Pros and Cons of Cheat Meals: To Cheat or Not to Cheat?

cheat meals with purpose

If you’ve only just heard about the concept of a cheat meal, it’s the idea that you stick to a strict diet six days a week and have a cheat meal (or even a free day) where you can eat whatever you like. 

While some fitness gurus and celebrities swear by their weekly cheat meal (Dwayne Johnson has often shared images of his lavish cheat meals), others believe they undo all the hard work you’ve done throughout the rest of the week. Unfortunately, there isn’t a definite scientific answer, it’s just whether or not you believe the pros outweigh the cons for you. 

That said, let’s dive into the pros and cons of eating cheat meals. 

Pros of Eating Cheat Meals 

  • They give you a time to cheat – you’re less likely to fall off the wagon on a Wednesday afternoon if you know you can eat whatever you like on Friday night. 
  • Offers an element of flexibility – if you don’t religiously have your cheat meal on a specific day of the week you have some freedom to grab takeout on that night you’re getting in late after a hard day. 
  • Bad food will start to make you feel gross – ever heard of a food hangover? If you religiously eat great and eat badly one night a week you’ll probably feel pretty sluggish and bloated the next day, which will help reinforce your love of healthy foods. 
  • Satisfy the cravings – most of us have a sweet tooth (or maybe a grease tooth!) and deprivation doesn’t always fix it. 
  • Stops you getting sick of your meals – if you’re on a strict diet you likely eat a lot of the same foods over and over. A cheat meal gives you a break from that. 

Cons of Eating Cheat Meals 

  • If you don’t go into it with the right mindset it may be your downfall – it needs to be your one cheat meal, not a downward slide to a bad diet. If you’re not strict, it may be the latter. 
  • They can evoke guilt or fear that you’ve ruined your hard work – which may or may not be true, depending on your goals, what you eat, and your body. 
  • Can create a culture of binging and deprivation – while the theory of this is good for the body, our mental relationship with food can suffer. 

Should I Eat Cheat Meals?

Whether or not you use cheat meals as a tactic in helping you achieve your health and fitness goals is up to you – you need to know yourself and your emotional relationship with food. If you know you have control over your eating habits or that if you deprive yourself completely you’ll struggle, cheat meals can work extremely well. If you have struggled with emotional eating before, you may need to be wary of using cheat meals as a tactic.