Many dieters include a cheat day in their week.  While I don’t support depriving yourself, having a scheduled cheat day can do more harm than good and end up negating the work done the rest of the week.  I know many of you won’t agree with this philosophy but let me explain my logic:

1.  Cheat days don’t allow your body to adapt completely.  For many people who aren’t used to eating vegetables on a regular basis, it may take a little bit to acquire the taste of veggies.  If you’re reminding your taste buds of how good that processed cake and macaroni and cheese is, your taste buds will have a hard time adapting and you’ll continue craving the foods you’ve always eaten.  Changing your standard diet can be a huge adjustment for some people and takes time.  Certain addictions (to sugar, for example) are hard to overcome and can’t be done if you continue to feed it, even if it’s just a little bit.

2.  Cheat days require harder work throughout the week.  As an example, say you are trying to lose one pound a week, which is a reasonable and practical goal.  You would need to create a deficit of 500 calories each day of the week.  Allowing one cheat day would mean that you need a deficit of 583 calories for 6 days and consume only the amount of calories you need on the 7th day with no extra.  However, if you have an extra 1000 calories on your cheat day, you would need to create a deficit of 750 calories a day to lose one pound a week.  An extra 1000 calories on a cheat day is a conservative estimate which leads to my next reason.

3.  Cheats days often lead to binge eating.  Depriving yourself all week in anticipation of a cheat day can easily lead to binge eating and consuming an excessive amount of calories.  For some people, a cheat day can mean reverting to old eating habits that caused the weight gain in the first place.  Eating 3000 calories can result in most of the work from the rest of the week being cancelled out.  Is it worth that?

4.  Cheat days can lead to guilt.  After working hard all week to watch what you eat, splurging all day can lead to guilt.  It may may you feel good at the time but likely won’t feel good after the fact.  An occasional indulgence won’t blow all of your work and is easy to recover from and get back on track.

5.  Cheat foods aren’t good for you.  You’ve worked so hard all week to make good choices so why would you intentionally blow it in one day and eat all the foods that aren’t good for you, make you feel sluggish, and don’t fuel your body?  While it is definitely better to only eat junk once a week, it’s still better to eat it less than that or not at all.

So am I saying you can never indulge in a cheat day or cheat meal?  Absolutely not!  Instead of having a specific cheat day each week, trying a balanced approach to cheat meals.  Planning ahead and leaving a little room to indulge is a healthy and practical way to approach weight loss.  If you know you’ll be going out to dinner with friends one night, look ahead at the menu if possible and decide what to order.  Adjust your choices in the days before that if you are able to do so and allow yourself to enjoy that evening without guilt.  Doing this night after night won’t help you lose weight, but occasionally is fine and won’t sabotage your weight loss goals.  It’s important to remember that successful weight loss requires dedication, commitment and focus.

How do you feel about cheat days or meals?  Do you think cheat days help or hinder weight loss efforts?

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