Do "cheat meals" work?

Welcome to the positive corner of the internet. Here’s a daily digest designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes....

Welcome to the positive corner of the internet. Here’s a daily digest designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes. If you were forwarded this message, you can get the free daily email here.

Today’s Health Upgrade

  • Member of the week

  • Do cheat meals work?

  • Recipe of the week (Overnight oats)

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Member of the Week

You might remember Dave Danna, who has been inspiring everyone with his weight loss journey and positivity. I promised that once he got under 300 pounds, we’d feature him again. He did it, and we’re going to do the same when he hits 250. Congrats Dave!

How does it feel to get under 300?

Seeing the scale start with a "2" was a bit of an emotional moment for me last week. It's been years since I've been below 300 and it's been 10 months of work everyday to get there. It was both a marker of how far I've come and how far I have yet to go. Hitting 100 pounds of weight loss in 10 months was also a huge boost to my mental health and motivation. It showed me that this slow and steady approach without doing a fad or crash diet and without hours of cardio a day is working and is getting me closer to my goals and closer to my dreams.

How did you celebrate? I tell everyone to enjoy it before getting back to work.

I had a wedding to attend in Philly the weekend after hitting 100 pounds down, and that weekend was also my graduation from grad school. I celebrated by taking an extra rest day from the gym and had a Philly cheesesteak while I was in Philly. But honestly, I'm too excited about the next 100 pounds of weight loss to take off more than that. I'm learning a ton, enjoying the journey and the process, but I've got a lot of work ahead of me and a lot more to learn.

How are your Pump workouts going? I want you getting stronger as you drop weight.

For the first 7+ months of my 10 month weight loss and health journey, I only did cardio in the gym. I was 400+ pounds walking into the gym alone last year having never been in a gym before. I was scared of injuring myself and I was embarrassed I didn't know what I was doing in the gym as a 30-year-old man. And I was extremely disappointed that I had let myself get so obese. In the last month, I've been working my way through the foundation Pump workout series. I've done over 1,200 reps and lifted over 80,000lbs so far.

Laying out the workouts with short video clips in the same place I track my progress lets me learn at the gym in real time and hands on as I'm doing the workout. It gives me the confidence to do more strength training as I know I'll be able to watch someone demonstrate it with proper form and technique and then see my progress as I repeat and add weight over time. I'm not just on a weight loss journey, I'm on a health journey and I want to make sure I build my physical strength and my mental strength as I lose the 200+ pounds in total weight I need to lose. Up until the Pump app and foundation workout series, I wasn't sure how I was going to do that and I was concerned that I didn't have the knowledge to do it on my own. I'm very grateful the pump app launched at the same time I started incorporating strength training into my workouts.

Deep Dive: Do Cheat Meals Work?

We don’t love the term “cheat meals” because — as you’re about to find out — there’s nothing about them that’s cheating, and there's no reason to feel guilty. The very idea that you can’t enjoy dessert or occasionally have indulgences misses the bigger point of health. After all, we’ve told you before about Arnold’s love of Kaiserschmarrn, a pastry that his mother used to make. As we mentioned above with Dave, it’s important to celebrate your wins. You don’t build a routine successfully without celebrating.

Even though cheat meals are a part of diet mythology, do they really help you lose weight?

Researcher’s compared people who followed a typical diet of eating the same thing daily to those who followed the same diet, but once per week doubled their caloric intake. The scientists called it “planned hedonic deviations.” We just call it finding time for a really good meal. Those who enjoyed the bonus meal reported having an easier time sustaining their motivation and self-control around food, compared to those who never got the break. Just as important, those who snuck in the bonus meal lost a similar amount of weight, despite the weekly indulgence.

There are two great lessons.

  1. Following super restrictive plans make it harder for you to stick to the plan.

  2. If you have the occasional meal that doesn't have any health benefit, there’s no need stress or overcompensate.

If you’re not convinced, scientists tested what happens when you fast after a feast. It’s a common dietary belief that after a “cheat day,” the best move is restriction to balance out the surplus. As you just learned, doubling your total daily calories once per week had no impact on weight loss. If that wasn’t enough, research suggests that even if you fast for two days, you’ll only “boost” your metabolism by 3.8 percent. On a 2,000 calorie diet, that means you’re burning approximately 76 calories. Do you think it’s worth starving yourself for two days for a measly 76 calories? We don’t. And if you fast longer (3 days), research suggests that your metabolic rate will actually decrease.

When you eat a lot of food, stop punishing yourself. That mindset does far more harm than good. It creates a bad relationship with food, can make you unnecessarily avoid things you love, and take drastic steps to undo the “damage” that didn’t even occur in the first place.

If you fall off the wagon or just want the a nice meal out, eat, enjoy, and then return to your normal eating the next day. The way to better health is not accomplished by following a path of perfection and restriction. It’s about staying on a path of consistency.

Recipe of the Week: Peanut Butter Banana Overnight Oats

It’s Adam. I’m giving Daniel a week off from his typical role as village chef. This week, I’m sharing a recipe from my new book, You Can’t Screw This Up. When you pick up a copy, you'll learn the 5 tools for better health, access to many simple, delicious, healthy recipes, and you can also win a workout with Arnold.

Today’s recipe is one of my staples because it takes about 5 minutes to prepare and is loaded with protein and fiber. And if you’re always in a hurry in the morning, it’s perfect as a grab-and-go meal. Meet peanut butter banana overnight oats.

Prep time: 5 minutes


1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

3/4 cup milk of your choice

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter

1/2 banana, cut into small chunks

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 scoop whey or plant protein powder


1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl or mason jar and mix well. That’s it. I couldn’t come up with much simpler instructions if I tried.

2. Cover and refrigerate overnight. (Technically, it needs to chill for two and a half to three hours before the oats achieve a good texture.)

3. Eat the next day…or two and a half to three hours later. Yes, it’s that good. So good, in fact, you might make this every day.

Give it a try, and let us know what you think!