Cheat days do not work

Bold claim but although having a cheat day as a reward may sound good to most people. In reality having a cheat day causes more problems then it solves. Let me explain.

Your diet should not be so restrictive that a cheat day is needed

Everyone has it in their mind that when you diet it must be hard and restrictive which is why most people hate dieting. And most people believe that to reward themselves for that they assign one day a week to totally unrestricted eating. The problem is that for 6 days a week you suffer with not eating enough food. This leads to cravings and hunger pangs which can derail your plans. The more your hungry through the week the more you look forward to your cheat day which is not ideal as I explain in my next point.

You will eat so many calories on a cheat day that it will wipe out the gains from the 6 previous days

Let’s say your cheat day is every Sunday. Saturday is here and you’re in the supermarket looking for everything you enjoy eating to be placed in the basket ready for tomorrow. There’s two big problems here.

The first is that you will end up putting so much in your basket that the total calories could easily exceed 6 to 7 thousand calories. This is a problem because let’s say your restrictive diet is 1300 calories 6 days a week. With a cheat day at 7000+ calories your daily average calories for the week is 2110+ calories which means you wouldn’t really be losing any weight each week.

The second big problem is that of “your eyes are bigger than your belly”. On the day before your cheat day when you have essentially starved yourself all week you will inevitably choose a lot of high calorie food to eat on your cheat day. At the end of the cheat day you find yourself with a bunch of food that you didn’t manage to eat or finish. But do you throw it away? most people will not and it means that now that high calorie tasty food is now in your cupboard which causes it to be a temptation when you go back to your 1300 calorie day tomorrow. You will tell yourself that it’s okay and it’s only a little food but all this food adds up and causes you to eat more calories overall which leads to weight gain.

However if you currently massively restrict your calories and have a cheat day then there is hope. Which brings me onto my final point.

You have to stop putting food into a “good” or “bad” category

Putting food into a good or bad category reinforces that “bad” food can only be eaten on the cheat day and at no other time. But what happens if you’re invited out for a good friends birthday? Are you going to still eat your 1300 calories that day and not have any “bad” food at the birthday party? Let me answer this for you. No, you will eat what you want and not worry about the calories because in the real world things come up and office treats, birthday parties and dinners will happen. You can still have “bad” foods just in moderation and if it fits your macros.

And that is why cheat days do not work. It reinforces negative habits and in worse case scenarios can lead to eating disorders. Eat in a slight calorie deficit, have “bad” food in moderation or on special occasions and you shouldn’t need to have a cheat day. As always let me know what you think in the comments.

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