Is It Okay To Take a Cheat Day?

by Jen on April 20, 2012

Hi, and welcome to another Fitness Friday post!

In the dieting world, there is this notion floating around of a “cheat day.”  What is a cheat day?  Is it a day you can eat anything you want?  Or is it just a cheat meal?  How much can you cheat on your diet?  Will a cheat day set me back?

I know I had all of those questions and more when I first made the switch to a healthier lifestyle.

diet cheat thumb Is It Okay To Take a Cheat Day?

I remember when the book, Body For Life, first hit the market.  It was a huge seller.  I remember people excitingly telling me about the book, and how it recommended incorporating a cheat day in your diet plan.  Well guess who went out and bought the book the next day?  Yup.  Me.  I couldn’t believe it…could I really eat anything I wanted for a whole day and still lose weight?

After eating fast food, takeout, cake, cookies, chips, pop, and candy for an entire day, week after week, I wasn’t losing any weight.  I was following the rest of the plan; eating right the other 6 days of the week, exercising 6 days a week.  So why wasn’t I seeing results?

Sadly, I had to admit it, I was pretty sure my cheat day was sabotaging my weight loss.

So, are there any benefits to a cheat day?  Some experts say there are.  These experts say that after a long week of restricting calories, having a day where we don’t restrict what we eat may actually boost our metabolism temporarily.  However, is our metabolism boosted enough to burn those few thousand extra calories we just consumed?  Probably not.

Then there are the studies that say allowing a cheat day to satisfy our cravings allows us to stick to our diets.  While this may be true, I don’t think a day of binging is what we are talking about here.

I know in my experience, having an all-out cheat day didn’t do me any good.  In fact, it made things worse.  I found my cravings would get so out of control after having a cheat day that I found it hard to resist junk food during the week.

So what did I do?  I got rid of the “cheat day!”

What’s worked for me is to stick to healthy eating 90% – 95% of the time.  The other 5% I indulge.  But I don’t indulge in the junk foods that I used to eat.  I pick foods that will satisfy my cravings but still have a little bit of a health benefit.  For example, I buy organic dark chocolate bars (at least 60% cocoa), and once a day, I have one little square from that bar.  And I enjoy every second of it.  Or on the weekend, I’ll bake my family a dessert, but one that contains some healthier ingredients such as coconut oil or unsweetened applesauce…like the Hot Fudge Sundae Cake I posted yesterday.  Or when we order in pizza, I’ll order the multi-grain thin crust.  I’m still satisfying my craving without feeling totally guilty about it.

I’m not saying that you have to adopt the 95%/5% rule, that’s just what works for me.  If you can eat healthy 80% of the time and only allow yourself to splurge the other 20% of the time, then you are definitely on the right track.  But don’t allow yourself an entire cheat day.  Instead, have a cheat meal, like take-out pizza for dinner, or chocolate cake for dessert.  You won’t feel guilty about that little splurge, and the best part, you won’t sabotage your weight loss goals!

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Catherine April 20, 2012 at 8:10 am

I bought the Body For life book, as well, and did it for 12 weeks. I lost about 18 pounds. I liked the cheat day, I thought it helped. The first one I ate until I was sick but then I didn’t do that anymore. I just had 2 things I was craving, I didn’t like the feeling of being so in control all week and then losing it for one day.

I totally agree with what you are saying though and I respect the fact that you found what works for you and you stick to it. You are very disciplined and motivated.

And motivating. I wish I was your neighbour. Or better yet, your border, whom you cooked for, and dragged out of bed every morning to work me out.
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2 Jen April 20, 2012 at 8:24 am

LOL..if you lived with me, I would drag you out of bed at 5:30 but then bake you yummy, healthy treats :) You are right, you have to do what’s right for you, even if that involves a little “cheating” now and then!

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3 Samantha April 20, 2012 at 9:15 am

I agree with all of this. My cheats come in small forms – a small bowl of ice cream here, a wing night there, but never an all-out splurge day. I stick to clean eating for my day aside from whatever my cheat is, and I’m often not THAT far over my daily calories anyway. I’ve been doing it this way for 4 months and I’m still losing weight – 38 pounds and still going down!

As an aside, I went out for wings and appies at a pub a couple nights ago, and totally, totally went overboard. I felt awful the next day, my body just couldn’t handle digesting all that greasy deep-fried stuff. Next time, my cheat will be a couple dozen wings and a salad instead of a massive plate of cheesy and/or fried stuff.
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4 Jen April 20, 2012 at 9:37 am

It’s amazing what your body gets used to in such a short amount of time. I can’t eat anything greasy anymore without feeling disgusting and gross the next day! Congrats on your weight loss…that is a huge accomplishment :)

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5 Leslie April 20, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Great post!You should try Chokolat in Inglewood. I agree with Catherine I also want to move in and have you kick my butt for a few weeks!
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6 Jen April 20, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Mmm…sounds like a place I might like!

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7 Rhea April 21, 2012 at 11:12 am

No cheat days for me…but like you, I buy myself some sinful treats and just portion control them out. Right now my obsession is the Lindt “touch of seasalt” dark chocolate bar. Oh yum! 2 squares every few days and I’m a happy girl!

Thanks for commenting on my blog today. I’m glad I found you! I think we have a lot in common with all the little boys running amok!
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8 Jen April 21, 2012 at 11:18 am

I’m going to have to try that chocolate…sounds divine! Thanks for stopping by. I’ve been secretly stalking, I mean, watching your progress on Facebook over the past few weeks, and I’m very impressed. Yes, we would have lots in common…health, fitness, and boys ;)

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