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To Cheat or Not to Cheat?

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“Do you every have a cheat meal?” This is another one of those questions that I get a lot. The answer — is no. However, I believe there is a difference between a cheat meal and cheat food. For example, the days of me going out to eat at Wendy’s, McDonald’s or Pizza Hut for lunch/dinner are over. Those are cheat meals.  They are extremely high in fat, carbs, sodium and just plain junk!   If I go out with my wife or kids to a restaurant like Longhorn’s or Outback, I don’t eat appetizers and usually order a salad or a small steak with a sweet potato. To many that sounds crazy. People tell me “It won’t hurt to eat one cheat meal once and a while”, but when I look at the person telling me that, I have to say that most of those people are not in the best shape or in the best health.

When you eat a cheat meal, research suggests that it will take 2-3 workouts to make up for it.  Is it worth it to lose those 2-3 days of hard work for a meal that I’m going to feel guilty about later?  Not for me, I’ve worked too hard and I bet you have too.  I challenge anyone that has eaten a clean diet for an extended period of time to go back to your old eating habits for just 3 days.  At the end of the 3 days I bet you can’t wait to start eating clean again.  The reason — you will discover how bad you really feel by eating and drinking all that junk.  The foods that I used to eat don’t look or taste good to me anymore.

So, what is the difference between a cheat meal and cheat food?  I mentioned earlier that I don’t eat cheat meals but I do eat cheat foods.  I personally believe that its o.k. to eat a cheat food.  I have heard Tony Horton speak on YouTube about his love for chocolate chip cookies.  Shawn T mentions in the Asylum nutrition guide that he eats donuts once a month.  While there is research about the negative affects of a cheat meal, there is also research that suggests that eating a cheat meal/food on occasion will jump start your metabolism, as your body works harder to burn up the extra calories.  I know several personal trainers who teach their clients to eat a cheat meal (usually high in carbs) to reset their metabolism when they hit a weight loss plateau.  Again, I’m talking about maybe once or twice a month, not a day or week.

One of my favorite cheat foods is frozen yogurt.  Just a few miles from my house there are two frozen yogurt stores, Sweet CeCe’s and Yo Lo’s.  My usual treat is No Sugar add Vanilla with two scoops of fresh strawberries and two scoops of blueberries.  Now before you start running out the door to hit your local dessert store, I want to tell you that I only eat at these only once or twice per month, if that much.  Other cheat foods include an extra scoop of natural peanut butter, 2 handfuls of almonds (no salt) or an extra piece of fruit.  Are those cheat foods?  Sure, because they add extra calories and fat.  Are they necessarily going to kill my diet?  The answer is, no, but as you can see when I cheat it tends to be with healthy food options.

That being said, If you’re trying to lose quiet a bit of weight and just on your first round of P90X, Insanity, etc. I wouldn’t suggest a cheat meal/food.  When I did my first round of P90X I didn’t eat one cheat meal or food, because I was trying to maximize my results.  If you get to the point where your body is where you want it to be, I think eating a cheat food (occasionally) could actually be helpful physically and psychologically.

Just for review: cheat meals: McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Mexican restaurants, Chinese Buffet’s, well . . . you get the point.  Cheat foods: low-fat frozen yogurt (healthy add ons), extra spoonful of natural peanut butter, extra fruit, unsalted almonds, chocolate almond milk, and just about any extra helping of something healthy.

So keep your diet clean, but on occasion treat yourself to a well deserved cheat food.  Just be careful, don’t over do it and try to keep it on the healthy side.(no hot fudge sundaes!!!!!)  You know your body better than anybody else.


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