The Cheat Day Habit

Does making a cheat day part of your plan help you?
That very much depends on you — your body and your personality.

A “Cheat Day” has crept into our fitness formula.  The idea is that a stumble will prevent a fall, and if it works for you, that’s great.  During the “Low Fat” years of my journey, I remember several programs that included a certain allowance of extra calories each week or day because sometimes you just needed some flexibility to manage life.

The problem was that if I ate all those extra calories, I didn’t lose any weight that week—it wiped out my deficit for the week.

Then, of course, I would go a bit crazy.  I’d fall into the trap of deprivation thinking:  I won’t be able to have this food for another WHOLE WEEK, so I better enjoy all I can now.  Some of us can have a moderate portion, and some of us cannot.  Knowing which one you are tells you how you’ll fare.

It also set me up for wanting more.  Some foods are addictive—if you have it once, you’ll want it again the next day.  Sugar does that to me, so either skipping it or having only one serving available helps.  And I’ll still want some the next day even if it’s unavailable.

To unwind this, consider:

  1. Have a cheat food or one meal.  Rather than taking the whole day, perhaps choose one item at a meal.  One entree or a dessert once per week will not destroy all your efforts, even as it may slow progress.
  2. Find ways to get the food and flavor you crave within your guidelines.  Find an alternative recipe that creates a good version.  Lots of recipes online, and there’s my favorite “mug cake” recipe on page 48 of my book, What’s Really Eating You: Overcome the Triggers of Comfort Eating.  This choice skips over the classic diet mentality of deprivation that makes it difficult to make lifestyle changes key to long-term health.

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