Weight Loss Cheat Meals vs. Reward Meals: The Difference a Mindset Can Make

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Weight Loss Cheat Meals vs. Reward Meals: The Difference a Mindset Can Make

August 26, 2016 at 3:05 PM

Cheat weight loss meals Ice Cream Sundae

Note: The information on this page is intended for informational use only. Do not use this post, or any other information on this site, to diagnose or treat any medical condition, or in lieu of professional medical advice from a certified personal physician. Always check with your doctor before undergoing any treatment or beginning any weight loss regimen.

If you’re looking for an excuse to splurge on your diet every once in a while, look no further than a new study out of Portugal, cited last year in an article by Men’s Fitness.

In the study, researchers put participants on a limited diet of only 10,500 calories per week (41% fewer than the average American man). However, half of the participants were told that they could eat whatever they wanted on Sundays.

After two weeks, both groups had noticeable weight loss, with no significant difference between those who had their Sundays free and those who didn’t. The biggest difference? They participants who were allowed to “cheat” on Sundays were more willing to continue with the diet after the end of the study.

Everything in Moderation: Even Moderation

The takeaway from this study is a confirmation of what everyone who’s ever been on a long-term diet knows implicitly: Sticking to a diet can be a drag.

Many researchers and diet experts have long touted the benefits of “cheat days” or “cheat meals.” In essence, self-restraint can be worn out like any muscle, and giving into your natural desire for comfort food every now and then will actually strengthen your long-term weight loss resolve when compared to resigning oneself to a lifetime of grilled chicken and steamed broccoli.*

In addition, introducing a middle-ground into your diet plan makes for a healthier attitude than sticking to an “all-or-nothing” mindset.* All-or-nothing means that a single slip-up is grounds to abandon a diet altogether, rather than just a setback or an acceptable splurge. This can even lead to relapse after weight loss.

Don’t Think of It as a Cheat Day

With the importance of an optimistic attitude for weight loss in mind, we think that the phrase “cheat day” or “cheat meal” does dieters a disservice. Cheating is bad, by definition. If having a more relaxed attitude toward a diet is a good thing, why call it cheating? This sounds like the cousin of the “all-or-nothing” mindset to us!  

Instead, these indulgences should be thought of as a reward. If you’ve truly cultivated a healthy lifestyle, then why reward yourself with a slice of pizza for lunch one day a week? This won’t just help to keep you sane; it will give you something to look forward to and strengthen your resolve to stay the course for the rest of the week.*

Tips for Incorporating Reward Meals into Your Diet

  • Try to keep the philosophy of “90/10” in mind. 90 percent or more of your meals should be in line with your ideal diet. That leaves 10 percent for reward meals. Assuming three meals a day, that means no more than 2 meals per week should be rewards or “cheat meals.”
  • Remember: A cheat day or reward meal isn’t a license to binge. Eating a triple cheeseburger with fries and a whole chocolate cake will negatively affect your weight loss efforts, no matter how strict you’ve been the rest of the week. Be reasonable and keep your overall caloric intake in mind. Don’t challenge yourself to eat as much as possible, but understand that comfort food and favorite treats are a natural part of a healthy lifestyle.
  • If possible, plan your reward meals on a day when you’ve had a vigorous workout.

Personal Weight Loss Programs

If you’re struggling to lose weight and think you could use a little extra help, Medical Weight Loss Solutions in Connecticut offers personalized weight loss programs including low calorie and very low calorie diets, personal training, and more, supervised by trained medical professionals.* Call (203) 269-8000 or send an email to info@medweightlosssolutions.com to learn more.*  

Tags: Reward Meals
Category: Weight Loss Tips

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