They say that cheaters never prosper.
But sometimes, a cheat day is necessary in order to prosper!
In the United States, 45 million Americans go on a diet each year. The percentage numbers are likely similar here in the UK.
Unfortunately, studies show that most dieters gain weight during their dieting process. Or, they gain the weight back immediately.
One way to avoid this happening is by using a cheat meal or cheat day system.
You might wonder how eating junk food can fit into your diet, but it’s actually a very important tactic to help you lose weight and keep it off.
Let’s dive in.
Why You Need a Cheat Day or Cheat Meal
Many people erroneously believe that when you’re on a diet, you need to only scarf fruits and veg and a bit of broth and nothing else. If you’re eating anything other than a measly salad, you’re doing it wrong.
While nutrition and lifestyle changes are incredibly important to losing weight, it isn’t the be all and end all.
In fact, restricting yourself too much can lead to you overindulging later on. This can be counterintuitive to your diet.
Say you really love chocolate. On your diet, you’ve decided you’re not going to eat any chocolate until you lose 10lbs.
This is problematic because it makes you crave chocolate more. You might find the cravings unbearable and end up consuming a metric tonne of chocolate before you’ve even noticed.
Or, you might lose the weight you set out to lose, and then reward yourself by not only incorporating chocolate into your diet but eating it on the daily. This is why so many people end up losing and gaining weight back because once they’ve rewarded themselves for losing the weight, they begin to pack on the pounds.
So how do you mitigate this? With cheat meals and cheat days!
No Food is Off Limits
Even the most seasoned of nutritionists will tell you that you should never place a food “off-limits.” This distorts your thinking about the food and makes it either taboo or something you fetishize and crave even more.
Of course, if you have a genuine allergy or intolerance to a food, that’s a different story. However, you shouldn’t ever have a food or meal that is “off limits” due to your belief that it could make you gain weight or be unhealthy.
No food is so powerful that you’ll instantly gain weight after consuming it. Likewise, you won’t suffer a heart attack from having one plate of fish and chips.
The issue comes down to portion control and how often you eat it. If you eat fish and chips once a week, or once every two weeks, it’s really not a big deal. You only run into trouble when junk food and overeating becomes a habit.
Your Cheat Day Should Still Have Limits
Binging is a problem with many dieters. After they’ve fetishized and sworn off cakes and biscuits and fried food, they crave it. Once they finally allow themselves to eat it, many people go crazy and eat unrestrained amounts of it.
This is also counterintuitive when it comes to eating a cheat meal.
Your cheat meal or day should contain you eating something you might normally not eat on your diet. But you still need to limit yourself and be within reason.
Want a slice of cake on your cheat day? Go for it! But instead of having the three slices you’re craving, stick with one slice.
This allows you to have what you crave without veering into binge territory. You’ll be eating some extra calories, but if you’re eating and exercising to create a deficit regularly, it’s not going to undo your progress.
Occasionally Giving Yourself More Calories Can Help Boost Your Metabolism
If you’re eating 1300 calories every single day, your body will eventually adjust to the fact that that’s what you’re putting in it. Because, throughout history, food has mostly been scarce for humans, your body goes to efforts to conserve the food you are putting into your body.
This means that once you create a deficit, your body will immediately get thrown into a panic and you’ll lose weight. After a while, it will hold onto the calories you’re eating so that you can continue basic human functions.
For individuals who are starving, either by choice or outside circumstance, the body begins to prioritise what bodily functions and systems to continue. Typically, the non-essential to life functions go first. And your body will hold on desperately to the calories it does get to ensure the essential functions continue.
But, a cheat day can vary your caloric intake and spike your metabolism. This springs it into action because your body suddenly realises it isn’t starving, so it doesn’t work as hard to hold onto the calories you’re putting in.
This means you should create a deficit most days of the week, and then cheat every so often with 200-300 more calories during your cheat day.
Everything in Moderation
Everything in moderation is the perfect mantra for weight loss, and even for cheat days. While it might be tempting, a cheat day isn’t free reign to go out and eat everything in sight. Instead, you should still calculate your nutrition and ensure you’re not going overboard.
On your cheat day, don’t sit down to a 1500 calorie meal and then continue to munch throughout the day. Instead, tack on a few hundred extra calories than you normally would, preferably with something you’ve really been craving.
You might also want to schedule your cheat meals or cheat days on days you workout. This is because your body is more adept at burning calories then.
For more information on personal training, workouts and other diet tips and tricks, visit our blog.