Cheat Meals

Why I Don’t Believe In Cheat Meals

If you feel the need to cheat on your diet, then your diet is clearly not okay.

What are Cheat Meals?

Cheat meals are a designated meal where you allow yourself to indulge in foods that you typically consider off-limits or not part of your regular eating plan.

Negative Connotation

The term “cheat” implies you did something wrong, potentially triggering feelings of guilt and the belief that you must compensate by restricting your diet or intensifying your workouts until your next scheduled “cheat meal.” Unless it involves money, there’s no need to feel like you have to atone for enjoying something delicious.

This pattern of indulging and then restricting can have a detrimental impact on your health and self-image, and it can diminish the pleasure you derive from eating.

Moralisation of Foods

One question to ask yourself is, “Why is this food acceptable as a cheat meal and not at any other time?”

Instead of thinking in black and white terms of good or bad, I encourage you to categorize foods as “everyday foods” and “sometimes foods.” The “sometimes” is when you feel like it, not the time you schedule in your planner.

Overeating and Binge Eating

Preliminary research published in the journal Appetite suggests that cheat meals may share similarities with binge episodes and can contribute to the development of disordered eating habits.

Frequently, once individuals start eating, they find it difficult to stop. It seems logical to assume that if you deny yourself something sweet when you crave it, your body may overindulge when you finally allow yourself a “cheat meal.”

Intuitive Eating

If you’re looking for a better way to eat, try looking at foods neutrally.

The 80:20 rule is the key to maintaining a sustainable and balanced approach to eating.

Focus on consuming 80% nutritious foods, and dedicate the remaining 20% to eating for reasons such as pleasure, comfort or social connection.

When you allow yourself to eat whatever you want, when you want, you normalise all foods. Hyperpalatable foods no longer have an emotional hold on you. Human nature resists control, and by restricting yourself, you are likely to rebel against it.

Getting used to consuming foods that you previously forbade will diminish your excitement response. This may result in not feeling like them at all, or when you do have them, you may stop at a small amount, knowing that you can have more later.

Bottom line, welcome all foods into your normal diet.


If you’d like further support, check out my online program, A Course In Normal Eating. Quit binge eating for good and embrace intuitive eating.

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