A cheat sheet for when you can’t escape the craving

By Kryzette Papagayo | Photo by Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

You’ve been slaving the week away with hard training and clean eating. But after days of achieving goals and sustaining sets, you’re craving a slice of pizza. Here’s the good news: It’s okay to eat a slice. For some people, a cheat day is a congratulatory nod to your hard work. We say it is, only if you take in a few considerations.

When dieting, your body tends to take in fewer amounts of calories and carbs because of healthier food choices. “Over time, your body realizes it is taking in fewer calories than it is burning. In turn, it will try to balance calories-in versus calories-out by becoming more efficient and your metabolism drops,” says fitness coach Jason Maxwell.

“This is not good when fat loss is the goal. Cheat days will trick the body into thinking it is getting enough calories (if not too many) and the body will then ignite its fat burning metabolism.” Okay, so science agrees that cheat meals are not only okay but necessary. When and if you decide to take the plunge, here’s a simple guide:

Plan the Cheat

Firstly, map out the week. Power through Monday to Saturday by perfecting your goals and consuming healthy food. Come Sunday, allow yourself a cheat meal. Jillian Guinta, professor in the Health and Physical Education Department at Seton Hall University, tells Medical Daily about the psychological aspects of the cheat day. “Without rewards, it can become mundane to keep a healthy lifestyle day in and day out. Oftentimes, it may take several weeks to see the scale budge, so knowing that a cheat day is coming can help keep up motivation.”

It’s a Cheat Meal on Your Cheat Day

How to be smart with cheating? Portions and proportions. Don’t go crazy with the carbs or on any of your preferred indulgences. Take out a plate, practice portion control, and then finish it—no more, no less. An easy trick to cheating is to simply get half a portion of that cheat food so you still get to eat what you’ve been craving without falling into the trap of eating too much.

Hit Your Targets

Cheating, in its truest sense, can conjure unhealthy and dirty memories of bingeing and losing control with food. But it’s not cheating when you deserve it. Let the cheat meal be a luxury, if not a reward, that you can cash in on after you’ve powered your set goals. Once you’ve crossed them off the list, figure out exactly when you can cheat so you know well enough to cut a few calories earlier in the day.

The 90/10 Rule

Medical Daily notes the growing consensus between nutritionists about the 90/10 rule that believes 90 percent of your intake should solely be healthy food and the remaining 10 percent can be anything outside your nutritional plan. The 90/10 rule can be an alternative . Medical Daily also outlines that three to four meals out of the 35 meals plotted in a week can be cheat meals.

The Cheat Day Can Take on Other Forms

The cheat day is a compromise. Remember this before taking another bite of your cheat meal. Dr. Adrienne Youdim, medical director of the Center of Weight Loss at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, tells Outside that instead of a cheat meal, try a an extra rest day. A binge is not nourishing; but allowing your body to relax and recharge is a healthier alternative.