Cheat days don't work when you’re trying to lose weight
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You've managed to embark on a weight loss journey, you're motivated and disciplined about your diet and exercise plan but there are still temptations right? A few weeks into a new diet plan, you might even begin to consider having a cheat day. It’s only a day, what harm could it do? Plus, you have been sweating like crazy at the gym, eating really healthily and writing every morsel of food down in your food diary, so surely you deserve a “reward” right? Having cheat days may make you feel less deprived while you are on your weight loss journey, but will they help you reach your goals or will they sabotage all the hard work you have put in so far?
The name “cheat day” is already a problem as it implies that you are eating forbidden foods. Once you separate foods into “good” and “bad” categories, you are more likely to feel guilt and shame after consuming the “bad” foods. This could potentially lead to you obsessing over your cheat day, overeating, and then trying to starve yourself the following day.
Some people who have cheat days may purposely overindulge or even binge on their favourite foods. They know that their diet will be restricted again for the whole week, so they eat all of their favourite meals and treats. If you are following a 1200 calorie diet and binge on let’s say around 5000 calories one day a week, then you have sabotaged all of your efforts! The calorie deficit that you have created is now balanced again and you will not see any results on the scales.
Many people give into temptation and decide to have a cheat treat or a cheat meal. If it is only the one, for example for a special occasion, that’s fine. However, many people will think, "I’ve messed today up already by having that muffin, I may as well eat as much as I can today, and start fresh tomorrow!" Funny that! If your phone falls on the floor and gets a slight crack, you don’t say, "I’ll just throw it on the floor and completely break it", do you?
Cheat days can cause unhealthy yo-yo dieting patterns. You may find yourself in a vicious pattern of weeks, months or even years of losing weight and constantly gaining it back within short periods. More seriously, you may end up in a vicious starvation and binge behaviour, just like a feast and famine cycle!
What happens to our bodies due to these “cheat” days has a massive impact on our bodies: with sudden increases in blood sugar and insulin. You will end up craving even more simple carbs the next day! Your cheat day may end up becoming a cheat week or make you completely give up your diet plan.
With all these cons, it seems like cheat days are not the answer to a healthy weight loss plan. A balanced and nutritious diet should include a number of foods in moderation. In order to lose weight, you will need to pay particular attention to portion control so that you are creating a calorie deficit every day. Keeping a food diary, will help you include treats from time to time and educate you on the right portion sizes.