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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Ustrzycki

Cheat meals and under/over eating

Originally I was planning on making this a YouTube video, but with all of the information that I obtained while I put all of this together, it made me realize that you would be watching me looking down at a sheet of paper almost the entire video. So instead of watching me reading the entire time, you get to read it yourself.

I feel like all three of these topics are similarly related so I figure I might as well compile them all into one post.

Let’s start off with cheat meals, refuel days, refeeds, reloads, carb-loading; whatever you want to call it. I prefer the terms either refeed or refuel, because when I have them, I don’t necessarily ‘cheat’ on my diet. You cannot cheat hard work, so don’t make it seem so.

In short, cheat meals are strategically implemented into programming to break weight loss/gain plateaus, fire your metabolism, and refuel your glycogen system. These aren’t something that I find absolutely necessary with all clients, not even for myself, so I don’t talk about them a lot. These are by no means a free pass to binge and completely ruin weeks and months of progress. We all know the term “eating one bad meal won’t kill you” but it’s also not going to advance your process, unless done at the proper time, as per a well laid-out plan. When consume cheat meals, the goal isn’t to get sick or food drunk. For the most part, there is actually a lot of skill behind planning a refeed day.

How does a cheat meal become properly placed in a program?

From my understanding, research and experience, this is what happens: your coach will put you in a caloric deficit throughout the week and then add in a cheat meal or a refeed day to make up for those lost calories from the week. So for example, say you’re eating 2,000 cals/day. Over 7 days that works out to be 14,000 calories. Say your coach creates a 500 calorie deficit each day over 6 days and tacks on those missed 3,000 calories to day 7, which is set as your refeed day. So at the end of day 7, you’re still at 14,000 calories. That’s just one way of setting it up. That’s the most common way that I know, but there’s many ways of going about it.

When a cheat meal takes place, there’s a few things to keep in mind. You need to ensure you’re drinking a lot of water (more than usual) because of the extra caloric intake; and if you’re someone who enjoys fast foods during a cheat meal, then there’s definitely going to be higher sodium levels in your choices.

For me, this isn’t something that I do often. I’ve actually very rarely had ‘cheat meals’ and have only properly had about 3 or 4 refeed days, which I would actually prefer not to do. Sometimes they’re just necessary and have to be done to reach your goals.

Ok, moving along to cheat meal’s cousin, over eating.

Indulging a bit here and there may not seem like a big deal in the short of things, but the effects of over eating are serious and can impact more than just your weight. While over eating is often made easy by society, the long-term costs outweigh the benefits of that extra bite, or two. Over eating may destroy your body's regular metabolic response, reducing your body’s abilities to fight viruses.

Sometimes it can be hard to resist temptation. Although there’s not ‘quick fix’ to over eating, using a food journal (I’m currently tracking all my meals in MyMacros+ - you can add my user profile: courtneyustrzycki) or hire a nutrition coach to offer some guidance. Additionally, you may need to seek professional advice or therapy if this is a serious issue that cannot be controlled. And now for under eating.

You would think eating less would result in less stomach fat. Unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily so. Eating less food than your body needs results in malnutrition. This can be in the form of vitamin deficiencies, protein deficiency and/or carbohydrate deficiency. Ultimately, this leads to starvation of the body. There are many pictures of people on TV literally starving with a round tummy. This is called kwashiorkor. Your body needs a wide variety of nutrients to keep it functioning. Just like your car, if you don’t fill up every once in awhile, you won’t be going anywhere. Your body works in a similar manner. If we don’t eat enough, stored fat can’t keep the body functioning. To lose weight, you do need to cut calories and/or increase activity. You need to continue to eat enough food to support your body’s functions and stay healthy. Under eating means you are starving the various parts of your body and they’ll eventually quit on you.

If your body isn’t getting enough food, you are going to be tired and your stomach growling and cramping may disrupt your sleep. Building and repairing muscle takes place during sleep, which can’t happen when there isn’t enough food to work with. You’re at risk for symptoms like kidney failure or heart attack. You will also suffer from mood swings and generally not feel well. Eating enough to supply your body with enough fuel will actually help you to lose weight. Adding exercise will help you lose that stomach fat. You’ll feel a lot better, too.

Under eating and over eating are almost equally as bad for you in the long run. Both over eating and under eating can be forms of eating disorders and shouldn’t be taken lightly, if it’s a frequent occurrence. Over eating can lead to diabetes or obesity, while under eating can lead to anorexia or orthorexia, an obsessive food disorder. Although it isn’t easy to admit you need help, there are definitely ways to get past these nutritional struggles.

If you have additional questions about cheat meals, under eating or over eating, you are more than welcome to email me, and hopefully I can provide you with answers or additional assistance.

"Eat to fuel your body, not to feed your emotions."

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