I’m a fan of cheat days. Well, more specifically, cheat meals (a lot of damage can be done in a full day of cheat meals.) I think that having a meal where you can eat whatever you want guilt free is a great way to build a healthy relationship with food, keep you motivated to continue to eat well the rest of the time, and keep you sane instead of feeling deprived.
The danger of cheat days, however, is if you give yourself permission to have cheat days too often, of course, or if you start to reward yourself with food.
Many people will eat healthy and balanced all day long, and then have an indulgent treat, usually at night, as a reward. This is OK every once in a while, but not everyday.
Generally, cheat meals and treats should be limited to one time a week. It should be something you look forward to, but not your motivation. If you are having a reward every day, or after every workout, it’s going to turn into a problem. Loosening the reigns once a week is a healthy and a sustainable lifestyle. If you fall into the habit of rewarding yourself frequently with indulgent meals or snacks, you run the danger of falling into the mind set of suffering through the healthy meals to get to the rewards.
This perpetuates the damaging idea that healthy food isn’t satisfying, and poor nutrition is a ‘reward’ instead of something that is detrimental to your health and goals.
Cheat meals are going to happen. You are going to be out at a restaurant or a party where you can’t control what you are served, and you should be able to participate without guilt. You can even plan them into your week to have some of your favorite foods that aren’t necessarily the best in terms of health, without effecting your goals. The only way this works is if your cheat meals are occasional, they are responsible and resonable in choice and portion, and they aren’t your sole purpose for eating healthy in the first place. To keep a healthy lifestyle indefinitly, you have to come to a place where you enjoy and respect it. A treat may be enough to keep you on track for a while, but to really get to a healthy place with food, you have to have your mind right.
In Good Health,
Kelly Turner is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and health and fitness writer from Seattle, WA. To contact Kelly with any questions, you email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.