s a good place to start and has anecdotally been extremely useful for people in estimating calorie intake and burn.)
Then let’s say your week looks like this (you had one cheat meal on Saturday that consisted of 3 pieces of pizza, 2 cookies and 1 bag of chips).
1 cheat meal caused you to eat an additional 2,000 calories. This means by the end of the week you likely won’t see 1 lb of weight loss and might only see 0.5 lb if anything. Of course, our bodies are not machines and it’s hard to know every last little calorie and it’s effect – but I want to illustrate this point and show how ONE meal can negate a week’s worth of work.
When I work with clients I encourage them to have 2-3 treat ITEMS per week. 1 item = 1 glass of wine, 1 cupcake, 1 piece of pizza. The trick is that they need to get these foods to fit in to their allotted calorie target.
If a client doesn’t have an aggressive deadline – sometimes I will give them what I call a RELAXED MEAL. A relaxed meal is when you eat whatever it is that you want for a certain meal but you must stop when you are 60% full. I like the term Relaxed Meal because it implies that you should just go and enjoy yourself and relax instead of worrying about tracking every last item, and by adhering to only eating until you are are 60% full can help keep portions in check.
The truth hurts, but it’s empowering.
Hold yourself accountable, get shit done, reach your goals.
Are you willing to give up your weekly cheat meal and honor the goals you have for yourself? Let me know in the comments!
Also – check out this video I made where I show another example of how a weekly cheat meal could be harming your progress.