When I first counsel a new client about the changes they need to make to their diet in order to lose fat, the usual response is ‘you mean I have to give up chocolate/ice cream/coffee creamer/apple pie/French fries/alcohol/insert your own gastronomic addiction here?’
‘Yes‘, I say, ‘and no‘.
‘Yes‘, because you cannot continue to consume your favourite high sugar or high fat food frequently and in whatever quantity you like and expect to lose body fat.
And ‘no‘, because denying yourself the occasional indulgence makes it psychologically difficult to stick to a healthier way of eating for more than a week or two.
The trick is to quickly satisfy the desire and immediately get back on track without feeling guilty or angry or ashamed with yourself.
Enter the ‘cheat’ or ‘treat’ meal. (I prefer the term ‘treat’ because it doesn’t have the negative implications that ‘cheat’ does).
Once per week, have a meal where you give yourself permission to eat your favourite ‘forbidden’ foods. Have bread and dessert with dinner. Enjoy a glass of wine. Eat until you feel satisfied, but not full. Leave the table with no regrets and return to your healthy, fat-loss nutrition plan at your very next meal.
‘Treat’ meals are best enjoyed in the company of others. Eating is a social event. Plus, you’re likely to consume less of your ‘treat’ foods with friends and family present than when alone on the couch, watching TV.
Don’t let poor planning or laziness rob you of an enjoyable ‘treat’ meal. Continue to plan your menus for the week, taking into consideration social outings and busy work days. Arriving home late from work, with no dinner plans and an empty fridge will undoubtably result in a ‘cheat’ meal (takeout food, frozen pizza, half a bag of Oreos), taking the place of the ‘treat’ meal you had planned for later in the week.
‘Treat’ meals only work when you’re on track with your fat-loss nutrition plan the rest of the week. In fact, they may even increase fat loss by resetting your body’s hormonal hunger signals. Why?
“Your body is designed to efficiently seek out high-calorie foods, including fat and sugar, whenever you begin to regulate food intake….eating [foods other than high-fibre, high-protein], specifically carbohydrates, one meal a week works to circumvent the body’s natural food-regulating behaviors” (from The New ME Diet by Jade and Keoni Teta)
My ‘treat’ meal for the week? Saturday night dinner with my family at The Boathouse Restaurant. Forgot the camera (shocking!) so descriptions will have to suffice!
Dinner started with a glass of white wine (Mission Hill Pinot Grigio) and a slice of the house sourdough bread (still warm from the oven). I chose two starters (only because I wanted a bit of everything) for my main course; crab cakes with lemon aoli (on the side) and a small wild greens salad (with carmelized almonds, cranberries and asiago). I shared a slice of berry cheesecake with hubby and son #1 (who ordered off the children’s menu, but quickly ate his small portion and begged everyone else to share some of their dinner!).
I left the table feeling satisfied and a bit full but not stuffed. A great ‘treat’ meal made even better by the fact that somebody else cooked it! (I did, however, have to pick up the tab…). Tomorrow morning it’s back to my regular eating plan; lots of veggies and fruit, lean protein with every meal, limited starchy carbohydrates and a modest amount of healthy fat.
Do you use ‘treat’ meals to help keep you on track with your eating plan?
What’s your favourite ‘treat’ meal?