If you’re a gym devotee and nutrition enthusiast, you’re probably no stranger to the “cheat meal” concept.


If you’re not, let us break it down for you: cheat meals are commonly used in the fitness/nutrition community as a “break” from the normal strictures of healthy eating. Oftentimes, cheat meals are used once or twice a week, with little regard for nutritional consideration. Cheat meals typically include foods otherwise verboten on a healthy diet plan, such as burgers, french fries, pizza, and dessert.


The idea of a cheat meal is that if you’re abiding by a healthy diet at the majority of your meals, the occasional, scheduled cheat meal is a way to employ moderation and improve dietary retention long-term.


And while moderation is key to a healthy and sustainable diet, there are a few things you should know about cheat meals.


#1. It’s easy to overdo cheat meals.

 

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Because cheat meals are often used for “off limits” foods, many “cheaters” have a hard time limiting their meal to just one or two items: what starts off as a slice of pizza turns into three slices of pizza, a breadstick, beer, and dessert.


It’s easy to erase a week’s worth of healthy eating in a single meal, making cheat meals hard to regulate.


#2. The “cheat” mentality isn’t exactly healthy.

 

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While the purpose of cheat meals is to practice moderation, it often leads to overly stringent dieting in “non-cheat” periods to make room for no holds barred binge-fests during cheat meals or cheat days.


Other times, simply having the mentality of a “cheat” can create the subconscious perception that certain foods are malevolent, and the only way to eat healthfully and moderately is through the diet-cheat-diet-cheat pattern.


In general, it’s best to replace the “cheat” meal concept with regular, daily moderation, for the sake of whole mental and physical health.


#3. Cheat meals can and should be reasonable

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If you do opt to use a cheat meal pattern, remember that it’s easy to overdo it, even at a single meal. Rather than treating yourself to appetizers, plus dinner, drinks, and dessert, stick to 1-2 items (just dinner, or dinner and dessert, or dinner and a drink). Otherwise, the Caloric overload could easily diminish any weight loss or weight maintenance efforts.