How 'bout that picture huh!?
A big, frosty delicious beer and an even bigger plate of filthy, messy nachos. The question is, why is that the picture for a nutrition article? Written by a fitness coach who claims to specialize in fat loss!?
This is absurd!
Whoa now cowboy, allow me to explain.
I insist that my clients eat a big plate of nachos and even follow it up with a beer or two. Especially my fat loss clients. If they don't like nachos and beer, then I insist they eat something else that tickles their fancy, as long as it is just as filthy as the nachos and beer is.
But I only insist they do this if they have nailed their nutrition for 6 straight days.
My nutrition prescription is generally fairly simple, but it is not always easy to hammer down, especially if being conscious of your food intake is new to you. Usually, assuming you're a fat loss client, you will be in a safe but significant caloric deficit, your carbs will be fairly low for at least part of the time, and your protein goal will be aggressive. Not only that, but you will be meeting these daily nutrition goals by consuming high quality foods.
There is also a pretty goo chance that this style of eating is new to you. And as well all know, food is sacred, and overhauling your entire food life over night is extreme for most people.
Enter the cheat meal. This meal is equally as important to the process as every single clean and precise meal you eat all week for the following reasons.
You Don't Become a Robot
I'm not talking about the fact that the iPhone is moving from our pockets to our wrists and eventually inside our faces. I'm talking about a dietary robot.
To humans, food offers a lot more than just sustenance. It has strong ties to our emotions, or feel-good hormones, our social lives, or rituals and celebrations. It has a lot to do with our general interaction with our fellow humans. There absolutely needs to be some breathing room in the diet for these celebratory, feel-good foods.
A well placed cheat meal allows you to enjoy birthday parties, graduations, or just a night out with the boys, girls or the family.
You need to remember that you absolutely can lose fat and enjoy celebratory foods at the same time, as long as you're honest with yourself about your quantity of cheat meals, and time them out to suit your needs.
You Have a Light at the End of the Tunnel
OK, that heading might be a little dramatic when talking about dieting, but then again maybe not. For many people, this is a huge change, and it may be a change they have made after 30, 40, 50 years of eating a certain way. So 6 days of clean, calculated dieting can really seem like the tunnel. But if they know that there is a cheat meal coming up in a few days and they can have whatever they have been craving all week long, it will keep them honest for the remainder of the week.
If you are trying to suddenly eliminate all of the foods that you consider treat or comfort foods and the intention is to eliminate them forever, then as soon as you have a craving for that food, combined with hunger pangs and the stress from a bad day, you are going to eat that food.
But if you have a cheat meal planned out for Saturday evening and the same attack of stress and cravings hits you, then you're going to remember that you already have a plan to eat these foods, and that plan will give you the focus you need to stick to the plan and finish off the week strong.
The thought of eliminating these foods forever is enough to cause many people to slide off the rails. So making these foods an important part of the plan is very important.
You Get to Cheat Without All the Guilt
This is probably the biggest reason I insist on a weekly cheat meal. The cheat meal is like a small amount of planned damage with the purpose of preventing an onslaught of potential damage in the future.
When the weekend rolls around and you end up mindlessly eating a family sized bag of Reece's mini's while binge watching Orange is the New Black, you are going to feel terrible. Not only is your stomach going to ache, but you're going to feel like a failure.
You had a plan, you were working hard to stick with it, but all it took was for you to loosen the reigns a little on the weekend and you slid down the slippery slope of chocolate and TV.
Feeling like a failure not only hurts your chance of adhering to the program long term, since the feeling of failing eventually grows old and you look to avoid it all together. You can't feel like a failure if there is no plan to fail at. Feeling like a failure will also have you searching for the reset button. You messed up, re-start that sh*t like Nintendo.
Now you tell yourself that you'll pick it back up on Monday, enjoy the rest of the weekend and refocus later. Now you have a 36hr food free for all on your hands. Instead of just dealing with the damage of one dietary slip up, you now are dealing with two full days of food-bachery (all rights reserved...not really, use at will).
One small slip up? Easy to make up for. A full weekend of poor choices? Thats an actual set back.
A planned cheat meal means you head into the weekend with a plan, and it will keep you honest.
Sticking with the same above scenario, say you have an OITNB marathon planned and you know you will be snacking. You could make it a bowl of chips, a bag of buttery popcorn, a plate of nachos, spinach dip and pita bread....anything really.
The important thing is, this meal is planned, so when you eat it, you're still officially on the rails executing the plan. No guilt, no failure, and very enjoyable.
Once that meal is over it is very easy to refocus and get back to your regularly scheduled nutrition plan.
This weekend, when you're out with friends or family, eat the nachos, and get the beer. Live life, enjoy yourself, and don't stress it.
When the meal is over and you're full and happy, direct your eyes forward and continue to execute your fat loss nutrition plan.
But seriously, eat the nachos.