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Building a Better Cheat Meal

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Building a Better Cheat Meal


A Better Plan to Having Your Cake

And Eating It Too


For many people, the start of their weight loss journey is a two-step process. 


Step #1: commitment to start a new diet


Step #2: pursuit of the fabled “cheat meal.”


As we discussed in a previous article, it is helpful to view the cheat meal question as a signal. It may be a prompt to indicate a poor fit between the diet approach and the well-intentioned dieter.


But still, even the best-matched approach with the most dedicated dieter can still have the space for more freedom and spontaneity through a “cheat meal.”


In this article, you’re going to discover how you can structure your “cheat meal” to maximize benefit and minimize the downside through three simple ideas. 



Rethink the Language


To start with, it’s helpful to think of cheat meals as planned exceptions. Not only is it a far more positive sounding phrase, it’s also a more accurate idea. 


When you’re contemplating a cheat meal, you’re looking for a time to reengage with previous enjoyable behaviors that weren’t helping you make progress on your fitness goals. 


Instead, you want to proactively utilize a smart deviation from your plan in an effort to improve long term consistency. 


So, “planned exception” is a much more appropriate phrase than “cheat meal.”


This change in language leads us directly into our next point. 





As we shared in a previous article, stating the time and place of a particular behavior drives success rates through the roof. 


You can use that same structure here to your benefit. 


Even at the risk of being redundant, these planned exceptions should be planned. When it is planned, you have something to look forward to that can help support your consistency in the meantime. 


Without those details, a planned exception could easily slide into a day or even a weekend worth of “exceptions.” That extended exception could erase the caloric deficit that’s necessary for you to lose weight. 


Fortunately, that leads us to our next point. 



Limited Timeframe


Defining the when and where of your planned exception should shape it as a limited experience, but it’s still important to highlight this point. 


Your deviation from your plan should be limited. 


This is where details matter. When you’re planning your planned exception, be specific. 


A poorly structured planned exception would be: “I’m going to have my cheat meal this weekend.” That’s far too vague and that ambiguity could lead to poor execution of that “cheat meal.”


It would be far more advantageous to bring more specific details to the planned exception. 

“I’m going to have my planned exception when I go out with my husband on Friday night to our favorite restaurant.”


That puts some constraint on the boundaries of the planned exception. Those boundaries bring clarity to the situation. That clarity brings with it a sense of control.


Simply clarifying the details of your planned exception puts up guide rails that set you up for success. 



Limited Access

The more accessible an option, the more likely it will be taken. This is about shaping your environment to support your goals. 


If for example, you have no apple pie in your house, it’s quite difficult to immediately indulge in apple pie. 


If however, you do have an apple pie cooling on your countertop, it is a massively larger temptation. 


The same idea can apply to your planned exceptions. 


If your planned exception is a meal out, don’t bring home the leftovers. They’ll be calling your name from the fridge for the rest of the weekend. Better to voluntarily restrict your access by not bringing the leftovers home. 


If your planned exception is a meal at home, aim to buy the minimum supplies you need to make that planned exception a reality. 


If the planned exception was to enjoy a serving of your favorite candy, then buy the single serving bag. Don’t buy the 5 lbs bulk version because those treats will be calling to you from the pantry. It greatly increases the chance that you’ll have unplanned exceptions. 


Shaping your environment to support your fitness goals makes your fitness journey easier and lets you retain more bandwidth to address other areas of your life. 


Planned exceptions can be a useful tool on your weight loss journey if you use them correctly.


Implement these few ideas into your particular indulgence to support your long-term consistency and progress on your unique journey.


And to sum it up…The Summary:

  • It is helpful to mentally reframe your “cheat meal” as a “planned exception”

  • Scheduling the “when” and “where” of your planned exception gives you clarity and something to look forward to

  • Limiting the duration of the planned exception prevents it from become an entire day or weekend of exceptions

  • Shaping your immediate environment will dramatically support your efforts to stay consistent between planned exceptions. 


One Sentence Takeaway:


Proactively defining some constraints around your planned exceptions makes them a tool to support your weight loss journey. 

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