02 Apr Are Cheat Days Healthy?
The term “cheat day” refers to a day where you can binge on foods you typically wouldn’t eat— then go right back to your healthy lifestyle. Oftentimes folks designate one day a week (typically on the weekend) as their cheat day. Although some diet plans advocate such a day, as a registered dietitian I don’t and here’s why.
The definition of the word cheat is to violate the rules deliberately, to mislead, and to deprive by trickery. All these terms are negative—food, weight loss, and healthy eating should never be equated to trickery or deprivation.
Cheat days in theory may sound like a good idea, but in reality they can have severe consequences. I’m not talking about cheat days which are defined by an extra decadent dessert or a glass of wine—both of which can be part of a healthy lifestyle and don’t even need a designated cheat day to be consumed. It’s the “cheat day gone wild” that can get you into trouble.
Think about it—you eat 1,400 calories a day 6 days a week. That’s enough to help you lose 1 pound per week, a healthy rate to lose weight. On your cheat day, you consume 4,100 calories which isn’t very tough to do if you went out to eat a lavish meal with cocktails, appetizers, and desserts (and ate breakfast and lunch too).
In order to lose your planned 1 pound per week, you need to eat 583 fewer calories 6 days of the week (meaning you usually eat around 2,000 and now you lowered your calories to 1,400 per day). On your cheat day you went over you calorie limit by 2,700 calories—by doing so, you just sabotaged almost 5 days of healthy eating which you worked very hard to achieve. This will lead you to feel guilty, frustrated, and you probably won’t lose weight.
If you think cheat days are about having a few extra treats or calories, again it’s the wrong type of mindset. You are saying that you have the power to control yourself to indulge “a little” once a week. What if you have a little extra on the wrong day? Does that mean you fell off the wagon and should feel guilty? This can lead to a second, third, and fourth day “off the wagon” and ultimately sidestep your healthy eating plan altogether.
The Bottom Line:
Whichever way you look at it, a cheat day is not a good idea. Healthy eating and weight loss is about finding ways to make healthy lifelong habits. Part of creating healthy eating habits is learning how to moderate alcohol, dessert and other high calorie indulgences on a daily basis. It takes hard work, motivation, and a positive mindset to make it happen.
LET’S DISCUSS: How do you feel about a cheat day?