To Cheat or Not to Cheat – The everlasting dilemma of having a cheat meal

Dr. Priyanka Marakini

September 14, 2020

Is it cheat day yet? That’s a question you should be asking yourself.

You may say that no nutrition expert in their right mind will ask you to look forward to your cheat meal. As we all know, the cheat meal route is a very slippery slope. This reminds me of the slogan used by Pringles “Once you pop, you can’t stop”.

If you notice I have mentioned ‘cheat meal’ instead of ‘a cheat day’. I always advise my clients to cheat on one meal on a particular day rather than on all the meals on one particular day. It can be once in a week or a fortnight. When you go on a diet you are trying to get your body to form a habit of living healthy.

The two main reasons why you should cheat on a meal and not on an entire day are as follows.

  • To begin with, you are training your body and mind to eat small healthy portions of food.  Loading your body with a lot of indulgent food all at once will overburden it. The transformation here is psychological. The trick is to eat limited amounts slowly. This is when the 20-minute principle gets applied, that is, it takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full, eating too quickly may lead to overeating. There are two advantages to eating slowly; not only will you savour the taste but will also eat only how much your body needs, thus, leaving you satisfied in spite of eating only a small portion.
    Small Portions
  • Next, you should decide whether you want to have a cheat meal to satisfy your craving or just to eat larger portions. Since your body is tuned to eating smaller quantities, overloading it with bigger portions all of sudden will disrupt the weight loss process that is already underway. As a result of this, you will find yourself going back to your old habits instead of developing the new one.

How does a cheat meal fit into the weight loss equation?

When you are following a certain eating pattern, your body will initially start exhibiting changes because it is adapting itself to something new. Once your body gets used to this pattern you stop seeing changes. This is called ‘reaching a plateau’. In order to disrupt this stagnancy, you need to have at least one cheat meal.

How do you break the plateau?

Eating foods that you usually wouldn’t eat will help because your body experiences sudden changes. Your body reboots itself when you have a cheat meal, which is why you may notice that on getting back to your slightly altered diet, your body starts changing once again. Stress hormones also play a part when it comes to settling your body constitution. You can balance out the effect of these hormones with the occasional cheat meal.

What’s the right way to have a cheat meal?

Having a cheat meal doesn’t necessarily mean you go out and about with what you eat. This is the time to indulge in some rich food. Here are some pointers that you can follow to plan out your cheat meal.

  • Try some homemade snacks like samosas instead of eating outside. This way you can ensure that the oil used is fresh, thus, causing no harm at all. Another option would be to try baked versions of your favourite snacks. 
  • When you want to eat out, order something that you usually wouldn’t prepare at home. For e.g., have a heavy starter and skip the main course and dessert.
  • If you have a sweet tooth the above pointer will not help you, what you could do is directly skip to dessert or treat yourself to a heavy milkshake or a smoothie. 
  • In order to ensure that you don’t overeat, have a bowl of salad before you head out for your cheat meal, this way your stomach is half full and your mind will not run amok when you take a look at the menu.
  • If you have an invitation to a dinner party where you may indulge in the occasional drink or two, ensure you even it out with what you eat during the course of the evening
  • Pre-plan your cheat meal and preferably have the it for breakfast or lunch, since dinner is rather crucial. But if you do want to have the meal at dinner, ensure you have it early in the evening. 

Last but not least I would like to reiterate on the fact that having a cheat meal, instead of a cheat day will also help you keep your daily calorie count in check along with the above-mentioned benefits. A meal planned well in advance will enable you to have a guilt-free cheat.


So go ahead and enjoy that delicious chocolate sundae or that plate of garma garam homemade pakoras!

Looking for the best Indian diet plan for weight loss? Our coaches can help with a customized plan. 

About the Author

The holder of a Bachelor’s Degree in Naturopathy and Yogic Sciences, Dr. Priyanka has more than 7 years of experience in the field of health and wellness. Currently serving as a Sr. Nutritionist at HealthifyMe, she specializes in Weight Management, Lifestyle Modifications, and PCOS, Diabetes, and Cholesterol Management. In addition to being a Nutritionist, Dr. Priyanka is also a Fitness Enthusiast and a certified Zumba instructor. A strong believer in eating healthy, she is certain that the right kind of motivation can help an individual work wonders in their lives.

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4 responses to “To Cheat or Not to Cheat – The everlasting dilemma of having a cheat meal”

  1. It is really hard for me to control my mind for having such delicious items. Yes but when it comes to health, one should try to avoid and cheat self.
    Thanks for sharing such a nice info.

  2. Good and informative article. Just now I had a cheat meal, it was a coincidence that i had a bowl of salad and had some swees.

  3. With my experience, i can say that there’s absolutely no problem with having cheat days when u r on a weight loss program. I used to have 2 cheat days every month. I ended up losing almost 20 kha successfully. Now I’m in perfect shape.

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