I fell off the wagon. Well not so much fell off as opposed to took a running leap off it and knocked myself unconscious when I hit the ground… and then the wagon backed up over me for good measure. You see I was at a friend’s birthday party on the weekend that went the majority of the day and well into the night, and we all know what happens at those day long birthday parties – you have too much to drink and not enough to eat. Anyway, to cut a long (and messy) story short I found myself at 2am in the morning sitting in a dark kitchen inhaling the birthday cake. Apparently I couldn’t find a spoon or had seemingly lost my ability to use utensils because when the dark kitchen was lit up by someone opening the fridge, I was found (to the horror of other party goers) using my hands to shovel the cake with buttercream frosting into my ravenous mouth. I refer you to exhibit A below. See the finger marks down the bottom of the cake? Yep. Guilty as charged.
The cake wasn’t the end of it. An hour or so later I was found by friends at home eating ice cream and on my phone dialing every pizza place in town trying to get pizza delivered to no avail. Needless to say my healthy eating went right out the window…along with my dignity…and my friends will never look at me the same way again, nor will I be expecting any facebook birthday invitations in the near future.
Arriving at Monday and the beginning of another healthy eating plan, where most people find themselves each week, I thought it wise to explore and research the relationship between healthy eating and junk food, and whether it was possible to have a balance between the two. Is it possible to maintain a diet that incorporates junk food every now and then without sabotaging all the hard work we put into healthy eating and working out at the gym? Well I found something that is going to make many Healthy Boy readers rejoice. It’s called The Cheat Meal. It’s not only something that can keep you sane and see you enjoying your favorite naughty foods, but it can actually help you lose weight. That’s right, LOSE weight.
Some of you may have heard of the cheat meal, or the cheat day, before. Its a concept adopted by many bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts, where for the majority of the week they will eat a very healthy and "clean" diet, and then once a week, normally on a Sunday, they will have one meal where they can eat whatever they want. Pizza, chocolate, pasta, burgers, anything you can think of, whatever your heart desires, whatever you have been craving all week, nothing is off limits. But wait, if you are trying to lose weight, surely a meal where you can eat anything you want will work against your fat loss efforts and sabotage even the healthiest eater’s diet right? Wrong. Turns out when you go on any regular eating plan, whether you are eating "clean" and reducing your calories, or just get in a rut of eating the same things day in day out, your body adapts to this by adjusting it’s metabolism. Your body knows what it is going to get fed, so adjusts it energy expenditure accordingly, and anyone that has been on a diet will know this as a "plateau".
Plateaus are nasty things, because even if you are the most dedicated healthy eater, or religious exerciser, they can and will still creep up on you. Bodybuilders have been aware of this for sometime now, and they will change up their workout routine by switching between split body and full body workouts, changing the length of time it takes them to lower a weight in each rep, or increase or decrease the resistance or rep range in each set. The other way they shock their bodies out of a plateau is via their diet. If you have reduced your calories to shed some fat, your body adjusts its metabolism pretty quickly, so by throwing in a cheat meal full of high calories once a week, or once every other week, your metabolism is shocked and therefore increases itself higher than usual to burn those calories. Going back to a healthy eating plan thereafter will see you reap the benefits of a temporary increase in metabolism, and not put on any fat.
Another benefit, particularly for those who are trying to increase muscle size while trying to lose fat, is that a cheat meal sends many needed carbohydrates and calories into your muscles, which may have been depleted after watching what you eat for extended periods of time. Anyone who doesn’t eat many carbs will understand the whole deflated muscle feeling and one cheat meal is all it can take to get them full and pumped up again.
There are some other great advantages and benefits of the cheat meal, including:
– Balance: Life is about balance. Your diet and workout routine is no different. If you said you will never eat a chocolate bar again, or a piece of fried chicken, than that could be for some a very unhappy existence. A cheat meal helps you find that balance between eating healthy while still enjoying comfort foods and maintaining a balanced outlook.
– Emotional: No one likes to sit around eating oats, tuna, chicken breasts and brown rice all day every day. If you do then you are a bigger man than I. Having a cheat meal gives you the right to indulge and enjoy what you want without the added guilt.
– Socializing: If you know you have to attend a party or a birthday where there is cake (Urgh, I’m get nauseous just thinking of it) or other junk foods, you can move your cheat meal around to have this so you can still enjoy socializing with your friends without running to the bathroom to munch on carrot and celery sticks.
– Cravings: We all have them. Mine has always been chocolate. So can allow yourself to cave into your cravings once a week
– Energy: Cheat meals can provide you with added energy to workout and lift weights at the gym
– Motivation: Most people say that after allowing themselves a cheat meal on a sunday night, that when they get to Monday, they are more motivated to get back to their healthy eating plan and get to the gym.
But what about The Cheat Day? Well just like the cheat meal, the cheat day is one day per week where people following the plan can eat whatever they want. Some people recommend a whole day or cheating while others don’t. Should you follow the day or the meal? Well most fitness and bodybuilders advocate the meal over the day due to the fact that you could consume a huge amount of calories in a whole day of eating junk food, which could turn the advantages of a metabolic boosting meal into a whole hip widening day. And it’s not all about losing weight… a days worth or bad sugary or fattening food is simply not good for your arteries, heart and cholesterol, not to mention your skin. So my advice would be to have one cheat meal, once or twice a week depending on your goals.
Remember, it is a cheat meal, not a pass to go all out and binge. If you find yourself bingeing, or a cheat meal turning into a cheat day, or cheat weekend, then you should reevaluate how you can incorporate it into your diet in an effective manner. Remember to come back to your goals and if one of those is fat loss or healthy living, than bingeing or pigging out will work against you and you will only feel guilty and down on yourself afterwards.
So if you are a healthy boy (or girl) and come to a sunday and discover that piece of pizza or chocolate bar giving you the evil eye, go ahead and indulge. A cheat meal in moderation may be just what your hard work and diet need to help keep you on track and balanced. As long as you are maintaining a healthy eating plan throughout the week, including a weight training and cardio regime, you can still enjoy your favorite foods and still loose weight at the same time.
Although I may have fallen off the wagon and hit every rock and bump on the way down over the weekend, I have arrived at Monday with the determination of not feeling guilty and a sense of balance. Will I have a cheat meal every week? Maybe. Maybe not. But I will incorporate it into my plan somehow because I believe it will benefit me in many ways. And if I find myself slowly being invited back to friend’s birthday parties, and a birthday cake whispering sweet nothings into my ear from across the room, I may gently caress it’s creamy frosting with my finger… or cut myself a slice and take it into a dark kitchen somewhere where can braid each other’s hair and reminisce about old times, knowing that I can still be a Healthy Boy, have my cake, and eat it too.