So, you were good all week long. You met your protein needs and ate all your veggies and you didn't go over your calories at all. You deserve a cheat meal! If you answered with a, "Hell Yeah I do!", then this probably isn't the first diet you have been on and it probably won't be your last. The correct answer is a big nope. Especially if the last endeavor was the previous weekend.
First, let's talk about the name. I don't like the term cheat meal because it implies what you are doing is wrong and if it tastes so good how can it be so bad? Right? Having a positive relationship with food is a very important aspect of health that gets overlooked constantly and many diets fail for this reason alone. Punishing yourself with excessive exercise or with excessive calorie restriction (or a combo of the two) after your pizza and beer is not the answer so don't do it! Now there are foods that are most definitely healthier than others and that should make up the large majority of your diet but occasionally veering off course shouldn't be called "cheating". It's called living. No one expects you to live off of baked chicken, broccoli, and rice forever so relax. The rules, however, do change a bit if you have a goal in mind or you have hired someone like myself to get you to a certain body fat level or to look and feel a certain way. If your mantra on days that you workout is, "Treat Yo Self" then your taste buds and your brain need a good 8-12 weeks of the healthier options. If you are shooting for that 10-12% (for men) or 16-18%( for women) body fat then you shouldn't see a cheeseburger or a meat lovers pizza for a long, long while. Going off script and getting jiggy with a bacon cheeseburger may give you a nice mental break from the repetitive healthy menu you have created but it's not doing anything for the old waistline.
What you need is just more calories! Some times the best solution is the one slapping us right in the face and if you are starving and can't get donuts off the brain then maybe you aren't eating enough in general. Here are some simple rules to follow to insure you don't go (do) nuts next time hunger calls:
1. Increase your protein( from food sources) Protein is the most satiating of the macro nutrients. Go for the leanest sources you can find so your fat intake doesn't creep up.
2.Increase your veggies. Double up on the fiber and feel twice as full!
3.Increase your water intake. If you're not drinking enough water then you could be mistaking thirst for hunger.
4. Have a day where you stick to your healthy menu but you eat more. It depends on how low your calories are and how long they have been that low but a high calorie day could be anywhere from one and a half to 3 times your current intake with the majority of those calories coming from carbs. I would suggest some squats or deadlifts on this day but if that's not your cup of tea then make sure you do something that could potentially build muscle.
5. This is the fun one. Give in to the dark side and eat the damn cheeseburger, but make it yourself. Choose lean meat,weigh out your patty so you can calculate your protein and fat, add tons of veggies and grub down. When you make it yourself you can actually make it fit( for the most part) in your macro nutrient requirements which is a total win-win.
I hope this helps for anyone foaming at the mouth for a "cheat " meal but if you can't hold on any longer and it has to be done then enjoy the hell out of it. Just don't beat yourself up over it so much so that you abandon ship and go on a pub crawl fast food style. Bask in the greasy glory of whatever you have decided to devour and then get on with your life!