Are Cheat Days Killing You?


So, I’ve been making healthier choices and watching what I eat since last Fall. Lately, I have been watching what I eat alright… watching the Oreos and chocolates go from hand to mouth! My willpower is zapped and I have even gained 6 pounds back from all the weight I had lost. How did I fail? Are you in the same dilema?

You’ve been committed. You’ve made healthier life choices. You have even started to feel better. It’s about time you can have a treat for all your diligence and hard work. You’ve earned it.  You think you deserve a gold star… or that piece of cake that’s calling your name. Maybe you even think you deserve a day off—a designated “cheat day.”

But are “cheat days” a good idea? Do those days of indulgence truly help you reach your health goals? Or do they set you up on a seesaw of destructive eating habits?

Go Ahead And Reward Yourself

You’ve stuck to your guns knowing your cheat day is right around the corner. Giving yourself a day of indulgence is giving yourself a needed break from your diet. These cheat days are a relief valve that help you adhere to healthier foods. They replenish your willpower —willpower you’ve used to keep yourself from those forbidden foods. So to reward your constraint, it helps to have one scheduled day (or meal) per week where you’re allowed to eat some of the junk food you’ve been dodging. When you give yourself a moment to toss out all the rules, it’ll satisfy your cravings, replenish your depleted willpower, and, could even increase your production of the hunger-dampening hormone leptin while boosting metabolism.cupcake

No, Stick With It

“The very phrase ‘cheat day’ sets up enjoying a meal as something forbidden,” says Sondra Kronberg, R.D., executive director of the Eating Disorder Treatment Collaborative. “Separating foods into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ categories encourages you to associate eating with guilt and shame.” This means that instead of enjoying everything we eat, we feel bad about ourselves when we eat something we consider “bad.”

When I deem a food to be “bad” I begin to obsess about it. I’ll have my cheat day all planned out and buy a whole bag of chocolate to indulge in. Defining it as bad doesn’t really help me since I obsess over it.

The “good” foods have their own hidden dangers that can damage our calorie total for the day. Since they are healthy for us, we think we can have more of it. Portion control just flew out the window. Sayonara! When I was a kid and would tell my mother after dinner that I was still hungry, she would tell me to eat a can of green beans. the thought being that they were healthy and so I could eat all I wanted. Not so fast! That can of green beans is loaded with sodium and still has about 70 calories.goal

Caloric Overload

There’s a very fine line between a cheat day and a free-fall into food binging, especially if you’re “white-knuckling it during those other six days of sticking out a meal plan you don’t particularly like,” says Ryan Andrews, R.D., author of Drop The Fat Act and Live Lean. Once that day of indulgence comes, it’s not about enjoying the foods you haven’t had all week. Instead, you’re approaching it out of a need to devour all you can before the day goes away. “It feeds into a feast-and-famine cycle,” Andrews says. This damages the overall caloric total for the week. In the end, it doesn’t matter if your totals were under your caloric goal for six days if your cheat day turned into a binge that not only blew your caloric goal out of the water but then ran over into two or three days of the next week.

The Bottom-Line

I can attest to the “cheat day” run amuck. It is so hard to get back on the food bandwagon. It’s best to just allow yourself to indulge from time to time on foods you are craving but always in moderation.You shouldn’t label anything as “bad” or “good.” It doesn’t work for me and maybe it isn’t working for you. If you want that cupcake on Tuesday then have it on Tuesday. Don’t wait till Saturday when you may end up eating two of them or more because you deprived yourself for so long.


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