For the majority of us, to achieve and maintain a lean physique or sustain fat loss, it requires work: intentional eating habits that are in alignment to your personality, a dedicated workout regimen, adaptability and self compassion. You don’t live in a vacuum with controlled meals and settings, you live a dynamic life with celebrations, events and social gatherings that revolve around food.
Can you still enjoy an indulgent meal without negating your fat loss and fitness progress? Absolutely.
In fact, you should. Food is meant to be fuel and wholeheartedly enjoyed. The next time you are going out to enjoy meal out with friends, participating in happy hour, or attending a birthday dinner, you can experiment with these strategies:
- Track your macros/calories/ Practice IF
Plan your cheat meal. Bank your calories. Being diligent about your meals that day and saving your calories for your reward meal allows you to enjoy the meal guilt-free, without compromising your fitness progress. Various methods include: tracking your macronutrients and/or counting your calories, practising IF (intermittent fasting), or just eating vegetables and protein throughout the day. Find a method that works for you.
- Drink water
I am a big advocate of water. I like to save my calories for food, not for beverages. Unless it’s wine, then I’ll have some. But rest assured, if I’m enjoying an alcoholic beverage, I am double-fisting it with water. Water helps with the flushing of sodium (if your meal salty), which will keep your bloat to a minimum and keeps your belly full.
- Work out
Earn that meal. Performing a strength workout, a hard cardio session or a high intensity interval training workout the day of your cheat meal (even more so just before your meal), not only do you burn a lot of calories and raise your metabolism for several hours post-workout, but you deplete your energy stores (i.e. muscle glycogen). And those glycogen stores need to be restored for muscle repair and better performance for your next workout — Enter carbs; hello breadbasket. Win-win.
- Be selective
Only commit to foods that you are truly going to enjoy. Don’t mindlessly eat the appetizer simply because it is there if you are not going to enjoy it. Save your calories for that hearty pasta dish, or the decadent dessert you have been craving. Make it count, and allow your tastebuds relish in your choosing.
- Enjoy the meal
Be present with your food, slow your eating and savour the taste, and enjoy the company you are sharing your meal with. Try to practice an abundance mindset – that there more delicious meals that like in the future; no need to scarf it down or overindulge. Eat until you are satisfied, stop before you get uncomfortably full.
What strategies work for you when planning out your cheat meal?