1 Cheat Meal Setback Can Ruin Your Week

1 Cheat Meal Can Ruin An Entire Week of Training

Many people think of a cheat meal as a personal reward for their hard work in the gym and their dedication to packing a meal prep bag and sticking to their nutrition plan throughout the week. But there are serious consequences to indulging in cheat meals, and better ways to reward yourself than poisoning your body with processed foods and refined sugars.

One of the biggest problems with a cheat meal occurs thanks to the Abstinence-Violation Effect. It’s the idea that once you ‘fall off the wagon’ and cheat on your diet you start to lose faith in your ability to sustain a healthy eating plan, and give up, turning your cheat meal into a cheat day, cheat week, or cheat month. Cheat meals can easily become a major set back rather than a small break from the rules when this occurs.


In the same regards, some people have a remarkably hard time getting back on track with a stable, nutrient rich diet once they’ve allowed themselves a cheat. Many junk foods are specifically designed with addictive qualities such as sugar, salt, and fat to encourage repeat customers. It becomes a vicious cycle, in that, the more junk food you ingest, the more you’ll crave it, and the harder staying on track and seeing progress will become. Using a fitness lunch bag to plan and pack your meals can help combat this.


As Proven By The 2007 Lab Rat Addiction Test

In a 2007 scientific study, performed on rats, it was found that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. Let that sink in for a minute. The study showed that when rats were given the choice between sugar and cocaine the majority chose to indulge in the consumption of sugar. In fact, even the rats that were addicted to cocaine choose sugar over cocaine when it was introduced.

It is clear that junk food changes your hormonal profile. Your body is designed to naturally control how much you eat, and also the amount of energy you burn. But processed foods work to stimulate your appetite, which harms you in two ways.

  1. Consuming process foods and refined sugars makes you crave more unhealthy foods in your diet.
  2. Eating processed foods makes it harder for your body to feel full and satisfied from a healthy meal.

Processed foods and refined sugar trigger an intense reward response in our brains that makes it easier to overeat. The more poor choices you make when it comes to your nutrition, the less ability your brain has to ‘hear’ and react to the biochemical signals that tell it to stop eating. It’s a direct correlation. Meanwhile your overeating habits put you in risk of developing serious health issues including:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Osteoporosis
  • Obesity

Keep The Metabolic Rate Up

There are people that believe that there are benefits to cheat meals. They argue that caloric restriction makes Leptin hormone levels (which maintain energy balance) drop which will cause you to overeat. They will also tell you that limiting your caloric intake will decrease your metabolic rate because your thyroid hormone levels will drop. While both of these things can be true, there is a better way to avoid overeating and ensure metabolic rates stay up than ingesting junk.

A re-feed is a great alternative to a cheat meal. The difference lies in the foods consumed.

When most people think of a cheat meal they think of:

  • Hamburgers
  • Pizza
  • Fries
  • Ice Cream
  • Chips
  • Candy

Processed foods that are not included in their diet plan.

As you just read these foods do much more harm than good.

A re-feed on the other hand involves increasing the amount of calories you take in for a single day.

Alternatively a re-feed:

  • Is Planned Out
  • Lasts between 8 to 12 hours
  • Consists of a healthy combination of carbs, proteins, and fats.


Treat Yourself To A Re-Feed Instead of Junk Food

By treating yourself to a re-feed once per week you ensure that you stay on track with your nutritional diet while avoiding drops in leptin and thyroid hormone levels. You should still plan and pack your food in a meal bag to ensure you are eating the right foods in the correct amounts during your re-feed. Increasing your caloric intake for a day, but avoiding processed foods and junk also guarantees that you won’t succumb to the Abstinence-Violation Effect.

Keep in mind that whether you’ve never had processed food in your life, or you used to live off of it, cravings are inevitable. It’s important that you recognize your cravings but avoid caving in to them. Remember that cravings and urges are like waves that rise to a peak before they fall. They will dissipate even when you do not give in to them.

Reward Yourself Without Poisoning Yourself:

  • Create a “Victory Vault” where you stash away $10 per week, $5 per pound lost, or $1 for every workout completed.
  • Treat yourself to a massage/facial/other spa treatment
  • Buy new workout gear (new sneakers, a new fitness lunch box, new headphones)
  • Invest in that kitchen gadget (to assist with your meal management system) that you’ve had your eye on.
  • Have a night out at the movies (skip the concession stand snacks)
  • Go to a concert/art show/sporting event
  • Splurge on a personal training session
  • Book a weekend getaway (even if it’s at a B&B in town)
  • Download a new fitness app for your phone
  • Clean all of your ‘too large’ clothes out of your closet
  • Revamp your style (new body, new clothes, new you!)
  • Make time for yourself
  • Enjoy a new book
  • Take a hike with your meal bag backpack and enjoy the scenery without compromising your diet
  • Do something you couldn’t before you committed to a healthy lifestyle



To learn more about the Abstinence-Violation Effect visit http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh23-2/151-160.pdf and read Marlatt’s study on Relapse Prevention.

To learn more about the 2007 study on the addictive properties of Sugar vs. Cocaine visit http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1931610/


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