Hey friends! This week is flying by! I’ve had some great workouts so far, plus I’ve actually had a social life, so I’m feeling good. I’m taking tomorrow off from work, so only one more day stands between me and a long weekend. I do have a topic I wanted to talk about today, though, and it surrounds the idea of a “cheat” day. Read on and please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Recently, I was reading an old magazine article that talked about incorporating “cheat” days into your diet and how it helps you resist bad foods during the week if you know a cheat day is coming. Now I know a lot of people use the cheat day concept and have been successful, so I may be rocking the boat a bit with this one, but just hear me out for a minute. I’ve only done a little bit of research on the psychological effects of cheat days, but what I’ve read supports my personal experience that it’s a dangerous road to go down.
Taking a “Cheat” day implies that most of the time you are Good, but on Cheat Day you are Bad. This gets into a dangerous pattern of labeling all our foods as Good Foods or Bad Foods. We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat,” so by definition I guess eating a Bad Food means that I am Bad. Right? Well, screw that. I’m not about to let anyone judge me if I decide to eat 2 buttered biscuits, fried hash browns, bacon, and eggs at brunch, then eat leftover pizza with wine for dinner. And that’s a purely hypothetical situation. And by hypothetical I mean that’s exactly what I did this past Sunday.
On paper, it looks like I took a cheat day. The thing is, I didn’t look at it that way. I’m not interested in attaching a whole bunch of guilt to the fact that I relaxed my usual healthy standards for a day. Calling it a cheat day makes me think I should feel bad about it.
And I don’t.
You’d also think since I stuffed my face all day Sunday that I plan on sticking to a strict diet all week long. Well, that’s not happening either. I generally eat nutritious foods, get in my veggies, avoid too much red meat, and pack my meals with good protein, vitamins, and all that other healthy stuff. If I decide I want a cookie tonight, though, guess what? Yep, I’m probably going to eat a cookie.
The idea of a cheat day seems to encourage food obsession. It also contradicts the healthier notion that eating in moderation means there IS room in a daily diet for occasional treats. I’m not saying I have all the answers. What I am saying is that any time I’ve gone down that road of restriction and Good Food vs. Bad (or Cheat) Food, I’ve been pretty freaking miserable.
So how do you incorporate the idea of a cheat day into a healthy, sustainable diet? First off, stop calling it a “cheat” day. I think eating in moderation means you don’t actually PLAN to gorge yourself for a whole day. If it happens on accident, so be it. Trust me, I get it, sometimes buttered biscuits are just too good to pass up. Move on the next day, but please don’t actually put “stuff my face” in your weekly calendar. By planning for it ahead of time, you’re probably more likely to eat things you don’t really want just because it’s your only day to do it. It also makes your “healthy” days seem sad in comparison to the carb-fest that awaits you at the end of the week.
Being healthy shouldn’t be a punishment and eating donuts shouldn’t be your “reward” for sticking to it. Finding a healthy balance means getting away from the binge mentality and finding a way to form healthier relationships to food that you can sustain for the long term, without any of the guilt.
Do you believe in “cheat” days?