What is a Cheat Day? – Overview
Cheat meals comprise foods that won’t help you achieve your weight-loss goals. These meals are considered cheats because you aren’t sticking to your original meal plan. Despite the bad reputation, “cheat days” are scheduled breaks from your diet plan. Periodic intervals can help you stick to your diet plan and develop healthier habits.
Cleveland Clinic generally recommends eating healthy food 80% of the time. (1) What you intend to eat on your cheat day depends on your preferences and appetite, but the main goal is to let loose and enjoy something that isn’t on your diet plan.
But keep in mind cheat days aren’t allowed on all diets. The Paleo diet, for instance, excludes entire food groups and doesn’t allow any pauses from the diet plan.
Regardless of your diet, add cheat meals that you can look forward to, making your regimen sustainable.
Think of them as a meal you’ve earned and should enjoy without guilt. By following this advice, you’ll come to see them as part of a healthy and balanced routine.
How Do You Go About Cheat Days
Don’t Cheat Often
While cheat days can be a valuable tool for preventing binge eating, you may find yourself right back where you started if you cheat too often.
Dietitians often propose the 80/20 rule as a simple way to plan cheat days.
When following this guideline, 80% of your meals should be nutritious and match your diet habits, while the remaining 20% allow you to satisfy your desires.
Dietitians advocate gratifying a single want rather than committing a whole day to pleasures.
Also, keep in mind that the frequency with which you cheat should be determined by how near you are to achieving your health objectives.
Someone seeking to maintain their weight may be able to indulge more frequently than someone just starting out on a weight loss diet.
Cheat on a Workout Day
Consume a lot of calories in a day when you can burn them off. Dietitians concur that you should give in to your desires, but only on the day you have an intense workout.
Even better, pick a cheat meal that’s rich in protein to build muscle mass and keep you full.
Sticking to a diet during special occasions might be very tough. Rather than tormenting yourself, schedule this as a cheat day ahead of time.
Even if you’re tempted to go for a 2nd or 3rd serving when a binge event like Christmas or Thanksgiving approaches, ensure you restrict yourself to one. When looking for comfort food, use the quarter-a-plate rule. Your plate should have no more than a quarter of a food item that you know won’t lead you toward your objectives.
Embrace a Cheat Meal Alternative
Focusing on conscious eating and not overdoing any one meal, even if it’s considered a cheat meal or a less nutritious meal to you, is an excellent lifestyle objective for weight reduction.
Recreate Your Favorite Comfort Food
Make a healthier version of your favorite guilty pleasure dish. For instance, if you like fried foods, try baking or using an air fryer instead of deep-frying (see also keto french fries recipe).
If you enjoy baking but have a sweet tooth, consider replacing half of the sugar with stevia or sweetening the recipe with a fruit replacement such as applesauce or mashed banana.
Finally, don’t give in to guilt. It can be easy to feel demoralized, but one bad day isn’t a representation of failure. Accept you’ve had a cheat day and move on.
Cheat Day Mentality
Cheat day mentality comprises several core beliefs:
1. You believe it’s the only way to succeed in your diet and stick with it.
2. Your current diet plan makes you feel deprived, and you need something to look forward to often because what you’re doing doesn’t necessarily feel sustainable.
3. You have watched this trend in the nutrition space, and you believe it can work for you.
Breaking through the cheat day mentality boils down to shifting your mindset. To do this, you need to understand the benefits as well as the drawbacks of cheating days.
Benefits of a Cheat Day
According to studies, the body’s metabolism speeds up after a cheat meal, causing you to burn more calories.
This is induced by elevated levels of leptin, a hormone released by fat cells vital for body energy balance.
You will boost the production of the hormone leptin by up to 30% for up to 24 hours after consuming a bigger meal than usual.
Help You Eat Better Throughout the Week
According to dietitians and psychologists, cheat meals can help people eat better during the week if they are on a very restrictive, low-calorie diet.
This planned calorie splurge helps people skip other unexpected and frequently binge-inducing meals, which take considerably longer to recover from and may even drive you off the wagon entirely.
Help You Stick to Your Diet Plan
Cheat days can be an effective tool for keeping you on track with your diet. Cheat days can help you develop a better connection with eating.
Instead of seeing your favorite comfort food or dessert as a coping method, think of it as a reward.
It’s important to remember that a cheat day isn’t a license to binge eat. On your cheat day, binge eating can lead to eating disorders and hinder your self-regulating capacity.
Drawbacks of a Cheat Day
Encourage an All or Nothing Mindset
Instead of imparting principles of balance and moderation, a cheat day promotes an all-or-nothing mentality.
When you feel that you have the freedom to consume a certain dessert or junk food, you might overindulge.
Increase Overall Calorie Intake
A cheat day has the potential to stifle development by significantly boosting overall calorie consumption.
Depending on how much you eat on your “cheat day,” your weekly calorie deficit might be substantially reduced, slowing fat-loss efforts.
Leads to a Binge Eating Mentality
It can cause a binge eating mentality whereby you’re not eating to get satisfied but rather overindulging just because you can.
The desire to eat anything and everything when it is ‘allowed’ is an extension of the all-or-nothing mentality, and it can lead to eating well beyond satisfaction levels.
Promote A Good Vs. Bad Food Debate
A cheat day might promote the “good food” vs. “bad food” debate. When you save a particular food for a cheat day, it usually means this isn’t something you’d eat on a typical day.
As a result, when you have that “cheat day,” you may regard these cheat meals as “awful” and regard yourself as ‘terrible’ for choosing them. Keep in mind morality has no place when it comes to food choices.
All in all, a cheat day every once in a while won’t undo months of consistent healthy eating and workouts.
Cheat days are meant to help you stay driven long-term if you have a restrictive diet. However, this doesn’t mean you have the freedom to overindulge on your cheat days.