Do Cheat Meals Work?

Kristin Shaffer cheat meals

Cheat meals, and whether or not they are good for helping us to lose weight, is such a hotly debated topic.

I mean seriously I have overheard HEATED arguments on this, and shake my head every time.

And the reason is this…

‘Cheat meals’, ‘cheat days, ‘refeed meals’… whatever YOU want to call them.  Most of the time they refer to the same thing, even though they shouldn’t (we’ll get to that later).

I get a TON of emails from individuals about this very topic. One of the first things that they ask is: “Kristin, how do you feel about cheat meals? Can I have a cheat meal? Can I have a cheat day?” This is an interesting topic to me, so we’re going to dive into this a little bit.

First, the whole concept of ‘cheat meals’ is one that I STRUGGLE with that because just the word ‘cheat’ I have a problem with. The reason is because, when you’re getting on a CLEAN-eating lifestyle, when you’ve made that decision that you want to get into GREAT SHAPE, that you’re TIRED of being overweight, you’re TIRED of carrying all this excess fat, you’re TIRED of feeling like CRAP! All because that’s what processed foods and carrying a lot of excess fat makes us feel, we feel HORRIBLE. I’ve been there, I KNOW!

Read on or if you prefer, check out the video below where I dive into this topic.

We want to get into this clean-eating lifestyle and then we start thinking about having cheats. Well, think about THAT word. Who are you cheating? You’re CHEATING YOURSELF really! If you’ve had a problem with processed food, and in particular sugar (women in particular – we struggle with sugar.), you know what I mean. We have just a little bit, it turns into A LOT, and then it turns into weeks, months, and years’ worth. Most of us DO struggle with that kind of stuff. So, if we struggle with it already, if we’re going into a clean-eating lifestyle, and we’re thinking about the next cheat meal or about ‘treating’ ourselves – well, then we’re kind of rewarding ourselves with something that really hurts us in the first place!

I know this is an EXTREME example, so I’m prefacing that this is an extreme example, but that’s like an alcoholic saying, “Okay. I’ve been alcohol-free for a year now. I’m going to treat myself with a drink.” Again, an extreme example! I’m not trying to compare alcoholics to people that are addicted to sugar, but it illustrates a point that if we’re trying to reward ourselves with something that hurts us in the first place, that brought us to where we are today, I don’t think that’s a REALLY GOOD place to be in.

I think the better mindset is: if we have been on a clean-eating lifestyle and now we’re GETTING healthier, we’re reducing our fat, and we’re getting into better shape – we feel fantastic all the way around – isn’t that reward ENOUGH for us? Do we HAVE to have this mindset of rewarding ourselves with stuff that truly is harmful to us?  I mean the individuals, and this INCLUDES me, that struggle with sugar addiction.

I’m not talking about the individual that can have a Snickers bar and then that’s all they have. There are people out there like that, right? I’m talking about individuals LIKE ME, like MILLIONS of women and men that have a little bit and CANNOT stop. That’s who I’m talking about. So, I think that going into a clean-eating lifestyle, which I’m obviously a proponent of – that’s what I preach and teach – you HAVE to CHANGE YOUR MIND SET about what sugar is to you!

For me, as an example, SUGAR IS NOT A TREAT. It’s not a good thing. It’s a BAD thing for me because I know from DECADES OF EXPERIENCE, if I have just a little bit it’s really, REALLY hard for me to stop. So I treat sugar like alcoholics treat drinks. I try to AVOID IT as MUCH as I possibly can. That’s for me. If you’re an individual that struggles with sugar addiction, I would HIGHLY recommend that you look at changing your whole mindset about sugar and flour….because flour processes in the body very similar to sugar and it has the same effect, and we’re drawn to it very much the same way that we’re drawn to sugars!

I HIGHLY ENCOURAGE you to look at sugar completely differently, and in a different light. Arguably, a lot of people come to me and say: ‘Kristin, I see these athletes, these individuals, these fitness models, these bikini models showing themselves on Facebook holding up this candy bar and saying, Flexible dieting.’ You HEAR A LOT about flexible dieting right now. “If it fits my macros, I can eat some junk.” I want you to look at these individuals with a bit of a critical eye.

What they’re saying WORKS FOR THEM, no question about it. But, number one, these are individuals that have a rip-roaring metabolism. They are typically within the 9 percent to 15 percent body fat range already. Their METABOLISM is going like a FREIGHT TRAIN! So, if they have a Snickers bar, is it really going to hurt them? NO. If anything, it might help them a little bit because it kicks up their metabolism a little more. BUT for the AVERAGE, ORDINARY PERSON that has 20, 30, 60, 90 pounds of fat to lose, is that one Snickers bar going to hurt them? Probably…because they didn’t get that 90 pounds overweight by having Snickers bars occasionally. They GOT that 90 pounds overweight and, again, I’VE BEEN THERE so I can say this – I got that way by eating crap…a lot. I’d have a little bit and then it turns into a little more, and then it turns to a lot more.

If you have a lot of fat to lose and you’re looking at these fitness models – if they’re promoting this flexible dieting and If it fits my macros again, I’m NOT SAYING it doesn’t work because it can work…but you have to think about who that’s coming from. If you’re looking at somebody that lost 90 pounds through the flexible dieting, you CAN listen to them – but, again, maybe they don’t have the same kind of sugar issues that a lot of women and men struggle with.

I want you to look at that with a critical eye when you see those pictures of them!

For them, yeah, they can eat that kind of stuff. I CAN eat that kind of stuff the CLOSER I am to competition because; again, my metabolism is so fast. BUT when I’m not very far out from competition, or when I had a lot of weight to lose in the past, I COULD NOT HAVE DONE ‘flexible dieting,’ and, actually, EVEN NOW I DON’T. It’s NOT good FOR ME because it’s TOO EASY for me to just have a little bit and then keep going.

That’s my little ‘rant,’ if you want to call it that, about flexible dieting and the whole cheat meals! ☺

Before I close today, I want to talk a little bit about what re-feeds are. Some people intermix the two terms: re-feeds and cheat meals. Really, it wasn’t DESIGNED that way. Re-feeds are when you’ve been dieting for a certain period of time. You’re in a calorie deficit and you’ve done this for 3, 4, 5 weeks, whatever it is, and you take a day, usually a full day but maybe even just a meal, and you kind of replenish your calories with a lot of calories that day and it kicks up your metabolism.

The idea is not to replenish your calories with a whole bunch of junk or with a whole bunch of processed foods that don’t have any nutrients whatsoever. The IDEA was to REPLENISH your body with a whole bunch of HEALTHY, CLEAN FOODS – kick up the calories, and kind of trick your body into avoiding that starvation mode that I’ve talked about a lot.

That’s a refeed day, and I’m actually a proponent of that, but I’m only a proponent, again, if you’ve been eating completely clean for many weeks at a time, okay?

We’re not talking about 3 days I’ve been eating clean. I’m going to have a re-feed day if you do that you’re not going to drop pounds of fat. There’s ABSOLUTELY NO question about it. If anything, you’re GOING TO GAIN weight like that. But…if you’ve been eating clean for a number of weeks and you’re ready for a re-feed day to kind of kick your metabolism up again, to replenish some stores in your body, then – yeah, I’m a total proponent of that but do so with clean foods.

We’re talking about your sweet potatoes, yams, vegetables, and lean ground turkey breast. Maybe a LITTLE BIT lean ground beef and things like that, but don’t go crazy on the processed foods. AGAIN – if you’re anything like me (there’s a bunch of us out there!), if you have a little bit of sugar, a little bit of flour, it’s too easy to get going and continue on.….

And now that you’ve had an opportunity to hear my opinion, I want to hear yours!

Make sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments below.With love,


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Very well put! I will be looking forward to ordering your book!

  • Spoke the truth to my soul…..awesome video….do you with clients that have hypothyroid disease, celiac disease n allergic to beef, kale, dairy, eggs, n ginger….most bodybuilding have those foods as main staples….also how can contact you as I have tried via the contact me page and hasn’t worked for me yet…..

    • Stephanie thank you so much for contacting me! Since I’m not a physician I don’t work with individuals who have pre-existing medical conditions unfortunately. With love ~Kristin

  • I totally agree with you. I cannot cheat. once I start I can’t stop, that’s why I’m so out of shape.

    • Alice I’ve been eating super clean now again for several weeks and LOVE the way it feels. Fortunately with every day that goes by that I stick to clean eating it gets easier and easier. 🙂

      With love,

  • Kristin,

    Have watched you a lot and think your absolutely real and put out honest information! Your videos are an excellent reality check and reminder that other women (and men) go through the same things I do. Thank you for inspiring!

    Mary Method

    • Mary thank you SO much for your kind kind words!!! Wow that made my day!

      I appreciate you taking the time to let me know how you feel. Means the world to me.

      With love,


  • I just love your video. I was cheating myself by eating harmful processed, sugar, and foods that do not enhance my life. Retraining my taste buds, so when I want a sweet it is fruit. Keep up the great inspirational videos.

    • Thank you Hope! Oh that makes me so happy that you got some value from this. I’ll do my best to keep sharing important information.

      With love,

  • Excellent video!! I can’t cook (really) that’s why this is so important to a lot of us that DO NOT COOK!! And a crock pot is the easiest way to go. Thanks so much. By the way… should we always weigh out food in grams (not ounces)?

    • Thanks Faye! Yeah I LOVE LOVE LOVE my crock pot! I was just thinking today that I need to do more videos with clean crock pot recipes. Even though I’m okay with eating the same thing day in and day out, most individuals would like a little more variety. 🙂

      I think ounces are fine. I just use grams as that seems to be the weight standard for many foods.

      With love,

  • Great video.. only I’m not addicted to sugar.. I do drink sweet tea. Sugar..candy… not a big fan of.. salty stuff on the other hand.. I reach for salty crunchy. .

    • Stephanie!!!! I just sent you an email… :):)

      Salty stuff can be pretty addicting too. For some reason that never really did me in as much as sugar can. I think that may have to do with the way sugar spikes insulin levels, creating that “high” feeling. Salt does not have the same affect really. BUT, many salty products contain tons of flour and likely some sugars (like pizza for instance). So even though we think it’s just the salt we’re drawn to it actually may be the sugar effect as well.

      With love,


  • Great video!!!! Thank you for sharing!!!

    Susie Briggs

    • Thanks Susana! I appreciate you taking the time to let me know you enjoyed it. That inspires me to continue to produce content like this. 🙂

      With love,


  • Once sugary foods have “hijacked” your brain, it’s important to implement a recovery program with clean eating like a detox program for a drug addict. moderation or a cheat day is a moot point in full blown addiction, if you can’t control yourself.

    • Sugar is my heroin. I avoid it as best as I can. I do not keep any sweets at home.

      Only if I am invited for a party and someone serves me cake I would eat it. But only to be polite. And I am even scared to do that, in the hopes I will not go one with sugar at home.

      • What’s funny about that is I often refer to sugar as “cocaine” for me. We’re cut from the same cloth aren’t we… 🙂

        It’s so nice to know we’re not alone in our struggles. Thank you so much for sharing. :):)

        With love,


    • Great thoughts!

      With love,