There’s something about Sunday night that makes cheat meal discussions seem fitting. Is one better than the other? Social cheat meals and solo cheat meals are about to face off!
Cheat meals need no introduction. They’re a break from a set eating schedule. A break that temporarily allows foods that were off the menu to be fair game. In other words: Eat what you like, just for tonight!
Cheat meals are fundamentally a relief system. They’re predominantly for the mind rather than the body. Sure, leptin boosts do exist and you can ‘spike’ your metabolism to some degree with a re-feed or re-fuelling session.
I’m not here to ruin your Sunday, but unless you’ve been super strict dieting, you really don’t need a cheat meal at all. Nothing. Not a single cake. No wine. No bonbons. Just clean food, forever.
In all seriousness though, a cheat meal won’t have many physical benefits unless you’ve been in a constant and consistent calorie deficit. The only exception to this would be a individual with severe ectomorphic genetics; long limbs, small joints, fast metabolism and plenty of energy. They may use a high calorie ‘binge’ to their advantage – if the goal is to gain weight/muscle. Or, perhaps athletes trying to maintain a bodyweight that’s proving difficult on an ever ‘clean’ diet.
Beyond that, it’s all psychological.
Solo cheat meals
Solo cheat meals are usually scheduled ‘binge’ sessions where an individual will stock up on their favourite food items/treats and apply an ‘anything goes’ mentality for that night. I have plenty of experience with this concept. I used to fall victim to the ‘get it while you can’ mantra. Milk that bitch dry. Don’t stop. Eat like it’s your last meal on earth. 6000 calories later, you’re ill.
That’s a big red flag to the solo-cheat concept. If you’ve got an insatiable appetite (like me), you’ll be prone to excess eating. Financial factors play against you here too; it’s much cheaper to bulk buy your favourite treats at a store than it is to have those same items laid out in front of you in a restaurant. You’ll be paying many times more for the same items – who enjoys that? You’ll be forced to be more conservative. At home, you can “YOLO” it much more. And that’s when things can get ugly.
One plus though, is, with this approach you’re in control of just how ‘dirty’ the cheat food gets. You don’t have such power eating out socially.
Social cheat meals
This is a delicate area. Social norms and strict dieting are polar opposites, generally. This is one of the biggest obstacles people face when they embark on a fat loss/recomposition/lean out/shred phase;
“HOW AM I GOING TO KEEP A SOCIAL LIFE?!”
Now, I’ve seen some people (poor souls) actually take food scales to restaurants and demand detailed macro-nutrient breakdowns of the entire menu – I genuinely have. Technically it’s viable, but unless your company is fellow ‘OCD-dieters’ and/or a bunch of physique competitors during contest prep, you’re going to struggle to not feel out of place and enjoy yourself. I know because I’ve been there.
The absolute worst outcome would be avoiding social gatherings altogether. This would be like avoiding food, period. It would be like avoiding sex. Avoiding drinking water. Avoiding sleep. Avoiding breathing. To not socialise with our fellow beings is to live in isolation. Humans aren’t solitary beings, we’re tribal beings. Avoiding social occasions is far far unhealthier than eating a ‘cheat’ meal at a restaurant which might have ingredients that aren’t 100% paleo in it.
If you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll find a few pros of eating out versus eating in. When you eat out with others, you’re largely influenced (whether you know it or not) by your surroundings; others’ eating habits. There are numerous studies confirming this. It’s all quite logical………..those you’re eating out with aren’t going to be dying to get their hands on some fries because they’ve probably been eating them at home all week anyway!
Point being, if it’s only you desperate to ram the waffles down your throat, you’ll be much more likely to suppress the urge. It will happen subconsciously, especially as those around you won’t be attacking their food as if they’ve been on rations for the past 3 months. This will influence your eating patterns, subconsciously.
And the winner is…………..
All things considered, I’m awarding the win to social cheat meals. I think they’re far better from a mental perspective. And ultimately, mental clarity is the gateway to success in any realm of life.
Don’t misinterpret this as a promotion piece for cheat meals at your disposal. It’s anything but. All this is, is a case for not fretting, regretting and berating yourself for eating out and subsequently ‘ruining your diet’. The worst thing you can do is dwell on it. So what, you ate what you wanted, you lived in the moment. How many people do that these days?
The only ‘cheating’ I do nowadays is in social events. Life is much better this way. You’re freer – if only for a night. A change is as good as a rest.
Disclaimer: This IS NOT a case for flexible dieting or IIFYM. It’s a reminder that dieting doesn’t have to be 100% strict in order to see results – and that social occasions are sacred and shouldn’t be associated with a sense of deprivation. This is almost an endorsement of the ’80/20′ rule; 80 good, 20 not so.
Now go and take that special someone out for a meal that neither of you have had to cook!
Let me know your current approach to cheating/enjoying life whilst pursuing goals down below, I’d love to hear from you!