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  • Writer's pictureEmily Dellwo

Why "Cheat Days" are Not the Solution to Your Eating Problems.

Cheat days is a diet TREND where you eat zero processed foods during the week and work to maintain a larger calorie deficit 6 days a week, but on the 7th day you get to have whatever you want all day. No regrets. #yolo While this sounds like the ultimate solution to your eating issues it actually becomes quite the opposite.




I am pretty sure at least once a week since I declared my major as "Nutrition & Exercise Physiology" I have been asked what I think about "cheat days".


When people first started asking me this question I didn't have a solid answer, because I hadn't yet given the time to research and think about this diet phenomenon.


But, as I continued in my studies one thing became apparent:

the cheat day diet SUCKS!



Not only does it always require and entail a SUPER restrictive diet that is SO UNSUSTAINABLE you can only do it for 6 days at a time without losing your marbles; but that cheat day also wreaks havoc on your body and mind producing inflammation, disordered eating habits, and eventual weigh regain (if any was lost to begin with).

 

Why am I SO anti-cheat days??


-->If a diet requires "cheat days" then that means it is INCREDIBLY restrictive.


-->When we restrict our diet beyond trying to only eat when we are hungry and not eating when we are not hungry we tend to feel deprived.


-->When we feel deprived longer than a day or two our body (and brain), reacts by obsessing about these foods you are depriving yourself of. This feeling of deprivation often leads to a semi-uncontrollable "binge" where you eat everything you possibly can till your are stuffed full.


-->The most damaging thing you could ever do to your body AND health (nutrition wise), is OVEREATING!! With overeating being defined as eating beyond when you are full.


--> I have yet to meet a person that didn't end up engorging themselves on a cheat day.


Well then, if cheat day diets are off the table, what do you suggest?

Great question. ;)


The beauty of embarking on your wellness journey is that it is unique to YOU! When we are beginning to change our eating habits it is important to remember that you have been making your not so healthy eating habits for 20+ years. These [sometimes] lifelong eating habits are not something you should flip upside down overnight.


--> Instead of focusing on what not to eat focus on ADDING FOOD TO YOUR DAY. In particular: fruits, veggies, and tons of water. This will not only provide all sorts of important nutrients to help your metabolism function properly, but will also make it so you automatically have way less room for the foods that aren't so healthy and therefor less hungry.


--> Try to have a small daily TREAT (~150-250 cals) every day, or a medium sized treat (~250-450 cals) every other day instead. Your "treats" are not just sweets though, this includes chips and other highly processed foods.



 

Trust me, I've been watching this trend for about 9 years now. Never have I ever seen it not lead to weight yo-yoing and often some binge overeating disordered behavior....


And once you are there you have a long road to get back to having a healthy relationship with food once again. Not to mention, you will usually have an ADDITIONAL 10-20 pounds to lose when it is all said and done.


So, don't risk it!


Also- STOP unnecessarily torturing yourself with unsustainable diets.

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