Ben­e­fits of cheat meals

Why in­dulging from time to time could be good for your health

Western Times - - TASTE - ALANA WULFF

NO, YOU’RE not dream­ing. The truth is, hav­ing the odd cheat meal might ac­tu­ally be the key to main­tain­ing a healthy life­style. But it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber this con­cept doesn’t mag­i­cally make junk food healthy. In­stead, the no­tion is born from the idea that it may pre­vent the binge eat­ing that of­ten arises from re­stric­tive di­ets. Ac­cred­ited di­eti­tian and nu­tri­tion­ist Me­gan Leane ex­plains why it’s OK to break the diet … ev­ery once in a while.

Is it bet­ter to in­dulge in a cheat meal from time to time rather than deprive your­self 24/7?

So-called “cheat meals” are a sin­gle mealtime where food choices are more re­laxed and of­ten larger than what would or­di­nar­ily be eaten. It’s ab­so­lutely fine to in­dulge in dif­fer­ent foods and eat un­til you’re full from time to time. In fact, this in­creases com­pli­ance know­ing the re­stric­tion will end at a cer­tain point in time. How­ever, if you’re de­priv­ing your­self too much, a cheat meal can eas­ily be­come a slip­pery slope for overeat­ing. I pre­fer to ed­u­cate my clients on how to in­clude in­ter­est­ing foods and eat to sat­isfy the ap­petite on a daily ba­sis.

What hap­pens when we’re su­per strict all the time — does this have a spe­cific im­pact on our minds?

Food and mood are closely linked. We know chronic calo­rie re­stric­tion in­creases the stress hor­mone cor­ti­sol, mak­ing it not only more chal­leng­ing to con­tinue do­ing so but also much more dis­tress­ing to ad­here to.

Are there phys­i­cal or men­tal health ben­e­fits to a cheat meal?

There are ben­e­fits in the sense of re­prieve from con­stant re­stric­tion. Eat­ing more will de­liver more nu­tri­ents to help re­fuel the body and the brain. We also know con­tained pe­ri­ods of el­e­vated food in­take can in­crease our hunger hor­mone lep­tin, which will help to con­trol ap­petite.

Should we call cheat meals ‘cheat meals’?

The word ‘cheat’ in­fers we’re do­ing some­thing wrong and cre­ates anx­i­ety and guilt around these meals. Friend­lier terms in­clude “refeed” or a “re­fuel” meals.

What’s the big­gest mis­con­cep­tion when it comes to cheat meals?

They’re most of­ten used by peo­ple who are too re­stric­tive in their eat­ing. This is highly likely to lead to an episode of overeat­ing, or a long du­ra­tion of con­sum­ing junk food. This can be risky for men­tal health with in­creased anx­i­ety, guilt and feel­ing of fail­ure.

How of­ten can we ‘cheat’ if we want to main­tain a healthy and bal­anced ap­proach to food?

It all comes down to how big a cheat meal is. A sin­gle serve item is best, so there are no left­overs and the por­tion will not re­sult in feel­ing over­full – some­thing like a cho­co­late bar or a sin­gle burger. A sin­gle serv­ing will be ap­pro­pri­ate once or twice a week and won’t im­pact greatly on long-term weight loss. If your cheat meal is sub­stan­tially larger, such as a whole pizza, it would be best to do so no more than fort­nightly. For more ex­pert tips, visit life­style.com.au.

Thurs­day, Jan­uary 3, 2019 west­ern­times.com.au

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