There are many philosophies and studies that harmonize food indulgences with weight loss and/or maintenance. And it makes sense. Cheat days give you reprieve from your “diet,” which helps keep you motivated to stay on track the majority of the time. OK, I won’t disagree with that.
However, when a woman asked me my thoughts about cheat days at a recent lecture I gave on breaking bad habits, I had a different take.While I do, of course, believe in treating yourself and indulging in moderation, I most definitely do not believe in premeditated cheat days. A plan to gorge on pizza and ice cream on Sunday night (only to be “good” again on Monday) goes against my beliefs with intuitive eating. When you plan cheat days in advance, you aren’t even giving yourself the opportunity to assess how much you really want the food — let alone consider the negative affects it could cause later. Guilt. Bloat. Triggered cravings. Regret. Yo-yo dieting patterns. Oh, and did I say bloat?
Let’s be clear: I’m talking about planned, throw-caution-to-the-wind type of cheat days — not having a burger with friends on Friday night, or enjoying dessert at your favorite restaurant. If you follow me on Instagram, you know full well that I allow for plenty of treats and tasty foods on a regular basis. (What you don’t always see, however, are the portions I actually eat, or all of other healthy choices I made leading up to the indulgent one.)
There is a very small percentage of people who can have their cheat day, and then move on and eat perfectly healthy the other six days of the week. Hats off to you. However, if you have impulsive or emotional eating tendencies like me, you may – ahem – chow down on a ginormous piece of chocolate cake at the end of a long and exhausting work week.
See, that’s just it. If you are being truly honest with yourself, you are most likely doing enough “cheating” as it is. You don’t need a date on the calendar to tell you when to eat a basket of French fries. Think about the vending machine snacks or pieces of chocolate you at the office. The extra nibbles you sneak from your child’s plate. Or oops! the night you promised you would have just one glass of wine…which turned out to be three.
You’re only human. Slip-ups happen. Mindless eating happens. I’ve been there. In many ways, I’m still there. However, I challenge you to simply do the best you can do in every moment. Sometimes yes, that might mean giving in and having that ice cream cone you’ve been dreaming about since last week. OK, fine. But other times it will mean forgoing alcoholic drinks, staying in on Saturday night to make a healthy dinner or white-knuckling it and riding out an intense food craving.
Live in the moment and be present. Ask yourself questions. Learn from mistakes. The only plans you should be making are the ones that will help you reach your goals and give you long-term happiness…not fleeting satisfaction.
Have a bad habit (or two) you need help breaking? Want to learn how to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle without feeling restricted and obsessed over everything you put in your mouth? Contact me for a free consultation and I’ll help you get started!