Cheat… That word alone should let you know how pointless these meals are, from the thought of needing to cheat on your diet to the actual effects it has on your body from blood sugar spikes to leaky gut syndrome the very thought of consuming a cheat meal is, in my view, entirely ludicrous. Now before we continue I am not talking about healthy snacks or totally organic, raw, healthy deserts. In talking fast food, artificial sweetener and corn syrup laden treats and the saturated fat laden cheat meals we all think we ‘need’ after a tough week of eating ‘clean’ and working out.
First of let’s discuss the meals themselves:
There are a number of ingredients that you have been repeatedly told are bad for you and are probably sick of hearing such as sugar, saturated fat, high fructose corn syrup, salt, E numbers and so on. But it isn’t just the obvious stuff that you know about that is lurking around in the cheat meals. And it isn’t just the obvious enemy of weight gain that I’m talking about here either. There is a lot of nasty ingredients in cheat meals, and none of them have any purpose or any reason to be ingested into your body or even any right to be on your plate.
- Sugar – Obvious villain. Not just responsible for increased weight gain, but also linked with development of insulin sensitivity, type-2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and potential bowel and gut disorders. Not good.
- Salt – Another obvious villain but one we seem to have forgotten. Often loaded up in the traditional cheat meal this ingredient is a big cause of coronary heart disease, kidney disorder, and increasing blood pressure leading to increased risk of strokes and brain issues too.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup – A very dangerous substance for your health and sadly it is being added to just about everything that you might associate with cheat meals. This very reactive sugar is linked to leaky gut syndrome and shares the same side effects as sugar; obesity and diabetes to name but a few.
- Saturated Fats – A necessary part of the diet and responsible for many health and hormonal benefits, but too much is a big problem, linked to coronary heart disease, blood pressure issues and obesity this group of fats are often found in large numbers in cheat meals, especially take away dishes involving cream or grease, think kebab, fish and chips or deep fried foods.
- Alcohol – The sometimes missed cheat meal drink is alcohol. We tend to over look this even in our own calorie counting obsessions because it is not food. but Alcohol is not only heavily linked to kidney and liver issues but also blood pressure.,mental health and obesity. It has nothing but a long list of negatives for me and is a must avoid in my opinion. Especially if taken in excess.
- Dairy and cream – Being a vegan website I didn’t think this would need much explaining because it doesn’t feature in our diet. But for any vegetarians out there or anyone who isn’t vegan who has stumbled across this website I thought it needed addressing. Cheat meals involving dairy, from ice cream and milk shakes to creamy deserts and sauces diary sneaks in everywhere in typical cheat meals. Not only has dairy been linked to its links to cancer and gut health issues. To its links to osteoporosis (bone degeneration), vitamin D toxicity and cardiovascular disease. Dairy should be avoided and cut out of everyone’s diet.
Now the Mindset:
The mentality behind a ‘cheat’ meal is even more disturbing. The usual approach tends to be low carb or super clean eating all week that seems to be a chore for most people, followed by a blow out on Friday or Saturday night involving fast, greasy, high calorie, usually chemical laden food. Followed by regret and self hatred on Sunday and promises to do better the next week with your diet and the determination to kill yourself on Monday at the gym in order to burn it off….
Now, If any of that sounds like a good idea to you let me see a show of hands. Look at it. The meal is a BIG problem but the bigger problem is the mentality. As we touched on above the meal is bad on a number of levels but it can be the mind that is the most dangerous. Firstly any nutrition programme that makes you feel that you need a cheat meal, is a diet full of restrictions, stress and social deprivation. The very fact that you feel you ‘need’ that stuff is evidence enough. Because you know plain and simple that the so called food you eat during a cheat meal isn’t real food and is not healthy for your body in any way. So why do we do it? Especially when about 5 minutes after you finish off the meal you start to hate yourself for eating it. Most of the time it is not the food that you are craving, but rather it is the release from the chains. The freedom from the restrictions of the diet. And that tells me one thing. Your current diet sucks.
In fact the very word DIET sucks these days, because we all seem to have been told, or confused the actual meaning of the word for some sort of cultish behaviour in which it is a requirement to hate our bodies, slave away the days and nights eating 0 calories and sweating on stationary bikes and elliptical trainers. Does any of that sound healthy to you? Especially when you add the final piece of the diet machine to this, the cheat meal. When you think that you deserve or need to poison yourself after a week of suffering and tormenting your mind and body on a diet and workout programme you don’t enjoy or feel passionate about then there is a problem and it is one we need to address and eradicate.
Thinking for one second that you enjoy those meals is also foolish. You may feel slightly satisfied by the taste, or the texture but you always come away feeling like you are missing something, perhaps the cheat meal actually cheated you. Top quote Alan Watts here the scenario of eating poison to feel good and making ourselves suffer to feel happy strikes me as “All wretch and no vomit, it never quite gets there.” We spend our time suffering and starving ourselves and then eating junk all in the pursuit of a fit and healthy body… Perhaps the cheat is that you now spend another week on another fad diet and another brutal gym routine rather than on cultivating a life and lifestyle that makes you healthy, happy and fit to do all the things you love to do.
So to put it rather bluntly you need to stop. And stop now!
So what should we do?
The obvious answer here is to stop this crazy diet you are on and start focusing on eating healthy food that you enjoy and that fuels and heals your body. Stop counting calories and start counting portions of fruit and veg. Stop counting reps done and calories burned and start focusing on how you feel. Are you having fun doing the workouts, do you feel fitter, stronger, happier, less stiff? And finally stop restricting yourself or beating yourself up about food. Seriously, go out, have a meal with friends, don’t look at the calories, but rather look down the menu and ask yourself – what do I really want? If you want the pasta have the pasta don’t worry about the carbs. If you want the salad then have the salad. Just be yourself and eat healthy food, its really pretty simple.
If you still feel like having a treat then check out our recipe book, containing healthier desert options and some great tasting meals for you to try. Just remember just because the desert is Vegan or healthier, doesn’t mean it can be consumed in excess. Enjoy it, and have fun with it, but don’t go crazy. Instead try to eat fun healthy and tasty meals every day.
Life’s to short to limit yourself to one tasty meal a week.