Whether you want to gain muscle or lose fat, the journey is long, boring, and often full of yo-yo-like results. Training is one element but only accounts for a small piece of the pie. The pie itself is your diet. Keeping tabs on what you eat and how often you do it, is the god particle of change. However, you do need a reprieve from the relentless avoidance of the foods you want to eat. Enter the cheat meal.
The question remains, is this a welcome break from your usual practices or a dangerous variant of binge eating? Research in the journal Appetite wanted to know the same thing and out of 248 people they tested, at least 89% of them enjoyed cheat meals regularly as a way of managing their food cravings. Was this a form of minor binge eating? No, said the scientists who found this way of eating didn’t cause any form of psychological distress of impairment. That’s the green light for cheat meals but hold up before you ready your grill.
Green lit munchies
To understand cheat meals better, it’s wise to figure out how you’re being influenced by them digitally. A paper in the International Journal of Eating Disorders broke down the cheat meal hashtag and found 71% of cheat meals were made of calorie dense meals that would qualify as a binge eating episode. As much as 60% of the people who eat these meals where highly muscular and had their toned rigs out on display to show their strict commitment to fitness despite eating this type of food.
It seems the message that was put out there was that cheat meals were the goal to be earned by eating healthy foods and exercising regularly. Not a bad balance of the scales, because nobody is surprised when a 300lb human gobbles down 3 family sized pizzas. It’s the juxtaposition that we love, training hard so you can enjoy the taste of things.
A smarter way
Social media loves to portray a lifestyle that’s unrealistic, hyperbolic, and just plain lies in an attempt to be relatable. In application it’s like taking a photo of you next to a Ferrari that’s parked in the street and claiming it’s your own. Pull back the veil and these influencers don’t eat all that food, they order it and split with all the friends. What they really do, which is far less fascinating is find cheat meals that are healthy and enjoyable. This isn’t something they can share or make people jealous about because it’s plain smart. Smart is boring. Smart doesn’t get likes. It’s one of the reasons they look as good as they do, because they cheat regularly and still get away with it.
Instead of filling your pantry with snacks you know you should never eat. You should rather set about testing the various protein bars and cookies that are on offer by different companies. Taste buds differ between people so when you find the ones that work for you, then they’re worth including as a regular cupboard staple. Make sure they have at least 20g of protein and have lower than 300 calories per serve. These are the markers that you want to hold yourself towards. It doesn’t matter if they have a little sugar, especially if you’re going to burn it off eventually because it’s better to get the sweet hit you’re craving than defer it with artificial sweeteners. Regularly having a protein bar that you love the taste of at your fingertips means you’ll never have to use the cheat meal hashtag because you’ll be cheating in the most strategic way possible. Now that’s smart.