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
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
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
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?