The Problem with Cheat Meals


Nothing makes me whip out my best fake smile faster than responding to someone who justifies an indulgent food choice by labeling it a “cheat meal.” I mean, to each their own but a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. Read: No matter what you call it, it’s still a meal with little to no nutritional value and a surplus of calories.

The Problem

My problem with cheat meals isn’t the indulgence, in fact, I’m in full support of indulging REGULARLY. Instead, have a problem with the negative feelings and consequences that usually follow.

  1. They fuel the toxic cycle of consumption, guilt, and obsession
  2. One “cheat meal” usually leads to another and uncontrollable binging

In a world inundated with Whole30, Paleo, keto, and other sanctioned diets categorize foods as “good” or “bad” that you “can” or “can’t” eat. And that’s fucked up.

Don’t get me wrong, some foods are most indeed bad for you, and when steadily and regularly consumed will contribute to poor health and weight gain, but that isn’t what we’re talking about right now.

I’m talking about changing your attitude with food and have a new relationship with indulgences to avoid binging, yo-yo dieting, and disordered eating.

The Solution

But it’s not that easy. Most of us feel guilt over eating without even knowing it; our self-conscious will default with guilt. I would be lying if I said I didn’t struggle. So how do you do it?

  • Make sure the majority of your calories are from whole, clean, fresh foods
  • Keep your total caloric balance in check INCLUDING your indulgences. We achieve either weight maintenance or weight loss by caloric totals, specifically a deficit, plain and simple
  • Indulge in moderation, moderation meaning less than 15-20% of your daily calories should come from dessert or junk

A few months ago, I posted an Instagram story that I was about to dig into a bowl of ice cream. One of my followers responded, “Liar.”

Completely taken aback by her bluntness, I honestly didn’t know how to respond. After I had a second to process the accusation I was really sad that being healthy and fit and ENJOYING foods that bring you joy appeared to be mutually exclusive.

I have a RAGING sweet tooth and have to end the day with something sweet. I look forward to it, and I LOVE it. So I plan for my desserts or treats in my daily meal prep and meal planning. When I track and manage my calories, it accounts for a scoop or two of ice cream, a cookie, or piece of chocolate. My typical consumption (before pregnancy) was around 1560-1800 calories, which allowed me to indulge in roughly 315-350 calories WHILE MAINTAINING A DEFICIT. People, do you know what that means? I had my cake, ate it and enjoyed my six-pack of abs too.

The devil is in the details and in the portions you eat. Keep that magic ratio (80% whole foods, 20% indulgence) in mind, and you’ll be in a position to meet your goals while you enjoy your life.

Related Articles


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. The best line you have ever written…”People, do you know what that means? I had my cake, ate it and enjoyed my six-pack of abs too.”
    So much YESSSSSS!

  2. Great article! I have a question about the calories you consumed before your pregnancy. You are in great shape and working out hard, why did you maintain a deficit? This is not a judgment, but I hope to get to a place where I am no longer doing a deficit but am maintaining. Thank you!

    1. After pregnancy and when my milk supply established, I dieted to return to my pre-baby weight. If you need advice on maintenance search “maintenance” or “maintaining” in my search bar for a few articles!