Why Wednesday – Why I Don’t Have a Cheat Day

I do NOT believe in Cheat Days.

But before anyone zones out or gets angry let me explain my point.

Recently I talked about the “4-Hour Body” book I was reading and how I did not agree with his statement that everyone should have a Binge Day each week. Not only do I thoroughly disagree with the phrase BINGE DAY, I also don’t agree with the concept of Cheat Days.

Lots of diet plans have a “cheat day.” It’s my understanding that Weight Watchers has a Cheat Day as well. Maybe they work for you. Maybe having a Cheat Day keeps you more motivated to lose weight the other 6 days of the week. But for me I’ve never liked the terms.

1. CHEAT DAY implies that I’m on a diet.

I am NOT on a diet. I’m not doing a fad diet or starvation diet in order to lose weight fast. I am changing my entire lifestyle. With changing my lifestyle that means I am changing all of my bad habits–like BINGEING.

I think the one thing I’ve been consistent with portraying on my blog is the fact that I live my life in a balanced way. I eat pizza, I eat dessert but I also exercise 5 days a week and I eat quality food most of the time. I think my life has changed for the better because of these things.

2. Cheat Day implies that I’m doing something NAUGHTY.

Like 6 days a week I deny myself food I want, eating carrots and celery and then one day a week I get SNEAK food and “cheat” on my diet (see statement #1), right?

I don’t think my healthy living lifestyle should have at it’s core SHAME or GUILT. And that’s exactly how I would feel if one day a week I binged on everything in sight just because I could.

3. I don’t want to live my life longing for my Cheat Day.

The most important part of the way I live my life at 144 pounds is eating the things I LOVE whenever I want. I balance those treats, snacks and splurges with regular, vigorous exercise and moderate eating throughout the day.

For example: I know that I will almost always eat more calories on a Saturday night than I will on a Tuesday night. So Saturdays are my days for a long workout. I have zero guilt about anything I eat on Saturdays because I know I worked out and I made healthy choices throughout the day before indulging in the Saturday Night Dinner.

4. I make healthy choices every day in order to “cheat” every day.

For example: I know that I will want dessert most nights. Instead of having a string cheese or extra handful of chips with lunch, or candy at work, I’d much rather save those 200 calories and eat them for dessert after dinner.


5. I don’t want to live my life where certain foods are FORBIDDEN.

That concept will just make me want that forbidden food more. Then I’ll obsess about it, crave it, think about how I can get that food. How is that a healthy, balanced way to live my life? I would much rather eat whatever food I want, in smaller portions, to satisfy a craving AND if I am truly hungry.

I suppose there are inherent “Cheat Days” already in the calender year: Birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Thanksgiving…I could make an excuse to overeat almost every day if I wanted to. “It’s New Year’s Eve! Eat!” or “It’s the 4th of July! BBQ Time!” One burger on the grill with some fruit salad, a serving of potato chips and maybe some pickles tastes just as good as a BINGE event on a holiday. In fact, it probably tastes better eaten in moderation because I haven’t made myself feel sick overeating.

One argument FOR a cheat day by a lot of sources is that having one cheat day a week changes your metabolism because you shake up the caloric intake and confuse your body into losing more weight. I think this is accurate. I’ve seen it many times every time I’ve hit a plateau in my weight loss journey.

My response to that? My caloric intake is different every single day, so I’m already “confusing” my body. Bingeing won’t give me any added benefits (and it will damage my self-esteem). I eat more calories on the days that I work out.  And even on days I work out, I eat varying calories depending on the activity I am doing. If it’s a Saturday and I’ve spent over an hour in the gym and burned 700+ calories, I’m going to eat almost 700+ calories more. But on days I swim and only burn 350 calories? I don’t always eat those 350 calories back.

In the end it’s a personal decision. If Weight Watchers works for people and they advocate “Cheat Days”, follow the program. I don’t do WW but I think they are a good program to lose weight the real way.

For me, I’d rather have a little bit of a treat every day instead.

QUESTION: How do you feel about “Cheat Days/Binge Days”? Do practice it?

31 Responses

  1. Love it! I totally agree with all these things but especially the fact that cheat day implies a diet and I make healthy choices every day in order to “cheat” every day.

    Also, after being on this healthy living journey for 3 years now, the idea of a cheat or binge day GROSSES ME OUT. I LIKE putting healthy, yummy, whole foods in my body. The idea of filling my body with fast food/heavy food is NOT appealing at all to me nor is the idea of binging until I feel sick. I used to binge eat a lot and it is NOT a pleasant feeling at all, why would someone want to/look forward to putting themselves through that?

    1. You make a great point that I failed to articulate: overeating makes me feel GROSS. Psychologically AND physically! And I’m not on a diet. I count my calories to keep me “honest” to myself that I am eating what is a normal amount of food for whatever my activities are for the day. If it’s a rest day, I don’t NEED to eat 700 extra calories. 1800 is just fine.

  2. I have talked about this on my blog, so I am going to post my thoughts directly here from that post…. warning… novel ahead 😀
    ———————————-

    I don’t know if there is a term I care for less in the weight loss world than ‘cheat day’. The name alone is a totally negative term.

    First, the word ‘cheat’ is defined by Websters as:

    1: to deprive of something valuable by the use of deceit or fraud
    2: to influence or lead by deceit, trick, or artifice
    3: to elude or thwart by or as if by outwitting
    1 a: to practice fraud or trickery b: to violate rules dishonestly

    Do any of these definitions sound like something you want to apply to your life? No one is perfect, and no one eats totally on plan all the time (I certainly don’t). But I don’t consider it ‘cheating’ when I go off plan. And sometimes those off plan foods are actually planned in. Then I have control over them.

    Cheating also implies that the way you are eating is not something you can sustain for a lifetime. If you view your eating plan as so rigid and uncompromising that you cannot have some of your favorites – then how can you possibly expect to succeed in maintaining your weight loss (let alone getting to goal)?

    I think it would be better to call it a choice rather than a cheat. There are too many negative feelings and associations with cheating: guilt, remorse, self loathing, the feeling of lack of control.

    If you make a choice, then you are fully aware ahead of time as to the consequences of your actions. You can say, “I am choosing to have this piece of cheesecake. It will not cause me to go off plan, it is not a license to abandon the rest of the day (eating wise), and I can get right back on my normal plan with the next meal.”
    That can eliminate the guilt, because if you are going to have something – why not truly enjoy it without the guilt?

    1. Okay I’m still catching up on my RSS today so I’ll check out your post shortly. Funny we’re on the same page!

      I particularly liked “Cheating also implies that the way you are eating is not something you can sustain for a lifetime. ” I don’t plan on giving up chocolate or pizza for the rest of my life in order to lose or maintain my 100 pounds loss. I want to be able to eat those things–even if they are in “low calorie alternative” ways (like deLite pizza or Weight Watchers recipes that are low in calories). I’d rather have it in my life in some way than not at all.

  3. First, I can’t believe he called it a “binge day”. That is JUST WRONG! Second, I agree with your approach completely! I followed Body-for-Life for many years and although I love that program in general, the Free Day ended up being trouble. I would actually force feed myself in order to make sure I was getting every desire satisfied and beyond.

    p.s. that pizza pic looked so good. I <3 pizza SO much! YUM!

  4. I totally agree with you about cheat days. They’d be dangerous for me.

    I’ve been following Weight Watchers for 20 years and have never heard them mention cheat days. I think you may be thinking of the weekly points that can be used for indulgences or when you’re not satisfied. People can opt to use them or use them only when an occasion comes up, but I’ve never heard them advocate a regular cheat day. I think Weight Watchers’ basic tenet is eating to satisfaction while staying in parameters that allow for weight loss. Within that framework, everyone has to figure out what works for them.

    I have found that by eating whatever I want, while losing weight, has taken away a lot of the uncontrollable desire for certain foods. I can eat pretty much any food now and be able to stop. The food doesn’t have control over me. Whoohoo!

    1. Thanks for the clarification.

      I like your comment about the FOOD NOT CONTROLLING YOU. Excellent! That’s how I’d feel if I was trying to follow some “diet” that included a cheat day. That cheat day would completely overtake my life.

  5. I realize that you aren’t on Weight Watchers so you aren’t informed on the program like I am or other people.Weight Watchers is not like body for life or other programs where a “cheat day” is allowed. Much like how you set a calorie limit each day, we have daily points, and when we want to indulge we can because we have weekly points to “cushion” us. Same basic principle applies to your diet/lifestyle-eat healthy, exercise, and indulge occasionally. Hopefully this will clear up some of your misconceptions about the program.

    1. I am not a WW person. I’ve only been to one meeting to see what it was like but I was just going off what friends who are ON on WW talk about…one refers to her “Cheat Day.” I assumed that was part of the program. Thanks for clearing that up.

  6. Carbzilla is right about WW – there’s no “cheat day” on WW, you just have extra points you can use throughout the week or on a certain day, however you would like to use them. Personally, what I’ve found works for me, is if I do pick one night or one day to not count points and just consider myself using all of those extra points. I don’t think its a cheat day in the same way that I eat everything and anything I can get my hands on, but if its a social situation, or a happy hour or something, i’ll use that to drink a few extra drinks and get some fries or whatever else I want, and not worry about it. I do allow myself other indulgences throughout the week and don’t think of myself as being on a diet at all, but I do like having one day to have extra and not feel guilty about it.

    1. You’ve had some good explinations on how weight watchers works. I am on it too and am similar to Beth. On the weekend I eat mostly the same, but I may eat out or have a few drinks. Its not a cheat day though. I could eat a little more throughout out the week if I would like, but choose to use my points this way.

      But you have obviously found what works for you and that is awesome. Its all about what works for each person.

      Btw. I mentioned your blog post about the sausages in my Weight watchers meeting the other day when we were talking about portion sizes. See you’re influencing weight watchers too 😉

  7. Cheat days don’t work for me. I obsess over all the things I want to eat on cheat days and go crazy. So I try to eat the things I want, but in small quantities for the things that are less healthy. And now and then I’ll go all out, but I don’t plan those days–I just try and make sure they don’t happen too often.

  8. I pretty much agree with you. I definitely am at a stage where I can eat what I want because what I want is mostly healthy and I have room in my balanced diet for a daily dose of chocolate.

    My other issue with “cheat” days is that they can send me into a downward spiral, and it can be hard to get back on track the next day. Especially if I over ate, and so am not hungry, and so skip meals and then get starving. It can be a vicious cycle!

  9. OMG that picture of the girl chowing down on chocolate is awesome! 😛 Love the pic!

    I really like your mentality about eating in moderation. I think it’s the most realistic view of having a healthy lifestyle and avoiding the diet mentality. 🙂

    Sara

  10. You are so 100% right about this! That’s why I love your blog so much – you’re doing the right things in a very REALISTIC and doable way.

  11. I agree with you! The term “cheat” would make me feel guilty and the term “binge” kinda grosses me out! I’m sure I’ve done both…but I try not to feel badly if I’ve eaten a cookie or a piece of pizza, or both, one day, when I know I’ve eaten healthfully the rest of the day and worked out. I’m still struggling with this, though. I have a tendency to eat outside my calorie range on the weekend. I’ve written about it a lot. I’m trying new things, like bringing healthy snacks to my BF’s on the weekend, and trying to eat fro-yo instead of ice cream if we go out for dessert. But more often than not, I feel like I am cheating a lot on the weekends! But as you said: I need to look at it as a lifestyle change I’m making. I do feel that’s what I’m doing…now I just need to work on the balance and squashing the guilt!

    1. The guilt is part of it. Sure, I eat more on the weekends but I also exercise more on the weekends too. The guilt will always be part of my life but I’m doing better at realizing that it’s OK and I don’t need to feel guilty…

  12. I agree about not calling it a cheat day or a binge day. I am more lax on the weekends – primarily because that’s when we have time to go out and eat more indulgent foods. Sometimes that coincides with a harder workout and other times it doesn’t – although since being more mindful of my calories in/calories out, it tends to coincide with longer runs. I have heard the theory of “shocking” your metabolism so R and I jokingly call the days we go out to dinner and have a few drinks as “shock and awe” (a la W). And you’re right the hardest part is the guilt…I’m think I’m still struggling with the lifestyle change and recognizing that it’s not all indulgence and not all restriction but a balance of both.

    1. Me too….my natural schedule ends up being harder workouts on weekends + higher calorie foods. But so far it’s worked for me!

      I like that “shock and awe”. I might have to adopt that phrase. 😉

  13. Hey, I wrote something very similar just the other day on my own blog. I made the argument that by labeling foods as bad or good we then believe that by eating them we are either bad or good.

    Instead I am trying to categorize foods as either everyday foods or sometimes foods. I try to think of oatmeal, fruits, dairy and other things as everyday foods while my favorite pizza place with wings that I love is a sometime food. Real Coke, also a sometimes food.

  14. Cheat Days do not work!!! I lost weight using them, but now I’m stuck in this vicious cycle in which I undereat all week because I know that on Friday, I won’t be able to control myself. I eat almost to the point of sickness…its ridiculous but once you start that cycle, its almost impossible to stop! My undereating leaves me with very little energy, especially towards the end of the week, but I know I can’t control myself on cheat day so I won’t allow myself to eat more. I hate it! Take if from someone who knows….CHEAT DAYS ARE DETRIMENTAL TO A HEALTHY DIET!!!

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