We all have different relationships with food. For many, it’s a journey that takes twists and turns throughout our lives. Some people get lean genes, while others have become chronic dieters battling the bulge. It might seem that a successful diet is merely an issue of discipline and willpower. For most people, there’s a strong sense of white-knuckling your way to a positive outcome of seeing the scale move in a downward direction. Then, even if you make it to that glorious goal weight, what happens next? If you feel you’ve had a negative relationship with food your entire life, you’ve most likely developed an unhealthy diet mentality: an all-or-nothing approach to food. You either stick to a strict diet or throw caution to the wind and eat carelessly with no long-term nutrition plan. Now you have a negative diet cycle, and out of this comes the concept of a “cheat day.”
My Experience With Dieting…and Cheating
The first diet I ever tried was when I was 14 years old. I was going through puberty, and I wasn’t exactly happy with some of the changes my body was experiencing. I was a little fuller in the hips and buns and was comparing myself to my peers, who still seemed so long and lean.
As I recall, the main components of my nutrition plan were grapefruit and cottage cheese. About three days into this stringent regimen, I was ravenous; all I could think about was food. Mid-morning hit, and my brother left a charred bagel lying on the kitchen countertop. All my willpower was gone. I clutched the burnt bagel, brought it toward my face, and took a giant bite. Food, glorious food. Burnt and all. Even now, I can almost feel the charred bits stuck between my teeth.
The cons of a diet cheat day are pretty simple. If your idea of a cheat day is binge eating at the end of the week, this could have some harmful effects on your metabolism.
- A cheat day can extend to a week or longer
- Binge eating does not boost your metabolism as some have believed
- A cheat meal or day could trigger unhealthy eating behaviors
- Cheating can be followed by feelings of guilt or shame
- It takes your mind off of the long-term goal to focus on immediate gratification
- The concept of a cheat day villainizes certain foods rather than encouraging an approach of moderation
The best diets involve a meal plan that promotes a healthy relationship with food and focuses on long-term change. Any diet you’re considering should have a foundation for building new habits that can be maintained throughout your life. This contrasts with a diet that’s so strict that it will inevitably lead to “cheating.”
The Pros Of A Diet Cheat Day
Here’s a list of pros for a diet cheat day.
While it’s true that you might need a major overhaul in terms of what you’re eating, there’s still no need to create an approach that’s so strict that the only logical result is to plan for cheating. Instead, make a long-term nutrition plan which allows you to moderately eat most of the things that you love!
Here are tips for following a healthy nutrition plan that allows for moderation every day:
- Plan on eating things you love but reduce how often you have them if they lack nutritional value.
- If you have a particular food that you believe you can’t exercise self-control about, don’t keep it in the house. BUT remind yourself that if you really must have it, it IS always an option. There’s no reason to operate in a scarcity mindset.
- Find new ways to prepare and present old go-to food items. I’m astounded at how many people continue to eat the same old boring things in the same old boring ways. Change how you tenderize or marinade your meat protein, purchase some new herbs and spices and get creative about bringing flavor to your meals without adding simple carbs or sugars.
- Continually visualize yourself as a healthy, capable person who is in control and fueling your body for a specific long-term purpose. You’re not running from something negative but rather moving toward something positive.
The Burnt Bagel
Never forget that if a burnt bagel has you cheating on your diet, it’s time for a mindset transformation and a healthier relationship with food.