4 things you should know about cheat days to keep them in control


Related Articles

We’re halfway through January, which means that the throngs of new gym-goers are dissipating and the supermarket doesn’t have to restock kale twice daily. 

We don’t wish those others ill will, but we can’t help but be happy (and a little smug) that we didn’t fold in this first wave of New Year’s resolution failures. We’re starting to see the first results of 2014 regarding our renewed commitment to living a healthy lifestyle. We’re on fire and determined to succeed.

However, there is this nagging in the back of our minds, that seems to get stronger when we’re bored at work or watching a movie. We have a tormentor, and its name is cheesecake. Or pizza or french fries. We’ve resisted the sirens’ song that calls us toward factories of cheesecake or phone calls to Bob, our favorite delivery guy.

But why? Despite popular belief, a diet that includes a cheat day — when we can eat foods typically prohibited with a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, low-fat diet once a week — actually is beneficial to overall weight loss and keeping those pounds off. So how do we do celebrate cheat day the right way each week without backtracking on our progress or feeling guilty about our indulgence? Let’s find out:


1. Schedule your cheat day and be smart about choosing your indulgence. 

Just as we sometimes plan our meals to make sure that we’re eating healthy, plan your cheat day to insure that it’s not a free-for-all binge day. This means if Friday is your cheat day, plan to eat a slice or two of your neighborhood’s famous pie, not a whole one for yourself. If you’re really worried about falling off of the wagon, Men’s Fitness recommends keeping those indulgences small.


2. Cheat days actually help keep our weight loss going. 

Including a cheat day in our diets actually helps aid in fat loss, according to Jason Maxwell, a certified personal trainer with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. When we change our diet to achieve fat loss, our caloric intake and carbohydrates tend to be lower.  After a while, our bodies notice that calorie intake and burn are not equal, and our metabolism drops. Not cool. Adding a cheat day into your diet trick your body into thinking that caloric intake and burn are equal, thereby keeping your metabolism high.


3. Cheat days restore control. 

Let’s think ahead another few weeks. If we’re going with past experiences, ignoring those cheesecake, pizza and french fry urges just means that by Valentine’s Day we’re all sad sacks eating whole pizzas in ratty old sweats while watching “When Harry Met Sally.” And if we’re going with past experiences, the guilt from overindulging usually causes us to quit. Giving into those urges one day a week keeps them smaller than suppressing them, and therefore helps us maintain control of our diet. A built-in cheat day gives us something to look forward to and is a reward for eating healthy.


4. Cheat days help recharge our batteries and stay motivated. 

We fail at trendy fad diets in part because they often are so psychotically restrictive or they make us so miserable that it’s impossible to maintain. We prefer to use the word “diet” to mean choices we make toward our long-term lifestyle rather than a short-term program. Keeping that in mind, a cheat day keeps us motivated to continue making healthy choices.