Nutrition

I survived my cramtastic foodfest healthy-ish. But was it a cheat day?

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One thing I may not have mentioned in my posts yet is that I like to make up words. You may have already noticed. I have what I call “The Wharton Dictionary” for the words I have created since I was in high school. I was invited to a dinner party recently, and tried really hard to keep my nutrition in tact.

I sometimes question my choices like jumping in Lake Ontario in winter while I had a bad cold, which made me even sicker (although it was for charity, so it was totally worth it in my mind). Yesterday was not one of those times. I met some wonderful people and ate a great mix of tasty options. What could be better? I even was able to eat in moderation, and pick choices that worked for me, although I could have gorged on everything, it looked so awesome. But there were a lot of healthy options, which I found impressive, and I tried a little of everything I was able to eat.And to me, that’s the key.

Would these normally be called a cheat day or an off day? Yesterday, I was able to fit a dinner out into my daily nutrition program so for me, it was not. But that’s not always the case.

Cheat days versus an off day

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You know I ate the chicken wings! But they were grilled and not fried.

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 know I’m not alone in this! I prefer to do things in moderation … well, try to anyway, rather than have a restrictive diet and take days off to eat what I want, or “cheat days.” I mean no matter how healthy you try to eat, off days are ok for you. From what I have studied and also gone through with my nutritionists, is that it’s ok to have off eating days once in a while (as long as it’s not a habit). It happens to everyone. You just can’t beat yourself up over it and get back to your regular diet as soon as possible.

But do cheat days fall into that category?

Cheat days are a little more structured than the “oops I messed up at a party, or on vacation” reason for falling off the food wagon. For some people, cheat days are a reward for sticking to a diet. 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 ease into a new way of eating. But are cheat days a good idea? Do they help you reach your health goals? I have studied the subject, and here are some of the pros and cons.

Pros: Why cheat days could be good for you

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If you look closely you can see the cute penguins in the charcuterie portion of the spread.

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

Motivation and reward: Cheat days can be good motivation to get through a new diet. It also can be a good way to reward yourself for hitting certain milestones in your program.

Necessary days off: 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.

Cons: Why cheat days could be bad for you

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

Potential health impacts: Restricting yourself throughout the week and then eating sugar and fat on a cheat day can have a negative impact on blood sugar and insulin levels. It can also speed up your heart rate and raise your blood pressure for those times depending on that types of foods you choose to eat. 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.

Moderation approach

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Rice and beef soup, so yummy!

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. 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. 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.  It’s a sustainable approach that can help you enjoy your health journey and get you to your goal.

What are your thoughts on cheat days? Do you see more of the pros or cons?

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42 comments

  1. I always think moderation is the best bet. It’s about the mentality. I love this post and your fun food party! I used to make date and cream cheese penguins! Nom!!!

  2. Great post! I rather try eat in moderation. Cheat days don’t work for me, because then I find myself either doing more cheat days than I should or starting to eat terribly again! btw, I gave your blog a follow 😉

  3. I’m not really sure my approach counts as a true cheat day, but I tend to use intense workout days as a balance to eating what I want. It’s not a binge per se, but a way of saying all things in proportion. Definitely different than the days that I simply lose discipline. That’s about forgiveness.

    1. Thanks for sharing your approach! Much appreciated! I don’t think that counts as a true cheat day either. I work similarly, it’s a good balance for me too. Have a wonderful evening!

    1. It was 🙂 I took tiny portions of the food I could eat so that I got to taste everything without going overboard! Thanks so much for sharing what works for you. Much appreciated! Have a wonderful night!

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