8

votes

Do 'cheat meals' cheat us?

Asked on May 14, 2016
Created July 31, 2011 at 4:34 PM

As I move along with paleo/ primal food ways, and enjoy them, I try to keep up with the latest thinking on both PH and Mark's Daily Apple. I find it odd that some people talk about "cheat meals", the ingestion of "forbidden"/SAD foods. Why would we want to "cheat"? This makes the whole effort seem like a diet rather than a life's food way, like, if we're good we can eat the "good stuff" once in a while. OK, I can see that if I was given a piece of home baked birthday cake I would sample it a bit. But to me, it is not "cheating", it is a "planned slip-up":), or a "walk on the danger side" in that grains and sugar are not part of my food ways anymore. Do "cheat meals" cheat us?

5de2fffda92c0bf2be7ede10cad55546

(1781)

on August 02, 2011
at 11:45 AM

EXACTLY!!! Finally someone said it. ""you can cheat on a diet, you cannot cheat on a Lifestyle"" Once you have been eating like this for a while you just feel less and less like eating rubbish any more. I liken it to a documentary I saw years ago on heroin addiction. Long term addicts, if they survive the early years, end up giving up. They just seem to get sick of the whole rigmarole and stop using of their own volition. I feel the same about rubbish "foods", I just can't be bothered with them.

3dc940ac9be21e45cf83207814c8cd46

(544)

on August 01, 2011
at 02:34 PM

Olivia, I really enjoyed your "before coffee" post, and agree with your observations re food-like substances everywhere. I also find that everyone has different cravings, or not (me being in the latter group), and that people need to cope somehow. Your point re taste buds hit home for me a couple of days ago, when I made chokecherry juice and found it sweeter than before. Karen, you have hit a spot that makes sense to me.

3dc940ac9be21e45cf83207814c8cd46

(544)

on August 01, 2011
at 02:22 PM

Thanks Jay, for the above comments. I like the term "planned indulgence".

1a98a40ba8ffdc5aa28d1324d01c6c9f

(20378)

on August 01, 2011
at 02:21 PM

I like to call it splurge...

3dc940ac9be21e45cf83207814c8cd46

(544)

on August 01, 2011
at 02:16 PM

I enjoy reading people's comments. And I agree that having non-paleo foods once in a while is fine. I myself have a bit of non-paleo ingredients in dishes while out, once in a while, although I do not have sweets, grains, legumes and starchy foods. Another friend said she cannot leave occasional ice-cream behind, and I understand. The only thing I find, and perhaps it is only semantics, is the use of the term "cheat", because of the "diet" picture it conjures in my mind. It also suggests that what I do have is lacking goodies.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on August 01, 2011
at 02:08 PM

Cheating is actually helping me overcome my binge disorder. Saying I'll never cheat creates internal panic; saying I won't cheat until next Sunday and then I'll have one vanilla cone is calming. The payoff comes if I eat the cone and instead of a 4,000 calorie binge I just go home and follow my usual routine for another week.

3dc940ac9be21e45cf83207814c8cd46

(544)

on August 01, 2011
at 01:58 PM

Hmmm...I agree with this for sure. The only thing is the use of the word 'cheat'. Can we not just be paleo/primal with the occasional foray into non-paleo, iffy territory?:)

3dc940ac9be21e45cf83207814c8cd46

(544)

on August 01, 2011
at 01:53 PM

It would be great to find other ways to describe non-paleo eating and foods. I like your point in the second paragraph. I find that is I were out with friends and said, "Today I am going to cheat with what I eat", people would automatically assume I am on a "diet". This is a life-long food-way for me. On the other hand, I do not go nutty if something is cooked with a bit of added non-paleo in it, although I try to avoid his. Finding good, real food is my main thing. Example- no bacon due to nitrites...

3dc940ac9be21e45cf83207814c8cd46

(544)

on August 01, 2011
at 01:41 PM

I too have had this type of hangover, when I have tried some dairy.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on August 01, 2011
at 12:41 PM

What concerns me about "loosening the white-knuckle grip every so often" is that if done regularly, people never lose that "white knuckle grip" and fully learn to enjoy paleo eating. They continue to see it as deprivation rather than enjoyable and full of flavor in addition to the health benefits.

560821f3e7352455c3ebc2283d424f2e

on August 01, 2011
at 06:02 AM

Great point about food being available all the time. Plus events and day to day life are so food centred these days. Eh it's Friday at work...let's have cakes. Also people snack more than ever.

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on July 31, 2011
at 07:35 PM

Exactly Andi. I do think that for some it's not the way to go but I think most of us need the ability to "break" at least for one meal. No way could I do this day in and day out without it. No matter how much I love my paleo food I need a bit of flexibility and a bit of naughty. The best of both worlds IMO.

095ef76482234d3db444b77d7ed01c29

(2755)

on July 31, 2011
at 07:07 PM

cheats just let me finish first at only 180lbs against some bigger, stronger, drug assisted bodybuilders who's diet is way too heavy in protein, way too low in fat, and way too high in carbs, especially grains... but that's the easiest way for them to gain muscle. My way (our way but with occasional CHEATS) left me better balanced, symmetrical, and actually more fit and leaner than they were.

095ef76482234d3db444b77d7ed01c29

(2755)

on July 31, 2011
at 07:06 PM

^^^ This. I actually learned this years ago from bodybuilders. Give your body the forbidden things on occasion. Rare instances won't hurt most of us, they help keep us sane and on track the rest of the time knowing that it's not the "same old thing" over and over forever. I actually do "safe starch" carb loads most of the time. But occasionally, that toxic burger with bun and fries...or that breakfast out with a waffle and syrup... does no harm and keeps me on track because I'm satisfied with it and get right back to where i want to be. BTW...my ancestral diet combined with once a week

7d0c3ea9bf8be00b93e6433d8f125ac3

(7540)

on July 31, 2011
at 05:09 PM

That's true and I hadn't considered that at all, maybe because I didn't come to paleo needing to lose a bunch of weight. Good point.

B58511bcd1ecc0dd4ad8130859513c81

(430)

on July 31, 2011
at 05:03 PM

uugh I had some licorice and popcorn last night at the drive in (planned), and now I have a "food hangover" feeling this morning, headache and all. YUCK!

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13 Answers

best answer

14
98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

on July 31, 2011
at 05:19 PM

Actually planned "cheating" is what ultimately saved me. Learning how to allow myself the enjoyment of off-plan foods in an effective way is what allowed me to finally lose and maintain my 170 lb weight loss over the years. I have lost 100 lbs more times than I care to remember always adhering perfectly to my food plan. Then the pressure became far too great and I would go off the deep end. Not only did I fall but I didn't know how to pick myself back up. Once I figured out this pattern I found a way to allow off plan eating into my overall plan and it eliminated the need to crash and burn as I had done so many times before.

I just think it's completely unreasonable to expect that people will never want or need to eat foods that are not on their chosen food plans. Optimal health is just a means to an optimal life but not the only factor involved in achieving that best life. Barring disease or ailment that would make ingestion of off-plan foods a health crisis (celiac, auto-immune, etc) I see nothing wrong and really everything right with constructing a diet that allows one to eat clean most of the time but to choose to eat other foods at one's own discretion if doing so enhancing our pleasure and overall happiness. For me the cost of perfection is far too great and my quality of life suffers and so does my ability to manage my weight. No thank you.

I do think, however, that it can be dangerous for some to do this until they are firmly entrenched in their healthy eating plan. I think there is some level of skill involved in leaving plan for a moment then getting right back on it the very next time you open your mouth to eat or the minute you are home from vacation, etc. I do think we should talk about the possible dangers involved more because it seems many get tripped up not realizing how hard it can be to resume the food plan after deviating. Still I believe this is an important and invaluable skill to acquire in order to create an eating plan that is flexible enough and enjoyable enough to last a lifetime.

095ef76482234d3db444b77d7ed01c29

(2755)

on July 31, 2011
at 07:07 PM

cheats just let me finish first at only 180lbs against some bigger, stronger, drug assisted bodybuilders who's diet is way too heavy in protein, way too low in fat, and way too high in carbs, especially grains... but that's the easiest way for them to gain muscle. My way (our way but with occasional CHEATS) left me better balanced, symmetrical, and actually more fit and leaner than they were.

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on July 31, 2011
at 07:35 PM

Exactly Andi. I do think that for some it's not the way to go but I think most of us need the ability to "break" at least for one meal. No way could I do this day in and day out without it. No matter how much I love my paleo food I need a bit of flexibility and a bit of naughty. The best of both worlds IMO.

095ef76482234d3db444b77d7ed01c29

(2755)

on July 31, 2011
at 07:06 PM

^^^ This. I actually learned this years ago from bodybuilders. Give your body the forbidden things on occasion. Rare instances won't hurt most of us, they help keep us sane and on track the rest of the time knowing that it's not the "same old thing" over and over forever. I actually do "safe starch" carb loads most of the time. But occasionally, that toxic burger with bun and fries...or that breakfast out with a waffle and syrup... does no harm and keeps me on track because I'm satisfied with it and get right back to where i want to be. BTW...my ancestral diet combined with once a week

3dc940ac9be21e45cf83207814c8cd46

(544)

on August 01, 2011
at 02:16 PM

I enjoy reading people's comments. And I agree that having non-paleo foods once in a while is fine. I myself have a bit of non-paleo ingredients in dishes while out, once in a while, although I do not have sweets, grains, legumes and starchy foods. Another friend said she cannot leave occasional ice-cream behind, and I understand. The only thing I find, and perhaps it is only semantics, is the use of the term "cheat", because of the "diet" picture it conjures in my mind. It also suggests that what I do have is lacking goodies.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on August 01, 2011
at 02:08 PM

Cheating is actually helping me overcome my binge disorder. Saying I'll never cheat creates internal panic; saying I won't cheat until next Sunday and then I'll have one vanilla cone is calming. The payoff comes if I eat the cone and instead of a 4,000 calorie binge I just go home and follow my usual routine for another week.

best answer

4
1a98a40ba8ffdc5aa28d1324d01c6c9f

(20378)

on July 31, 2011
at 05:57 PM

A cheat meal will differ for each person. It may be one where you eat farmed salmon. Or something that may have been cooked in vegetable oil. Or perhaps not grass feed beef. It could also mean eating sugar.

If you have a meal with your biggest client or with your bosses bosses etc... It may not be ok to fast that meal. However you select the most paleo thing on the menu and enjoy.

So as you get more and more paleo the cheats get more subtle...

1a98a40ba8ffdc5aa28d1324d01c6c9f

(20378)

on August 01, 2011
at 02:21 PM

I like to call it splurge...

3dc940ac9be21e45cf83207814c8cd46

(544)

on August 01, 2011
at 01:58 PM

Hmmm...I agree with this for sure. The only thing is the use of the word 'cheat'. Can we not just be paleo/primal with the occasional foray into non-paleo, iffy territory?:)

best answer

7
66974b2cb291799dcd661b7dec99a9e2

(11121)

on August 01, 2011
at 05:07 AM

This is not a diet, religion, cult, etc :) It is a healthy Lifestyle. Diet implies restrictions & rules, this leads to what people refer to as 'cheating' you can cheat on a diet, you cannot cheat on a Lifestyle. In a Lifestyle we make bad food decisions, accept the consequences and carry on. I just put myself in the food mind set of someone living maybe 15,000 years ago and I eat what I would recognize as real food and ignore everything else, if I chose to eat unhealthy food no big deal, life as we know it does not end, just accept if for what it is and move on, no guilt, no self induced mind games, etc.

5de2fffda92c0bf2be7ede10cad55546

(1781)

on August 02, 2011
at 11:45 AM

EXACTLY!!! Finally someone said it. ""you can cheat on a diet, you cannot cheat on a Lifestyle"" Once you have been eating like this for a while you just feel less and less like eating rubbish any more. I liken it to a documentary I saw years ago on heroin addiction. Long term addicts, if they survive the early years, end up giving up. They just seem to get sick of the whole rigmarole and stop using of their own volition. I feel the same about rubbish "foods", I just can't be bothered with them.

7
7d0c3ea9bf8be00b93e6433d8f125ac3

(7540)

on July 31, 2011
at 04:54 PM

My thoughts are- call it a cheat or call it a "planned slip-up" but they're the same thing. You're indulging in a food you don't normally eat (because there are a variety of good reasons not to) but still enjoy eating. Whether it's bad for you or not is really individual and depends on how you react to less than optimal foods. I can eat bread once a month and I feel fine. Someone with an autoimmune disease, probably not.

In our food environment it's necessary to put quite a bit of thought and control into what we eat if we don't want to become sick and fat; there's such a ridiculous amount of food available ALL THE TIME and most of it is terrible for us. As we all know we're just not adapted to that kind of food environment, our brains included. So while some people find paleo eating effortless, other people will feel like they have to consciously avoid temptation and still desire foods they "shouldn't" eat, and there's nothing wrong with, you know, loosening the white-knuckle grip every so often and eating some cookies or whatever. Not everyone loses their tastes for old favourites once they've been Paleo for a while, even though I think most of us find our taste buds readjust and a lot of stuff tastes far too sweet.

Also, it's the same annoyingly sanctimonious thing anyone who pays particular attention to what they eat will say: "It's not a DIET, it's a WAY OF EATING" Then I imagine the person rolling their eyes and sighing with pity at every Atkins dieter, WW points counter, calorie counter, low-fat eater, etc. All of whom would say exactly the same thing if they were asked about their food. I think it's just a way for a group of people to feel superior to everyone else. 'Cause they're dieting, which is stupid, but we're enjoying a different way of life, which sounds awesome. I mean, I get the desire to distance Paleo from the Cabbage Soup diet and shit like that, but in the end I think it's sort of petty and beside the point, unless you have personal issues with the word "diet" conjuring up a panicked reaction of "I can never eat this again!" and then freaking out and bingeing. Which is one of the problems a cheat every so often can help avoid.

I apologise for the rambling answer, posting before coffee is always risky :)

3dc940ac9be21e45cf83207814c8cd46

(544)

on August 01, 2011
at 02:34 PM

Olivia, I really enjoyed your "before coffee" post, and agree with your observations re food-like substances everywhere. I also find that everyone has different cravings, or not (me being in the latter group), and that people need to cope somehow. Your point re taste buds hit home for me a couple of days ago, when I made chokecherry juice and found it sweeter than before. Karen, you have hit a spot that makes sense to me.

560821f3e7352455c3ebc2283d424f2e

on August 01, 2011
at 06:02 AM

Great point about food being available all the time. Plus events and day to day life are so food centred these days. Eh it's Friday at work...let's have cakes. Also people snack more than ever.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on August 01, 2011
at 12:41 PM

What concerns me about "loosening the white-knuckle grip every so often" is that if done regularly, people never lose that "white knuckle grip" and fully learn to enjoy paleo eating. They continue to see it as deprivation rather than enjoyable and full of flavor in addition to the health benefits.

3
3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 31, 2011
at 05:06 PM

To Olivia's answer I would say that words have power. When you consider what your doing and tell people its not a diet that its a lifestyle then your in the right mentality to make it so. Only our learned response and preconceived notions of the term "diet" make this distinction important. Diets are short termed and aimed at one thing...weigh management. Eating, nutrition, and lifestyle changes are carry an inherent recognition of other health factors and the intention that what your doing will not stop once you reach a "goal weight". So there is that.
And to the OP I see the point being that cheating is like falling off the wagon with no preplanned recovery. In that case you could continue to slip. On the other hand planning an indulgence just recognizes that you feel the need to do so, and I do the same. About one meal a week me and my family go out to eat and I just order whatever I want, sometimes its not really all that "off track", and sometimes its pizza :)

3dc940ac9be21e45cf83207814c8cd46

(544)

on August 01, 2011
at 02:22 PM

Thanks Jay, for the above comments. I like the term "planned indulgence".

7d0c3ea9bf8be00b93e6433d8f125ac3

(7540)

on July 31, 2011
at 05:09 PM

That's true and I hadn't considered that at all, maybe because I didn't come to paleo needing to lose a bunch of weight. Good point.

2
1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

on August 01, 2011
at 05:20 AM

When I say cheat, I usually mean I'm having something that isn't low carb (which is the style I'm doing right now) but is reasonably acceptable as far as paleo/primal/archevore go. Or has one unacceptable ingredient. For me that's a once a month bowl of vietnamese pho (rice noodles and possible msg,) or some ice cream. So I suppose it would be more accurate to call it a planned compromise that kicks me out of keto for a day or two.

I still completely avoid grains.

1
0266737ea1782946902fd3f8e60fa0b9

(2504)

on February 21, 2012
at 04:54 AM

I think some of this conversation is about language and attitude. If I call something a "cheat" it implies that there is no space for me to have choice about what I put in my mouth-that I have to be perfect.

It's much better in mind to CHOOSE what I put in my mouth, even if it's not on the paleo program I have chosen for myself. I like the attitude that says "I choose to enjoy this" rather than the shameful attitude of "I am a cheater and I shouldn't be doing this"--if I'm going to eat something, I want to enjoy it, whether it's on plan or not.

1
0d3873eb2dd0447baf06139e75c10252

(600)

on February 21, 2012
at 04:41 AM

I feel like there are 2 cheat categories for me.

1) Indulgences like really dark chocolate, or a rich creme brulee that are high quality, high fat and lower sugar. I have one and am completely satisfied.

2) Very sugary things like candy, or high starch like a croissant, which opens up the hellmouth and releases all the little sugar demons inside of me chanting MORE MORE MORE.

I think I just really don't handle sugar well. I never noticed it before I started eliminating carbs, but they really don't seem to be food so much as anti-food. Instead of satisfying my hunger or my craving, they always make me feel hungrier or have worse cravings than before I had any at all. So for me I just have to know which things I can keep as sensible vices and which things I have to let go of completely. It's a process, sometimes I don't like to believe the results either :)

1
Medium avatar

on February 21, 2012
at 02:26 AM

I see the issue differently. To me, it's more like a "diet" when you cannot, dare not, must not, ought not, diverge from "approved" foods in any way for any reason. I have said before that I take exception to the word "cheat" to describe such divergences. I eat Paleo 95 percent of the time. Yet this past weekend, I nibbled on a Starbucks blueberry oat bar. Following day, couple handfuls of trail mix that included raisins (something I seldom eat) and M&Ms (sometime I almost never eat). I felt no particular effects during or after, no sleep problems, no elimination issues. Main thing: I enjoyed the tastes. But not enough to want (or "need") to repeat it. I believe most self-improvement oriented people are hardier and more resilient than they tend to think. Life is to be enjoyed, though I am keenly aware that many people enjoy worrying. Different strokes...

0
485ca42edb56048edb0c119e267aa1e5

on September 15, 2012
at 05:16 PM

Since I'm underweight, eating paleo for me is a lifestyle and a choice for health, not a diet. Sometimes I treat myself to something not quite paleo. A glass or two of wine with my sweetie, a single square of decadent dark chocolate, organic popcorn popped in coconut oil with kerrygold throughout. Totally not cheats. Cheating implies doing something bad. Having a special treat now and then is not bad. I know the consequences, weigh the risks and make choices. It's about taking responsibility for my own health.

0
319cdfcd8ec0467f34a3c5aeb2a5e045

on February 21, 2012
at 05:55 AM

I do a "cheat weekend after a whole 30+ (so I can time it for special occasions like travel) and It's actually very helpful.

  • eating the forbidden stuff I used to like doesn't taste that good. I'd rather be nomming unsweetened baking chocolate or cocoa nibs. I was a already a dark chocolate fiend so the unsweetened was surprisingly easy to adapt to!

-It's a look at why I should avoid sugar, wheat and dairy because it makes me feel like mammoth poo. By the time I've recovered, I'm working on a paleo version that I always wind up liking better ( like pot stickers wrapped in broth-steamed cabbage instead of won-tons- labor intensive but tasty!) So in the end, I use my cheat days to get material for new paleo recipes :D

0
B2ff8c08f574615ae69e58ca4459eaac

(15)

on February 21, 2012
at 01:36 AM

I have had planned indulgences about 3 times in the last six weeks and have either enjoyed them or learned something from them. I have learned that bread really isn't worth it anymore...I had serious gastric upset both times I indulged. I have had a couple of desserts and they were completely worth it. I guess my answer would be to make sure the indulgence is worth it to you. Really choose something you will love the taste, texture and feeling of eating.

0
1b322bcee2a4ca5488629a66b3fd3c22

(110)

on August 01, 2011
at 03:02 AM

I agree this going paleo thing has altered my view of cheat meals. When I was on a specific diet (body for life, south beach, etc) I would always stare at my watch waiting for cheat day. I would suffer through bland-tasting food or "meals" that were 200-400 calories so I could have 6 of them (not once got full btw).

Now, I love eating paleo so much that I always want to find a different way to describe it. I guess it is "cheat" since that's what everyone else knows, but I also hate when they say "are you still on that diet?" I'm like no... it's just how I eat most of the time. Usually my "cheat" comes when I'm at lunch or dinner out at a restaurant with my fiance on the weekend. It's not really planned, but I'll look at the menu and if I haven't slipped for at least a week or two, I'll order what I feel like. I do still enjoy pub fare despite my deeper knowledge of food. Hey, twice a month won't kill me. (will it? LOL)

3dc940ac9be21e45cf83207814c8cd46

(544)

on August 01, 2011
at 01:53 PM

It would be great to find other ways to describe non-paleo eating and foods. I like your point in the second paragraph. I find that is I were out with friends and said, "Today I am going to cheat with what I eat", people would automatically assume I am on a "diet". This is a life-long food-way for me. On the other hand, I do not go nutty if something is cooked with a bit of added non-paleo in it, although I try to avoid his. Finding good, real food is my main thing. Example- no bacon due to nitrites...

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