Cheat Meals Linked With Eating Disorders

Cooking Healthy meals

If someone you love frequently indulges in ‘cheat meals’, this could be a sign they are suffering from an eating disorder, according to a recent study. 

Findings from the University of Toronto were published in the journal Eating Disorders recently, which showed those who deviate from their typical eating practises for a calorie dense meal that they deem ‘prohibited’ before returning to their normal diet are more likely to have an eating disorder.

Women who have engaged in ‘cheat meals’ during the last year had a greater chance of having any of the seven types of eating disorders, while men were more likely to binge eat, compulsively exercise or fast.

Lead author Kyle T Ganson, assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, stated: “Cheat meals have been conceptualised and promoted within men’s muscle-building and fitness communities.”

He also noted: “Similarly, among women, the use of cheat meals may be used to prevent or curtail binge-eating episodes or alleviate cravings for restricted foods.”

Dr Ganson purported there needs to be further research to understand the association between cheat meals and eating disorder psychopathology. 

However, the recent study managed to show that ‘cheat meals’ for men consisted of foods higher in protein, while women indulged in diary, salty and sweet foods instead. 

“Clinical professionals should be aware of the common occurrence of cheat meals among adolescents and young adults,” Dr Ganson added. 

While most people associate eating disorders with adolescents, a recent report by researchers at King’s College London revealed they are just as likely to begin over the age of 18, with 52.7 per cent starting to binge eat, 57.5 per cent falling to a low weight, and 39.3 per cent purging for the first time in adulthood. 

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Published: 10 September 2022