If your Keto, low-carb, paleo etc. eating approach is so freakishly awesome, why the fuck do you feel the need to have a cheat day on diet? In this article, you will learn how to eat “fun“ foods without setting yourself back
You see what I did there?
That was my version of a catchy headline. Like it?
I hope it hooked you because cheat days are an absolute steamy load of bunk and you need to recognize how awfully it affects your weight loss goals.
Many of my online clients used to have cheat days on their diets and it set them back pretty damn far…
They would swear off carbohydrates, wheat, and all forms of “white death” (sugar) for six days because it’s “unclean”. Just to have a cheat day on Sunday.
As a result, destructive behaviors like binge eating would kick in wiping off all the hard work they have done over the week.
After reading this article, you’ll learn:
- Why Cheat Day on Diet is a Bag of Taco Bell Farts
- Cheat Day or Cheat Meal
- Better Way to Enjoy “Fun” Foods
Alright! Let’s unpack this “cheat day” bullshit!
Why Cheat Day on Diet is a Bag of Taco Bell Farts
First things first – what the heck a cheat day is?
It‘s the day off the diet when the dirtiest, “unclean” and high-calorie foods are going down the hatch (at least most people see it that way).
It’s supposed to give you a mental break from diet both psychologically and physiologically. Also, it’s designed to give you a small reward for all the hassle of following your diet plan day in, day out.
Now let’s get back to biz…
Cheat day on diet – stupidity peppered all the through these words!
First, cheat day can cause what is called the “disinhibition reflex.”
Like I said in how to stop binge eating article, when you jump on a diet, you omit “unhealthy/unclean/bad” foods from your diet in hope of faster weight loss.
With that, “bad” foods become perceived as forbidden fruit. This is a setup for overconsumption and binge eating and a single cheat day often turns into a two-day binge eating festival.
Instead of having one cheat meal or a treat (accounted in daily calorie intake) for a day, you end up shoveling down the throat pancakes, pizza, pop tarts, and B&J’s in a single day.
You might even stuff your face with half a cheesecake because… well, why not? You have already fucked up your diet for today so you might as well enjoy it to the fullest.
Over the course of the day, you eat every piece of garbage you could stuff down your gullet. You eat so much food that a black hole would be jealous (credit to Layne Norton for this amusing fancy-pants saying).
Ok, so I am stretching it just a bit perhaps…
But the fact remains that with a single cheat day you end up fucking up your whole week’s hard work.
Image adopted from: Biolayne
The second issue with cheat day is that by looking at your diet and food as “cheating”, you create an unhealthy relationship with food.
Every time you have a cheat day on a diet, you end up feeling guilty.
Guilt –> binge eating –> Fuck it mode
When guilt comes into play, you end up binge eating (ask low-cab birds, this bunch have loads of experience in this).
Binge eating leads to that “fuck it” moment that we all been into.
Because you restricted yourself to just “healthy” foods and then you had a small bite of “bad” food that wasn’t on your plan, you felt guilty and just said, “fuck it.”
Next thing you know, instead of a slice of pizza you are splurging on the whole pizza. This brings your progress 3-4 days back if not more.
Lastly, cheat days are NEVER tracked and monitored.
That is, you don’t track calories you take in. This leaves a MAMMOTH possibility of you going over your weekly calorie deficit.
Tracking is absolute MUST when having a cheat day.
Don’t expect that going 2000 kcal over the board will make no impact. Don’t expect for fat shovelling goblins to appear during the night to shovel all the food out of fat cells.
With all that laid out, let met me ask you this (in Sohee Lee’s words):
If your diet is so great, why do you feel the need to cheat on it?
– Sohee Lee
Cheat Day or Cheat Meal?
For many years cheat day was a cheat meal. I don’t know how or when but it mutated into that hideous cheat day thing…
I am totally fine with cheat meal if it’s monitored and tracked.
A planned cheat meal with a reasonable amount of food of about 500 kcal or even 1000 kcal is basically nothing. As long as you track it, there won’t be much harm in it.
500-1000 kcal is more than enough for most people to get the physiological and psychological benefits of a cheat meal.
So if you still want to cheat on your diet, you are better off with a single MONITORED cheat meal.
It might set you back 1-2 days back but at least you wouldn’t come back right where you started a week ago.
Cheat meals aren’t for everyone, though. If you are the kind of person who struggles with moderation and self-control, you shouldn’t have a cheat meal.
Whether it’s 500 kcal or 1000 kcal, cheat meal will probably turn into a Blizzard binge that makes you sick.
Smarter Ways to Enjoy “Fun” Foods
Image Credit: rachaelattard
Unpacking this “cheat day on diet” bullshit was easier than slaying Voldemort…
And since you are now well aware of the fact that cheat day sucks ballz, let’s see what are some better ways to indulge in “fun” foods without compromising fat loss goals.
1. Cheat Meal
Like I said, if you are good at self-control and moderation you could have a cheat meal every 2-3 weeks guilt-free.
Just make sure you don’t eat like you are on your way to the electric chair. Have 500-1000 kcal (mostly from carbohydrates) over your daily intake and no more.
For instance, if your daily calorie intake is 1500 kcal, don’t go over 2500 kcal. Just because it’s a cheat meal, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to track food intake.
If you don’t track it, it would defeat the purpose of cognitive restraint and self-monitoring that I talked about in how to keep the weight off after losing it article.
Your best bet to minimize the drawbacks of a cheat meal is to plan it on your training day. This way your body will use some of those extra calories for recovery process from the workout.
Also, if you plan to have a cheat meal in the evening, make sure to eat mostly veggies and protein until then. This way, you will save up some extra calories so you could go carb-crazy!
And most importantly, DO NOT feel guilty about having a cheat meal. Guilt will only make you binge by climbing up to the cookie jar of forbidden goodies.
Want to learn more about cheat meals? Read this article by Mike Matthews.
2. 80/20 Rule Instead of Cheat Day Fuckery
Imagine if there was an “Ozzy Osbourne Diet.”
You would eat raw bat heads for a month, and you would probably lose weight.
Any diet that significantly changes someone’s food preferences or restricts their choices will help them eat less.
The problem is that it’s unsustainable! And as I said in creating a sustainable diet plan article, sustainability and adherence are by far the most decisive factors for weight loss.
You can’t just devour 100% “healthy” foods and pretend that you are delighted with the way you eat.
No one in the world can rely on the willpower by gobbling kale and chicken day in, day out.
Relying primarily on willpower to stick to a diet is a losing strategy. Willpower is a limited resource, and you can only use so much of it before you start making poor decisions.
That’s where 80/20 rule comes in.
Every client of mine practices it because it allows for more flexibility.
And like I said in my article, flexible dieting has shown a strong association with lower body weight and the absence of depression and anxiety.
So instead of having a hefty cheat day on your diet, with 80/20 approach, you allocate about 20% of your daily calories for “fun” foods.
Instead of marking time on the calendar for a cheat meal in two weeks, you can have a little treat every day. This is usually enough to curb your sweet tooth and cravings.
Say, your daily calorie intake to lose weight is 1500 kcal. That means you could spend 300 calories on anything every day.
“You, dumbass Egis! There are no fun foods that would have only 300 calories!”
Not much you can do with that, you say? Well, then have 100% whole foods one day and spend 40% on fun foods the next day.
This would tally to 600 calories and it would be enough for the entire container of Ben and Jerry’s!
The 80/20 rule is the fundamental of flexible dieting (and you know that I view flexible dieting as wizardry).
The 80/20 method teaches you balance, moderation and enjoying “fun” foods without a guilty feeling.
80% of whole foods is good enough! That’s all you need.
Mental health is as important as physical so make sure to enjoy your diet every day without feeling guilty.
An unhealthy relationship with food is by far the worst thing that you can develop while on an overly-restrictive diet!
Learn more about 80/20 method in the article by 12minuteathlete.
Many dieters are ready and willing to climb mountains (meaning: trudge away on the treadmill for hours a day) and starve half to death (meaning: eat lettuce and be sad) for two weeks if it means having a cheat day afterward.
That’s a straight way to an unhealthy relationship with food and weight regain.
If you need a mental break from dieting, then have a cheat meal (tracked!). Better yet, enjoy a “mini” cheat meal every day using the 80/20 rule and you won’t even need a cheat day.
When your diet is great, you don’t even need to cheat on it!
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