Do Cheat Days Work?

Jan 27, 2016 10:47:52 AM

For many people struggling to eat healthily 24/7, cheat days – where dieters allow themselves to indulge in their favorite treats one day each week – seem like they could be a great way to make dieting easier, but are they actually a good idea, or we just undoing all the good work we do for the rest of the week? Here we take a look at both sides of the argument to help you to decide if cheat days could work for you. 

How Cheat Days Could Help You

Some people believe that cheat days, or sometimes just a cheat meal, help to give you a break from your healthy eating regime, allowing yourself a little freedom to indulge in your not-so-diet-friendly favorites, often as a reward for having stuck to your diet for the other six days of the week. It is thought that the promise of a day of indulgence makes healthy eating throughout the week more bearable. The logic is, that after your ‘day off’, you’ll return to your diet the following day with added motivation, since your cravings have been satisfied and the thought of a juicy burger is no longer driving you crazy. Essentially it could be seen as allowing yourself the chance to ‘slip up’, but without the guilt that often accompanies an unplanned slip, as you fully intend to re-start again the following day. Some studies even show that indulging in high-calorie and high-fat treats after a period of restriction can ‘wake up’ your metabolism into realizing that it has some work to do, and even increase production of the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin.

The Problem With Cheat Days

So it sounds like cheat days could hold the answer to sticking to your diet without feeling deprived, and might even help weight loss. But, it’s not quite as simple as that…

1. Cheating Reinforces The Idea of ‘Good’ & ‘Bad’ Foods

First of all, the idea of ‘cheating’ on our diets reinforces the idea of indulging in something forbidden or ‘bad’, which can then add greater emotional value to this treat, meaning that you may begin to obsess over it, running the risk of overeating when your cheat day rolls round. And, as we reinforce the idea of bad or unhealthy foods to lust after, we reinforce the idea of ‘good’ or ‘healthy’ foods, many of which are only good when eaten in moderation. Studies show that when we think of a food as being healthy, portion control is forgotten and we tend to overeat. Many foods are healthy in moderation, but once you start piling up your plate thinking that it’s all ‘good’ food, you’re more likely to go over your calorie allowance and then struggle to lose weight as a result. 

2. Cheating Fuels Cravings And More Cheating

You might think that you can compensate for your cheat day by holding yourself back for the rest of the week, but you’re actually less likely to reach your weight loss goal if your regularly cheat. This is because taking a day off and overconsuming on sugar, salt and fat only fuels your addiction for these types of foods, meaning that you’ll wake up the morning after your cheat day with a weakened resolve to resist these foods. You’re then going to feel even more deprived at the thought of going back to your 1200 calorie limit filled with veggies and lean protein, making it more likely that you’ll eat even more come your next cheat day, further fueling the cycle. The result is then likely to be increased feelings of deprivation and a whole load of cravings that you have to wait a week to satisfy, meaning more chance that you’ll quit altogether.

3. Cheating Isn’t A Long Term Solution

Lastly, if you feel such a need to cheat on your diet then it could indicate that your diet really isn’t working for you. Eating healthily shouldn’t be a punishment – if you don’t like a certain food then don’t eat it, there are plenty of healthy options to choose from. If you’re thinking long term then you need to see the transition into eating healthily as a gradual and permanent shift to making better choices for yourself, such as these healthy habits to boost weight loss. If your diet is so restrictive that you feel the need to cheat once a week, this certainly doesn’t sound like the recipe for a healthy relationship with food, which should be your ultimate aim when losing weight for good.

Finding A Compromise

So, if cheat days aren’t such a great idea after all, what’s the solution? Well, as with most things in life, the key word is moderation. A truly healthy diet means consuming a wide variety of foods, none of which are considered all good or all bad. Long-term weight loss requires a long-term plan, meaning filling and nutrient-rich meals, planned snacks, and even treats, as long as they’re in smaller portion sizes, and all within your overall calorie limit.  If you’re wondering what a diet of all things in moderation means, then these tips will help you to achieve it:

1. Pay Attention To Your Appetite

Studies have found that denying ourselves what we really want and opting for what we feel is a healthier version out of obligation, such as choosing a protein bar when really you want some chocolate, actually makes us feel hungrier. So, if you feel like eating what could be considered a not-so-healthy food, such as pizza, do it – in moderation! And don’t feel like you have to make a low-carb cauliflower base and top it with veg and low-fat cheese. If you get to eat what you actually want, you’ll end up eating a more reasonable amount of it and feeling a lot more satisfied afterwards.

2. Treat Yourself Now And Again

Many people who have successfully lost weight and maintained it, recognize that denying themselves completely makes weight loss both mentally and physically difficult. However, instead of sectioning off a day of the week to treat themselves to all the foods they might be missing, they tend to eat in a more natural way, spreading the odd treat throughout the week, such as the odd indulgent snack, a serving of creamy mashed potatoes with their lean meat and veg, or a drink out with friends. This way of eating will help you to take control over food again as you’re making the choice to treat yourself or not, which should also make mealtimes more pleasurable. What’s more, loosening the reigns occasionally can help to ‘jump-start’ your metabolism and even help you to break out of a weight loss plateau.

3. Savor It

You’re in control of what you eat, but you should give the food you’re eating the attention it deserves, especially if it’s a special treat. Eat slowly and take the time to really taste and appreciate what you’re eating so you’re able to stop when you’re full. This kind of mindful eating results in a better connection between hunger cues and appetite, meaning that you’ll feel more satisfied with a smaller portion, once again consolidating the move towards a healthy relationship with food.   

So, the take home message is to treat yourself, but don’t just reserve one day a week to go crazy, and be mindful when you do treat yourself, making every bite count. Although it might seem difficult to imagine when you first start eating healthily, your desire for your favorite treats will actually reduce over time, so the occasional small treat will soon become more than sufficient. Indulging in weekly cheat days, which could end up turning into 24-hour binges, makes this next phase difficult to achieve, so cheat days can mean that you end up cheating yourself out of the opportunity to break the cycle of craving unhealthy foods. But, if you’re finding it difficult to establish a healthier eating regime, then Phen Caps can help you to resist temptation by reducing cravings and curbing hunger with their combination of premium active ingredients. 

Do you cheat on your diet? Let us know by commenting below!

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