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Evidence-based articles & blogs to help with making training more effective, nutrition more flexible & life more enjoyable.


Cheat Meals Ruining Your Progress

This study surveyed #CHEATMEAL in 2017 and found 40% of these posts contained “intentional exposure of the body” and 15% contained a person exercising. Let’s get this out the way from the get go.

Check out the Cheat Meal hashtag on instagram and you’ll see a few things.

1.   Burgers, fries, pizza - all my favourites.

2.   Fit-looking people flexing in front of their food - OK I’m a little guilty of this from time to time.

3.   But worst of all… It’s this idea that you have to earn your food.

This study surveyed #CHEATMEAL in 2017 and found 40% of these posts contained “intentional exposure of the body” and 15% contained a person exercising. 

Let’s get this out the way from the get go.

You DO NOT have to “earn” the food you eat.

Yes, food has calories.

Yes, it’s easy to compare the calories in that food to the amount of exercise you would have to do in order to burn the equivalent amount of calories.

But that’s just not how your metabolism works.

You burn calories all day, every day. Even when you’re not exercising! In fact you burn more calories through your resting metabolic rate RMR), than you do through all of your activity combined (NEAT + EAT).

So rather than thinking of food as something which has to be earned through exercise, think of your diet as a budget.

You’ve got a goal, some days you’re on the money. Some days you’re a little over, others you’re a little under.

What happens with your body fat over time depends on whether you’re in a surplus or a deficit.

It’s not as if ”bad” food automatically gets stored as fat but “good” food gets used up or stored as muscle.

You can lose weight eating burgers, pizza, ice cream, you name it!

And you could gain weight eating nothing but fish and asparagus.

Remember you DO NOT have to “earn” your food…

SO now that we’ve got that out of the way…

Here’s why Cheat Meals are ruining your progress. 

Let’s say you want to lose weight. So you find me and you download The SHRED Method which is my Free Guide to help you drop 5-15 lbs in 30 days.

(You can get it in the Guides Section of our Private Community: Fat Loss Hacks For Frustrated Dieters)

You learn all about calories and how to set up your deficit.

You find that your maintenance is 2500 calories and the appropriate daily calorie target for you is 2000 calories. This means you’ll lose around 1 lb of fat per week. Awesome!

Monday to Friday you’re full of motivation. 2000 calories on the dot. The scale’s moving and everything’s going great.

Saturday rolls around…

For some reason, everything we taught you has gone out the window and you’ve decided instead that today is a CHEAT day.

After all, your diet is going so well, so you deserve a cheat, right?

Eggs benny for brunch (850 calories) with a triple cream latte (650 calories).

A few drinks in the afternoon (800 calories) and then burgers for dinner. Two, to be precise (1400 calories). With large fries (400 calories) and full-sugar soda (300 calories), of course.

Let’s get an ice cream (350 calories) to wash that down and top it off with a night-cap (250 calories).

Congratulations… You’ve just undone your entire deficit for the week!

You literally haven’t lost any fat this week.

And what sucks the most is…

You were doing everything right.

You used our guide, tracked your calories all week but then let it all go with a spout of uncontrolled eating over the weekend.

Some people go even worse…

And restrict themselves to crazy low-calorie diets, with a list of foods they can and cannot eat… Then allow themselves to go crazy on one cheat “meal” or “day” each week.

For these people, because they’ve been so restrictive throughout the week it’s impossible to have any sort of self-restraint when they’ve got that delicious, high-calorie meal in front of them.

This study by Cooper and colleagues suggested this binge-restrict cycle might perpetuate more negative thought-loops like:

- Using eating to ‘feel’ better;

- Justifying or permitting binge eating episodes; and

- Feeling an overall lack of control over your eating habits.

Of course this can in turn directly trigger future binge eating episodes, further perpetuating the cycle.

So… What do we do instead?

For those of us who have a genuine eating disorder we should be consulting a therapist, ahead of a nutritionist.

For those of us who simply want to find a way to still eat the foods they love whilst losing fat…

That’s where Macro Cycling comes in.

Macro cycling means eating a little less on certain days, to create much more flexibility on the days we need it. 

This is how some of our clients can lose fat whilst still having 6 beers with their mates on a Friday.

This is how we can still eat burgers, pizza, ice cream, you name it! And maintain a lean physique all year round.

There’s research to back this up.

This is a form of planned hedonic deviation and has proven successful in studies like this one, where the dieters who used this approach felt more motivation, better self-regulation and self-efficacy in their diet.

The difference between a calculated approach using Macro Cycling and an outright Cheat Meal is both physiological and psychological.

Physiologically, you’re still in control of your total calorie intake using Macro Cycling.

Using Cheat Meals, you’ve got no control.

Psychologically, that lack of control can lead you to feeling as if you’ve screwed up on your diet, you’ve already come this far so might as well say f*ck it and eat more and more…

After all, you've been so restricted all week.

Then feeling guilty for the “cheat” and either quitting altogether thinking you’re simply not cut out for dieting and you have no control over your body composition, or deciding to restrict yourself even harder to make up for it.

The mere idea of cheating simply isn’t compatible with your goals.

Think about it like this…

Would you spend weeks saving up money for a holiday, only to go and completely blow it at the casino?

If you had a friend who just got out of Rehab for heroin addiction… Would you reward them for successfully getting through Rehab with some heroin?

It’s the same thing as rewarding your overly restrictive diet with a cheat meal on the weekend. In both cases you’re undoing days or weeks of hard work.

If you want a copy of our Macro Cycle Calculator, so you can implement this yourself and take back control of your diet whilst still eating all of the foods you love…

You’ll find that within The SHRED Method, which is in the Guides Section of our Private Community: Fat Loss Hacks For Frustrated Dieters.

I'll see you in there!