Are “Cheat Days” a Good Idea or Not?

September 21, 2016
couple eating pizza

One of the pitfalls of working out and eating smart can be that feeling of denial—no one wants to feel restricted when a special occasion or a rough patch of life comes along.

If you’re ignoring too many of your personal pleasures as you work to get fit, you might find yourself wanting to “cheat” on your program. Done right, that can be a good idea!

Eating healthy doesn’t mean you need to take all the fun out of your lifestyle. In fact, taking a day off from your restrictions on a regular basis—otherwise known as a cheat day—might actually have a positive effect.

Overall, the way to keep cheat days on the positive side is to simply lift calorie and carb restrictions. In other words, you don’t need to eat completely unhealthy or binge on a cheat day. But you can have a prime rib dinner, or treat yourself to piece of birthday cake and ice cream. Remember, the next morning, it’s back on track!

Here are some of the pros and the cons of splurging once in a while.

PRO: How cheat days can work for you.
  • Stimulate the production of leptin, a protein that regulates appetite and weight
  • Hold down the production of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite
  • Increase your thyroid function to boost metabolism
  • Satisfy cravings and break the monotony of a specific eating style
  • Give yourself something to look forward to and keep yourself on track till then
  • Reaffirm that you deserve to give yourself a break now and then
  • Navigate social occasions with more ease (plan cheat days for special days!)
  • Contrast your cheat day with your dietary style & realize how dedicated you’ve been
  • Hedge against the toll a restrictive diet can take on your body

CON: How cheat days take work against you.
  • Overindulgence on one day of junk foods can offset a week of strong effort
  • Too many cheating episodes can derail your progress—once a week is plenty
  • For some people, gaining control again after a cheat day can be tough
  • If you are new on your weight loss journey, cheating may force you to start over
  • Eater’s remorse happens when you blur the line between gluttony and splurging
  • Cheat days can be confused with “blowing it,” and that can take you off your goals

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