Skip to main content

The study also found that over 50% of people indulged in at least one cheat meal.

The practice of briefly straying from your diet to consuming high-calorie meals was most popular among men and was linked to binge eating, compulsive exercise, and fasting behaviors.

More than half of male, female, and transgender or gender non-conforming participants indulged in at least one “cheat meal,” which is the practice of deviating from one’s established dietary practices to consume rich meals in “forbidden” calories to later return to previous eating practices, according to a recent study published in the Eating Disorders Diary.

Cheating at meals in the past 12 months was linked to all seven categories of eating disorder behaviors in women. It was linked to behaviors such as binge eating, compulsive exercise and fasting in men. Finally, in transgender or gender non-conforming people, it was linked to overeating and binge eating habits.

“Research has not fully explored eating behaviors thought to increase muscle and leanness, such as cheat meals,” says lead author Kyle T. Ganson, Ph.D., MSW, assistant professor at the faculty of Factor-Inwentash Social Sciences from the University of Toronto. Work. “This is particularly important given the popularity of cheat meals which is well documented on social media. We needed to explore whether there are any associations between cheat meals and the psychopathology of eating disorders.

Ganson and his colleagues looked at data from the 2021-2022 Canadian Adolescent Health Behavior Study, which involved about 2,700 teens and young adults.

Additionally, their research showed that men were more likely than women to participate in cheat meals.

“Cheat meals were conceptualized and promoted within the male bodybuilding and fitness communities. As a result, the men in this study can strategically use cheat meals to catalyze muscle growth,” says Ganson. “Similarly, in women, the use of cheat meals may be used to prevent or reduce binge eating episodes or alleviate cravings for restricted foods.”

While all cheat meals included high-calorie foods, there were substantial disparities in the types of cheat meals enjoyed by men and women. Men reported eating more protein-rich meals, while women ate more dairy, salty, and sweet foods.

“Healthcare professionals should be aware of the prevalence of cheat meals among adolescents and young adults and the sanctioned nature of these behaviors in fitness communities and on social media,” says Ganson. “Future research should continue to conceptualize these types of eating behaviors and their implications for public health.”

Reference: “Characterization of cheat meals among a national sample of Canadian adolescents and young adults” by Kyle T. Ganson, Mitchell L. Cunningham, Eva Pila, Rachel F. Rodgers, Stuart B. Murray and Jason M. Nagata, August 6, 2022, Eating Disorders Diary.
DOI: 10.1186/s40337-022-00642-6