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First of all, I hate calling it a ‘cheat meal’ because that phrase wraps it up in guilt before you even get a chance to enjoy it. I prefer to refer to them as ‘treat meals’.
Whichever name you like to called them, this little guide will help you get back on the wagon quickly after bathing your tastebuds in your treat of choice and curve your body away from suffering the consequences too badly.
Prepping before a Cheat Meal
If you take care of your body 90% of the time, 10% of fun and play is not going to ruin the positive results of healthy habits. The most important thing I can emphasise is feeding your body the nutrients it needs to keep your digestive system working optimally.
This begins with gut health and making sure you have enough good bacteria. Two basics that contribute to this are prebiotics (found mainly in vegetables) and probiotics (mainly from fermented foods).
If you have a good balance of these, when you feed your body with more processed or sugary foods, the effects won’t be as bad because the good bacteria can stop the bad bacteria (which feed off the unhealthy foods) from over-growing. It will also lessen the suffering if you eat anything you’re mildly allergic to.
I take a liquid probiotic supplement daily, eat tons of vegetables and consume fermented foods whenever I can. My digestive system is strong, so I allow a treat meal here and it’s easier for me to bounce back without ruining all my efforts to be healthy the rest of the time.
Tip: Dose yourself with probiotics before and after a cheat meal so you body can recover quickly.
During a Cheat Meal
Everyone has a different definition of a cheat meal. For me it is a meal that I eat purely for taste (or texture), where I usually eat to nourish my body.
There will always be consequences so it’s a personal choice whether you engage in this or not.
To eliminate most of the damage but still allow yourself to enjoy it, plan the meal before hand. Don’t go crazy at the buffet. The point is not to consume as much as you can. The point is to enjoy an indulgence.
Eating until it makes you feel sick and disgusted is no treat at all. Decide on something you want and enjoy each mouthful.
Tip: Don’t overeat. Stop when you feel full.
After a Cheat Meal
Cheat meals will typically contain lots of processed foods which contain sugar and other toxins. To minimise the amount of toxins that the body will absorb you can take activated charcoal which binds to the toxins. This allows the toxins to pass through the body without being absorbed.
It will lighten the bloated feeling you may get after eating processed carbs or other inflammatory foods. There are no bad sad effects of consuming activated charcoal. It is a natural detoxifier that you can take anytime you experience digestive discomfort.
Tip: Take 500-1000g of activated charcoal 2 hours after eating a cheat meal and follow it with drinking a lot of water the rest of the day.
Timing a Cheat Meal
You know you’re going to make your body work extra hard when you consume a cheat meal. Time it so that most of the recovering can be done before you go to bed. This will help you sleep better and speed up the recovery process.
If you can, allow yourself time to exercise after a cheat meal. If you’re eating out with friends go dance your ass off afterwards. Ordered a pizza to eat with Netflix on the couch? Challenge yourself to a 7 minute HIIT workout between episodes. After a heavy lunch, take a brisk walk around the neighbourhood.
This is not to burn off the calories you just consumed – I don’t believe in that notion. It’s to allow your muscles to burn up the sugar you consumed and get your blood sugar levels back to normal. This is especially important if your body’s not used to consuming a lot of sugar. It can be a real shock to the system!
Tip: Don’t go to sleep straight after the meal and find a way to fit in some activity to normalise your blood sugar.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
If you maintain a healthy lifestyle 90% of the time and you’re keen on having a cheat meal, DO IT!
It’s ok to indulge and be a little naughty. It’s not ok to feel guilty and punish yourself afterwards.
Tip: Enjoy it guilt-free!