When it comes to lifestyle, consistency is key. Eating the right foods, pursuing steady levels of exercise, and continually pushing our bodies to the limit keeps us moving towards our health goals. It sounds good to be “on plan” all the time, right? You know what sounds even better?

Cheat meal.

That sweet (or savory) (or carb-y) treat that lets off some lifestyle steam on a regular basis gives us something to look forward to in our eating plan. On the flip side, we can go overboard with these indulgences, slowing our progress towards those health goals of ours. For me, Thanksgiving is like cheat meal Armageddon for me every year: so many calories! With cheat meal often comes guilt for going off my meal plan, fearing that I’ve messed up this week’s progress.

Today, I’m going to share 3 little tips that will keep your cheat meals in line and cravings in check:

1) Obey the 90/10 rule.

Focus on strict intake compliance for 90 percent of the time. In other words, you’re on your program–whole foods, low carb, high protein, whatever–for nearly every drink and meal of your week and 90 percent of your calorie intake. If you need a simple eating plan, I wrote about one for you. Luckily, this strict program gives you an outlet along the way: pick 1-2 meals to indulge yourself during the week (or give 10 percent of your calorie intake). (The Ripped Dude speaks out on 90/10 eating). Before you get all carried away with the tasty goodies, though, make sure you follow tips 2 and 3.

2) Make your cheat meal fit into your calories.

Here’s where we have to be cautious. Your weekly indulgences need to fit within your daily calorie intakes in order to be effective. This means that cheat meal needs to be counterbalanced by either a caloric deficit on that day or offset by additional calorie burns (hello, cardio!). See, you can have what you want, so long as you’re willing to pay the price for it. Is this meal or treat worth the extra effort? Tip #3 will help you answer that question.

3) Plan your indulgence.

Delayed gratification is the backbone of your eating habits. A great way to do this is to schedule your cheat meal or treat so you plan your day around it. This also plays in with the post on why Monday makes the best weigh-in day. By delaying your indulgence until a time that you picked in advance, you can plan the cheat choice accordingly. Figure out what you want most this week over what you want right now.

Baby Steps

Create a menu of your favorite cheat meal items; put everything on there that really strikes your food fancy. Check your calendar and see which 1-2 times during the week work well for these indulgences. Skip the weekends if you can; cheat meals tend to throw off our weigh-in on Monday. Schedule your cheat meal for those times and prepare for additional calorie burning or offsetting on those days. Let your menu and your patience guide you on what to indulge in and when. At the proper time, enjoy your cheat meal wholeheartedly, knowing that your discipline 90 percent of the time earned you this 10 percent of pure tasty pleasure.

For more tips on transforming your body one “baby step” at a time, be sure to Follow me on Facebook or Twitter, check out my blog archive, or send me a message.

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