Cheat Days. YES OR NO?
One of the things I’ve been thinking about is the concept of ‘Cheat Days’. I personally don’t normally have Cheat Days as I eat so much delicious food, I never feel like I’m on a diet or that I’m missing out! Another reason I LOVE the low carb lifestyle…..!
HOWEVER, I think it’s important to understand why they could possibly work for you…..or not. Here’s some pros and cons from my research and experience.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CHEAT DAYS
When you’re on any type of diet plan, regardless of what it is, the core of it normally revolves around a reduction or restriction of calories. When you’re in calorie deprivation, you’re more likely to burn stored fat as fuel, however after awhile your body becomes accustomed to that state, you stop losing and in some instances is the reason why many people ‘plateau’. This comes back to an important hormone called ‘Leptin’.
Some scientists claim that cheat days boost your metabolism by upping Leptin production, helping the body burn more calories after overeating. Leptin is the hormone responsible for maintaining our energy balance and triggering weight loss, so a sudden influx in calories essentially tricks your body into Leptin production and VOILA, you’re back into fat burning once again.
Restricting calories can cause Leptin to dwindle, but temporarily upping calorie intake can re-up Leptin production by nearly 30 percent (for up to 24 hours). It may boost your metabolism after overeating, work to regulate hunger AND this hormone may contribute to increased motivation, libido, and Dopamine production. It’s been noted in some documents that after a cheat day, dieters might actually be happier and more motivated. (Who wouldn’t be after eating all that delicious and decadent food right?)
Will power can be a challenge. In my journey, I’d allow myself a cheat meal or cheat day and that would turn into a cheat week, ‘I’ll start my diet on Monday’ excuses, or a cheat year. Basically, I would fall right off the wagon and struggle to find the way back
Eating food that makes you feel sick. I’m the first to admit that I’m a carb addict and I LOVE CHOCOLATE, however often those foods don’t love me. As an example, if I had a cheat day and ate a whole lot of bread, within 30 minutes I’d be bloated, tired and chances are I’d have an upset stomach as well. While this can be a great, but painful reminder to stay on track, it actually upsets the gut, creating imbalances and inflammation which can contribute to weight gain! FYI: no I’m not coeliac or gluten sensitive. I struggled with the symptoms of IBS due to my inability to process carbohydrates. If this resonates, chat with your healthcare professional to find out what’s going on for you.
Cravings. What happens when you’re told you can’t have something? You obsess over it, you think about it non-stop and you want it more right? My concern with cheat days is that suddenly food falls into 2 categories: diet food and cheat food. Diet food becomes ‘something we know we should eat’ and cheat food becomes the thing we really want. The result? Cravings. Opportunities for sabotage. Screwy ideas about food. I know this as I’ve been through it myself. If this resonates, it’s worth doing some work with affirmations, or checking out my blog on dealing with cravings
Guilts. I spent a number of years living in food shame. I beat myself up so many times for falling off the wagon and I don’t want anyone else to live like that. There’s so much more to life than that feeling like you’re a constant failure……because you’re not.
HOW TO MAKE IT WORK
Stop demonising food. All real food is good. For some people, some foods don’t suit their gut, their health or their genes. Eat less of those foods. Focus on the foods that SERVE your body and your health and listen to what your body needs. The more you listen to what your body NEEDS (not what your body wants….), making healthier options becomes easier.
Balance: If you have a ‘Cheat Meal’, don’t stress about it. Enjoy the heck out of that meal, savour the experience and balance your day out with a lower calorie or ‘on plan’ meal at your next sitting. As an example, I went to review a decadent Monster Thickshake company called Cereal Killer (LINK HERE) and loved every moment of my delicious Chocolate Nutella Shake. Dinner that night was a super yummy chicken salad. Tasty as heck and I still stayed on track.
Work out your WHY. If the ‘Cheats’ are calling and you’re feeling like you can’t resist, chances are you’re only working on a number – either a weight or a size – as your goal. Goals that have an emotion or a feeling attached to them are more likely to be achieved and when your will power gives out, that emotional response gives you the support to keep going. My WHY revolves around the fact that I witnessed my Dad suffering with his health because of complications associated with Type 2 Diabetes. He went blind when I was 18 months old and we lost him when I was just 18. I certainly wouldn’t wish his painful experience on anyone. So, what’s your WHY? Being healthy into your old age? Being able to have more fun with your kids or grandkids? Work out your WHY, write it down and remember it daily.
While I’m a low carb fan, the best advice I could ever share is to learn what your body needs. We are all divinely and genetically unique. Become aware of how you feel with each meal, #treatyoself and enjoy it, remove stigmas and guilts about food, know that at each meal you can take another step forward towards your WHY, ‘eat ya greens’ and go for a walk!
You got this.