Many diet plans out there frame cheat meals or cheat days as having important benefits.
They're supposed to prevent you from feeling deprived, boost metabolism, and increase chances of success with a diet, etc.
Well, I don't agree.
I have nothing against occasional "refeeds," as in eating more carbs or calories than usual one day.
You might call these refeeds healthy cheat meals. They're absolutely fine and may even be good for you.
But claiming that it is somehow beneficial to pig out on extremely harmful foods with sugar, refined wheat or trans fats just doesn't make sense to me.
Now you can do whatever you want with your own body, but I thought I'd give you a few reasons why having a cheat meal or cheat day may not be the best idea.
When you drastically change the way you eat, a certain adaptation process needs to take place.
For example, if you're doing a low-carb ketogenic (keto) diet then your body needs to change certain hormones and ramp up production of enzymes to make use of fat as the primary source of fuel.
If you keep cheating, you will prevent this metabolic adaptation from ever fully completing.
Also, when you abandon the standard western diet and start eating more real foods, it can take some time for your sense of taste to adapt.
If you have ever done the paleo diet for an extended period of time without cheating, then you may have experienced this. With time, real foods start to taste much better.
If you cheat and eat junk foods frequently, your taste sensations won't adapt completely, and you won't be able to experience the same satisfaction from real foods.
I personally believe junk foods to be downright addictive.
This problem appears to be common, and people who have issues with cravings and binge eating should probably abstain from these foods as much as possible.
If you keep having something that you're addicted to, it just keeps the addiction going. In this case, having everything in moderation isn't a good idea, as it will be almost impossible to maintain.
If you crave junk foods all the time and keep giving in to these cravings, that will just make the cravings even stronger. Avoid these foods completely and the cravings will diminish over time.
Abstinence is the only thing that works for addiction, period.
Some people (myself included) can binge like there's no tomorrow and ruin a week's worth of dieting in one sitting.
I may be an unusual case, but after one particular binge I calculated the calories in it, and it turned out I had eaten 5,000 calories in one sitting.
That's two days worth of calories for a grown man and an entire week (or two) of dieting pretty much ruined.
Ever feel bloated, guilty and miserable after eating junk food? That's pretty common, actually. I used to feel this way all the time.
The cheat meal may give you some pleasure while you are eating it, but it definitely won't make you feel good afterwards.
The concept of "starvation mode" is largely a myth with no real science behind it and doesn't really happen until you get to an extremely low body fat percentage.
If you're a bodybuilder on a long cut for a show, then refeeds are likely to help prevent adverse effects of dieting for too long. But even in this case, choosing healthy foods is still a better idea.
However, most people aren't preparing for a bodybuilding or fitness competition and do not need to take drastic action to boost metabolism or prevent starvation mode.
For healthy people trying to stay healthy or lose a bit of weight, cheat meals are unnecessary at best and may be detrimental.
If you're worried about your metabolic rate going down during a weight loss period, lift weights. This is to maintain both your metabolic rate and your muscle mass.
Junk food is bad for you, and that is probably the reason you gave it up in the first place.
Having McDonalds or a pizza with some ice cream once a week may not seem like a big deal compared to people who eat this stuff every single day.
But eating these junk foods once a week is still clearly worse than having none at all.
Trans fats, seed oils and gluten — these harmful ingredients linger in the body for a while and it takes a long time to fully recover from their effects.
If you keep eating them, they will never completely leave your body.