Are Cheat Meals the Way to Go?

Is it better to be strict daily and allow a cheat day, or follow an “everything in moderation” approach?


Cheating on your diet.  A little bit of everything, so long as it’s in moderation. 80% Paleo. Vegan before 4 P.M.… What?


It’s hard enough following a proper Paleo eating regime without adding cheat days and “everything in moderation” approaches.


Let’s start with cheating. The mere word conveys whichever approach it is you’re trying to follow is so rigid, it couldn’t possibly be executed with a little wiggle room… or a lot!


So must it be all or nothing?  Isn’t there something to be said for being partly Paleo? Yes, but after a period of time. 


Here’s the deal: if you don’t at least give real, unadulterated Paleo a shot for at least three or four weeks, you won’t really know if it ‘worked.’


As cliché as it may sound, you need to allow your body at least a brief period of time to transition away from sugar, wheat, dairy, soy and all the other stuff that’s so typical of the Standard American Special.


Then, if you choose to, you can opt to test things that are not Paleo and let your body’s reaction be the determining factor of whether or not that particular food is a good idea for you to consume or not.


And there’s your answer.


I believe we’d all be best not eating grains, dairy or legumes, simply based on being aware of the physiological ramifications of consuming them. However, I also feel being partly Paleo is probably better than following the “everything in moderation” approach.


It’s not to say that I’m changing my tune and suggesting we should include bread and milk once a week, or pretend Paleo treats everyday are a good idea.  Rather, in the big picture, if going from eating gluten, dairy and sugar regularly to eating it rarely is part of your own journey to getting Paleo, so be it. That’s fantastic!


It doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as you arrive.


The body can, over time, begin to heal, get less inflamed, and hopefully as you begin to feel better and better, the urge to eat the not so healthy stuff begins to dissipate. Which is precisely why I have an issue with “everything in moderation.”


“Everything” could run the gamut from the occasional piece of cake at a wedding to candy to fast food… you get the idea. So where’s the harm in that?


Arguably, for some people, maybe this is an approach that fits, but I’d venture to guess more people tend to fall into the category of not being able to do “everything” in moderation.


Take white sugar, for example. How on earth can it be a good idea to have just a little of something that has been found to be more addictive than cocaine?1 And when you stop to consider just how many food byproducts contain the white stuff, it becomes hard not to ingest it, unless you’re already following an eating approach, like Paleo, the Autoimmune Protocol, Whole30, or the like in which you’re avoiding anything processed to begin with.


Ultimately, each individual needs to find their own balance of what to eat, how each food makes them feel and when, if at all, eating a not so healthy option is a good idea now and then.


If you’re been Paleo for 30 days and choose to eat a piece of pizza, then wake the following morning with a migraine from the gluten and bloating from the dairy, you can decide if it was worth it. Over time, these trial and error experiments will lead you down the path to find your perfect eating balance, and that balance in and of itself can change over time, too.


Simply put, do your best to create a clean slate to start by implementing a true Paleo regime and test foods to see how your body responds. You’ll eat accordingly, and I’d venture to guess, eat cleaner than you were before.


Would you knowingly eat a piece of rotten fish that had given you food poisoning the night before? Hopefully not. So, why eat bread when you know gluten will result in a headache, a bellyache or sore joints?


Go back to basics; eat food and move!




[1] “Is Sugar More Addictive Than Cocaine?” Here Now RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 May 2015.