Why you need to include cheat meals

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When it comes to dieting and weight loss there are two kinds of people – there are those who follow their diet so rigidly that they rarely if ever allow themselves to eat a little more, or treat themselves and then there are those who cannot follow any kind of diet for any extended period of time. The interesting thing about weight loss is that it is actually good for the body to have periods in which calories are not overly restricted. To translate this into real life it means that there are actually benefits to including cheat meals (please note not cheat day!) into any strict dietary regime you are trying to follow. While it may go against everything you have been led to believe about weight loss, here are the reasons why a regular cheat will actually help with your weight loss goals.

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1. It helps to reduce feelings of restriction

One of the main reasons that diets fail is that any feelings of dietary restriction – both actual calorie restriction or psychological restriction eg feeling like you are missing out, or not able to eat the foods that you want to drives more attention to the exact foods you want to be avoiding. This attentional focus in turn makes it more and more difficult to stop eating, or specifically to stop eating the foods you want to be avoiding. Once you can actively add in occasional treats or meals that you can look forward to, it is much easier to stick to your baseline diet.

2. It allows you to factor in social events and special meals

At any one point in time there are a number of social occasions and celebrations in which food is a big focus – a birthday meal; big party or special work event in which delicious food and drinks will be on offer. Following a diet in which these occasions can be accounted for makes dieting in real life much easier.

3. It ensures you get to eat what you like and feel like at times

Sometimes you really, really feel like a burger and fries. Now the more you try and not eat a burger and fries, the more you will think about that burger and fries. When your diet factors in a meal or two each week in which extra calories can be consumed, it in turn allows you to enjoy the best burger and fries you can find, occasionally so you can move on and forget that burger and fries.

4. It tells the body it is not starving

While strict calorie restriction will work initially, extreme restriction over time will ultimately see the loss of muscle mass and a reduction in metabolic rate. When a cheat meal is regularly consumed (once or twice each week) research shows that it actual helps to optimise fat metabolism as it basically tells the body that it is not starving. It appears that an occasional intake of extra calories in times of restriction tells the body it is ok to keep burning body fat. This means that you may actually NEED an occasional cheat to support long term weight loss.