CHEAT MEALS - one of the biggest headaches for many of us who have been doing/ wanting to do clean-eating for our fitness journeys. It is one of the my most frequently asked questions from girls all around the world - do you allow yourself cheat meals? How often do you allow yourself a cheat meal? Can we do cheat meals at all? How will they impact our fitness journeys? I therefore hope that by writing this post, I can answer your questions as much as I can and you will find them useful for your fitness journey.
As many of you know that I started my fitness journey around 4 months ago and apart from regular work outs, I do clean-eating (you can find the details of my clean-eating habit and diet at http://stayfitandtravel.blogspot.hk/2014/11/clean-eating-diet.html). As the saying goes, abs are made in the kitchen - and therefore I strongly believe that eating habits and diet are essential to reaching your fitness goals no matter what they are, from losing weight to toning up and even bulking up.
My experience with cheat meals, however, is quite different from a lot of the other girls who feel like they are having difficulty with sticking to clean-eating and would end up having one cheat meal here and there and eventually giving up the whole clean-eating. For me, when I first started Kayla's BBG (http://www.kaylaitsines.com.au/), I wanted to see progress and results so badly that I did not and COULD NOT allow myself even one cheat meal (or just one cheat BITE) for the first 12 weeks of my fitness journey. I simply could not do it. During that period, even though I was already eating very clean (and also quite a small amount), I constantly felt like I overate after every single meal and I would feel so bad and guilty about myself that I sometimes needed to throw up, especially when I felt like I ate something that was "less-clean" such as...cheese. I refused to eat even any white rice and my mum had to cook brown rice/ quinoa everyday. I would take out any ketchup/ dressing from my food when I eat out. And as my job required quite a lot of business lunches and dinners and the food's not always healthy, I would just sit there and refuse to take even one bite. LOL I know I know, I sounded totally crazy and super rude right? Good that I did not get fired.
The reason I was acting like that? For those of you who have done Kayla's BBG workouts will know that each of her exercise is a killer - and especially in the beginning when I was still quite unfit, all the workouts were extremely difficult and tough for me that it required huge amount of determination to tell myself to keep going and not give up during the 30 minutes of her workouts. As a result, my mindset was that if I ate even a bite of unhealthy food, all my hardwork and sweat in the workout before would go to waste - what's the point of working out so hard and then just gaining back all the fat just because a few bites of unhealthy food? Not worth it to me back then!
How wrong was I! Deep in my heart I knew it was not a sustainable eating habit but I just could not force myself to change...until the day I completed 12 weeks of Kayla's BBG1.0. It was Halloween and me and my boyfriend went out to a Halloween dinner date at Bubba Gump. an American Seafood restaurant. For those of you who have been there would know that a lot of their famous dishes are FAR from what we would normally consider as clean food - i.e. Deep Fried Shrimps, BBQ Ribs, Deep Fried Chicken Wings, French Fries and etc. Given how I was acting that period, I was supposed to not eat anything except for salad (without dressing), but that night I suddenly felt like I just could not do this anymore. I had been a huge foodie my whole life and even though a lot of my homemade clean food is yummy, I just hadn't had deep fried food/ BBQ ribs for a freaking long time. So all of a sudden I found myself not being able to stop stuffing french fries, deep fried food and ribs into my mouth. I think I ate even more than my boyfriend. Growing up, I was actually never a fan of deep fried food but that night, anything deep fried somehow tasted heavenly to me. After pigging out, I felt so terrible myself that I went into the toilet to throw up everything because I was so scared that my 12 weeks of hard work would just go to waste. It was then that I realized - what I was doing was NOT HEALTHY OR SUSTAINABLE at all. Can I seriously not eat all those yummy food that I used to LOVE so much for the rest of my life? I did not want to continue like that because I know it would drive me crazy and one day I might just have to start binge eating and give up the entire clean-eating habit.
I know this is something completely mental and I am the only one who can change that. So ever since Week 13, I have been slowly making myself to be more relaxed now and allow myself 2-3 cheat meals a week. It is something that I am still working on but I have to say it is getting a lot better! I still clean-eat (and do vegetarian-only meals) during the weekdays but on weekends, I allow myself to eat whatever I want and to just enjoy and have fun. You will probably be surprised by what I eat for my cheat meals now - here are some examples:
Last Last Friday Dinner: Japanese All you can eat - including deep fried Soft Shell Crab. NOM
Last Last Saturday Lunch: Garlic and Cheese Naan Bread, Chicken Tomato Curry, Chicken Tikka
Last Week Friday Night: Korean BBQ Ribs with Cheese
Last Week Saturday Lunch: Potato Wedges with Melted Cheese on Top
Last Week Saturday Dinner: Escargots in Garlic and Butter, French Onion Soup with Melted Cheese, Deep Fried Cheese, Lobster Bisque
Haha yes it is a lottttt of cheese - I am a huge cheese lover!
What are the impacts of these cheat meals on me you might ask? One thing - I am happier ,more relaxed, and people around me also enjoy eating with me a lot more. And that's it. My abs did not disappear, my belly did not get fatter - instead, I am seeing progress and positive results every single week because I am still eating healthy for over 90% of my meals through out the week and I still work out and exercise (and adding up the weights in resistance training) every week. Like the saying goes, you are not going to suddenly become fit and healthy because you eat ONE healthy meal, per week just like you are not going to become fat and unfit because of ONE (or two ;p) cheat meal a week (:
How do I deal with cravings throughout the week then? I find cooking and experimenting with healthy and delicious recipes help a lot. I know I am not one who can eat salads for every meal. I am too much of a foodie! One of my hobbies right now is to make and bake delicious and healthy food – it is fun and the food is so yummy! Such as my homemade guilt-free pizzas/ pancakes/ cheesecake/ french toasts and etc etc etc hahaa (recipes can be found at http://stayfitandtravel.blogspot.hk/search/label/Recipes). When all of your clean food is delicious, it is no longer that difficult to eat clean. I find it also useful to tell myself that, during the week I would push myself harder in order to ‘deserve’ the reward when the weekend comes!
Oh and another thing that I do is - I would add extra cardio such as one more HIIT the next day if I feel like I really had a big cheat meal and want to do something about it (other than throwing up).
I guess what I am trying to say is, cheat meal is not all bad. It can make your fitness journey and lifestyle a lot more sustainable and life more enjoyable! Of course, it is not a must and for those of you who never feel like a craving for unhealthy food - then you are one of the very few lucky ones (:
Hope you find this post useful to your fitness journey and stay tuned for more fitness related posts by subscribing to my blog!