Have you ever had a cheat day where you allow yourself to eat anything you want? Only to find yourself completely overindulging and eating way more than you planned? Then feeling incredibly guilty…I know there are many of us who have experienced a day like this, sometimes planned, sometimes not. Either way, you can end up feeling overwhelmed and lost as to what to do next.
There are two ways to go about it; either, you let the regret take over and throw in the towel on all your hard work so far, or, you use this setback to learn from your actions and fight even harder to build stronger willpower.
I vote for the comeback option!
So, below are some cheat day insights and tips on how to fight for the comeback.
How does a cheat day affect your body?
In essence, one day of eating excessive calories likely won’t affect your body or your weight, provided you go back to appropriate calories afterwards. The biggest issue with a cheat day is the effects it has psychologically. I see this time and time again. So many people who have a ‘cheat day’, and over-consume calories, feel so guilty about it afterwards. They feel their hard work has all been undone and there’s no point in continuing to eat well, so they go back to eating in their more harmful old ways. So, mindset is absolutely the biggest sufferer. Having said that, if your “cheat” days start to outnumber your healthy days, your weight will also start to be affected.
So, when will your weight be affected?
This will entirely depend on how often those cheat days occur. We go back to the basic body equation; if you are consuming more calories than you are burning, your weight will increase. If you are regularly over-indulging, and your meals aren’t calorie-controlled, then you will be required to burn off, for example, 4 times the amount than you would regularly. That’s 4 times as much physical activity, and if you aren’t meeting these requirements, then chances are, you will see a rise on the scales.
Cheat or Treat?
Successful and sustained weight loss is about more than eating fewer calories than you burn in a day. Your attitude toward food will also significantly impact your ability to resist temptation, regulate eating behaviours and reach your weight loss goals.
The word “cheat” has culturally negative connotations and is nearly always associated with feelings of guilt. Using that term to describe a food or meal could impair your ability to maintain self-control or self-believe, even within the cheat meal framework. For this reason, it’s often not a good idea to incorporate a ‘cheat day’ into a dietary regime for those who have a difficult time self-regulating their emotional eating. Reframing a “cheat” day with a more positive message, such as a “treat” meal, could help to better support self-regulation and better healthy eating behaviours.
Are you “cheating” because you feel restricted?
On the flip side of all this, it’s so, so important to allow yourself to not feel too restricted in your eating. If you feel too restricted, you can easily be led into temptation and feel a strong desire to binge, over-indulge and suffer a prolonged setback. It’s a great idea to allow yourself a small piece of chocolate or ice cream every so often, so that you don’t feel like you’re “not allowed to have it”. This is a great healthy eating behaviour that should be adopted in the long term, and not just as a “cheat” or a “treat”, but as a small, infrequent component of your diet. It will have zero impact on your long term weight loss if the rest of your diet is well-balanced.