Are cheat days good or bad for you?

Salad - healthy fitness couple eating food

I’m not one to deprive myself of things I like. My willpower isn’t always the greatest. I like things that make me happy, and unfortunately, it’s usually the things that aren’t the best for me.  I like to think I’m not the outlier, that many people are like this. I prefer to do things in moderation … well, try to anyway, rather than need cheat days.

For some people, cheat days are a reward for sticking to a diet or fitness program. So after a week or two of eating salads, lean meat or low carbs, the cheat is either a chocolate bar or one day off from the diet.

I can see using cheat days as motivation to get started with a new workout program or to ease into a new way of eating. But are cheat days a good idea? Do they help you reach your health goals? I did some research into the subject and here are some of the pros and cons.

Why cheat days could be good for you

Friends eating bruschetta

Here are some of the arguments used to show why cheat days are good.

Motivation and reward: Cheat days from a fitness or nutrition program can be good motivation to get through it. It also can be a good way to reward yourself for hitting certain milestones in your program.

Nutrition: Giving yourself a day off is giving yourself a needed break from your diet. It offers the relief that can help you stick to healthier foods by satisfying your cravings and help to replenish the willpower that may have weakened while you were on the diet.

Fitness: Giving yourself some breaks in between can help recharge your muscles, reduce the risk of injury and help you refocus.

Why cheat days could be bad for you

Relax_1

Here are some of the arguments used to show why cheat days are bad.

Nutrition: Restricting oneself throughout the week and then eating sugar and fat on a cheat day can have a negative impact on blood sugar and insulin levels. Also, some people who hold back every day except their cheat day, are less likely to reach their goals. It’s because they’re more likely to end up eating more calories, not just on their cheat day but also a few days after.

Fitness: The average person doesn’t exercise every day. Therefore, technically rest days are already break days. Taking more than regularly scheduled break days can lead to a backslide. Those are harder to come out of – I know this first hand!

Moderation is the answer

Moderation

Following a healthy lifestyle means eating a balanced diet in moderation and working out a minimum of 30 minutes a day, five days a week or 2.5 hours a week. You can incorporate treats in small portions so that it reduces the urge to binge eat.

Listen to your body. It tells you when you need to eat and when to workout. It also tells you when you’ve had too much or too little of something. If you feel like pasta one night, have it. Just watch the portion. If you’re feeling tired and haven’t exercised yet; get moving.  Make sure you do something you like, so you enjoy what you’re doing. Similarly, when eating if you don’t enjoy what you’re eating, cheat days become more appealing.

Focusing on your healthy lifestyle most of the week and then taking one day off can promote guilt and potentially can impact your ability to get to the health outcome you want. Instead, make every day a fabulous day by listening to your body and enjoying every meal and workout. It’s a more sustainable approach that can help you enjoy your health journey and get you to your goal.

What are your thoughts on cheat days?

38 replies »

  1. This was THE perfect post! I indulged a lot this weekend. It was a combination of stress (so stress eating) and my mom visiting me on Saturday (which means I get to eat out aka I eat like a pig haha). I definitely think that cheat days are something that can be taken for a healthy lifestyle. They allow you to be mentally sane and to NOT deprive yourself. I just in fact posted a blog post about the curse of living a “healthy” lifestyle. You start to guilt trip yourself whenever you find yourself eating something that’s not too healthy. But you know what? That’s life. It’s finding balance and acknowledging your cravings and what your body wants and giving them in moderation. Thanks for sharing Samantha! I definitely needed it. xoxo Steph

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  2. I am not a fan of cheat days. I like to enjoy everything in moderation. From my experience, I tended to over eat on my cheat days. Therefore, I stick to my motto “It’s good to eat everything in moderation” Thanks Samantha for providing the pros and cons in your blogs.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve found that if I take a cheat day, I actually get back to eating healthy and usually maintain my weight! A cheat day for me means that I may actually eat pizza or bread. I try not to ever go off the deep end! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is great! I really wanted to hear from someone that it works for . Thank you very much for sharing your story and for taking the time to comment. It will really help others reading. I hope you have a wonderful day!

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  4. I used to be a lot better at following a healthy diet when I was younger. After 30 for some reason, I find more comfort in food than I used to and have a harder time saying “no”! This past weekend we were on vacation and the whole darn trip was basically a ‘cheat day’ and I feel like almost a week later I am still fighting these extra pounds! Ugh. I agree that moderation is the key!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for sharing your story and taking the time to read this post! I am a moderation person but also think vacations don’t always count as cheat days (but I’m also good at making excuses to justify why!) I agree that it gets harder to say no. Food can feel like a comfort, especially when you’re away somewhere unfamiliar. I hope you have a wonderful day and again thanks for sharing your story!

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  5. Ugh I’ve been cheating for the last two weeks. By that I mean not going to the gym. I can’t stand it and the excuse has been that I hurt my foot and that’s why. But I could have done upper body. So no in my situation cheat days are bad for you. But this weekend I am going to stop with the excuses. But I’ve been eating healthy so maybe I shouldn’t feel that bad. Thanks for this Sam. Well written!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with both of your reasons! Your reason why you didn’t go makes sense because you would need to rest your food and also sometimes you do need a break. But also on your other side where you could have done upper body and things that don’t make your foot worse. You’re also super motivated and for you, I would say that at least this would be a temporary situation. I know you’ll be back in full force in no time! You rock

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aww thanks so much! This means so much to me. And yes I went to the gym yesterday for like 2 hours and now going again in a bit 😻

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