Having a proper nutrition plan is paramount to achieving your goals with regards to body composition. Too often I see people fool themselves into thinking that they can get by with fitness alone—unfortunately, without a proper diet to both fuel your workouts and to either create a caloric deficit or surplus, depending on your goals, you’re just not going to get to where you want to be, period. However, when striving to reduce your level of body fat, I think cheating on your diet is necessary. You probably think that I am out of my mind to suggest this, but unless you’re preparing for a specific event such as a modeling shoot or body building competition and need to get to single digit body fat numbers, I insist that my previous statement holds true, and I’m going to explain why.
When I say cheating is necessary, I am not talking about “cheat weekends” or even “cheat days.” I have had a few clients in the past who had the habit of sticking to the diet on the week days and then completely losing control on the weekends. “It’s not a problem,” they convinced themselves, “I did really well during the week so I can afford to cheat on the weekend.” I wish this were the case, but the truth is, you can effectively cancel out all the good nutritional deeds you performed during the week with a single bad weekend of eating and drinking. In other words, all that suffering you do during the week (including the workouts) can be rendered moot by bad choices over the weekend.
The same holds true, albeit on a smaller scale, with cheat days. While you probably won’t cancel out the entire week’s progress with a single bad day, you will definitely be taking a “2 steps forward, 1 step back” approach to your health goals. If you’re not interested in doubling or even tripling the amount of time it takes to get to where you want to be physically, then I suggest avoiding cheat days.
Ok, so if I’m not suggesting cheat weekends or cheat days, what the hell am I talking about, right? I am talking about one cheat meal per week, or less. Unlike an entire weekend or even a day of binging, eating a single cheat meal in a week that was otherwise on-point is not going to significantly alter the progress you’re making, if it affects it at all. The benefit to cheating occasionally is that it will keep you motivated and SANE during your diet. When first adopting heathy eating habits, it’s very taxing mentally to deprive yourself of the unhealthy foods that you may enjoy. The reason I say “at first” is because after a few months of healthy habits, your tastes will adapt and you will lose those cravings.
How many times have you gotten all gung-ho about losing weight and taken on an extremely strict dieting plan, only to burn out a few weeks later? This is because it’s downright depressing when you’re so used to eating what you want! Until you become used to healthy eating, it will feel like a chore rather than a joy. Having an occasional meal during which you reward your hard work with some of the food you’ve deprived yourself of all week is very fulfilling mentally. Also, you’ll notice as you progress that you look forward to these cheat meals less and less as time goes on, and that after words you are more and more motivated to get back on track.
Having consistent reminders to stay focused on your diet and to remind you of WHY you’re on the diet in the first place is critical to your success. While you need to stay away from huge binge-fests and practice self-control, there is nothing to lose and everything to gain from a weekly treat. So get moving, eat right and don’t be afraid to give yourself that reward you deserve!