The ugly side of cheat days – 7 questions you MUST ask yourself
There are a lot of opinions out there telling you it is okay to cheat on your diet. A simple internet search about cheating on your diet returns many articles, blogs and even scientific evidence promoting the idea. They even go as far to say that cheating will keep you on track and help in promoting further weight loss. However, cheating cannot be all good nor will it produce positive effects. There are downsides to cheating, and it’s time you took a closer look at them so that you can become fully aware of what the detriments could be. In reading the following and considering how to plan cheat days or moments, I urge you to ask yourself some or all of the following questions before indulging.
Cheat day vs no cheat day: 7 questions you MUST ask yourself
1) How do you define a cheat day?
Some people define cheating as having one or two cookies throughout the course of a clean food day. Others may define cheating as going all out and eating a fast food meal with a 20-ounce soda, then following it up with an ice cream sundae. How you define cheating has a huge impact on how it can affect your weight loss success. The former opinion may not hurt your weight loss plan very much, but the latter binge eating experience may significantly throw you off your track. If this is the case with you, check out How to stop cheating on your diet.
2) Will I be able to control myself and not let this get out of control to become a full cheat week?
A weight loss plan is more than just counting calories and consuming healthy foods. There are physiological and psychological factors involved as well. The physiological factors pertain to the effects on the hunger and satiety hormones Ghrelin and Leptin. Ghrelin, produced in the stomach, is known as the hunger hormone in that it signals hunger to the brain. Leptin is known as the satiety hormone in that it decreases your appetite. When you eat, messages are sent out to tell your body that you have had enough to eat. When you eat fatty meals or foods as you would probably be doing on your cheat day, this system doesn’t work as well which causes you to eat more calories thereby causing weight gain and an increase in fat storage.
In addition, consuming too much in one day, such as with the binge scenario, could affect your ghrelin and alter your hunger and fullness signals causing you to feel hungrier. This increased feeling of hunger could cause your one cheat day to spill into a cheat week, or worse spiral into multiple weeks and months. This will certainly derail your weight loss.
3) What are my trigger foods?
Trigger foods play into the psychological aspect of cheating. These foods are often tied to emotional feelings in that these are the foods you turn to when you are stressed or dealing with a difficult situation and attempt to seek a particular level of comfort. If you are planning cheat days or cheat meals, it’s important to take a look at yourself from a psychological standpoint and determine the reasons for specific food choices. This is very important in helping to understand the potential detriments cheating may impose. This is because, depending on what kinds of difficulties you may be dealing with in your life, these trigger foods may make the difference in whether your cheat meal is more of a snack-treat, one-time event in the day or an all-out binge session.
4) Will I indulge in cheat treats mindfully?
Other psychological implications of cheating may involve your level of mindfulness. When indulging in your cheat food or meal, are you eating it mindfully without any distractions and really enjoying it in order to experience the full satisfaction it can provide? Or are you eating it while driving, watching television, working or engaging in any other distraction? If you are distracted while indulging in your cheat treat, then you are not really enjoying it and may be left wanting more. Wanting more can sometimes lead to having more and then your cheat treat has likely turned into a binge event and negatively affected your weight loss strategy.
5) How will I feel after indulging in cheat treats?
You have to determine how you think you might feel and document it for later reference. A good strategy is to keep a journal of your physical and psychological feelings following a cheat. The assumption is that you will feel good and satisfied after consumption, and if you do – great, you have achieved your mission.
However, more often than not you may actually feel quite the opposite. You may experience negative effects such as sluggishness, fatigue and bloating. You may also feel bad about yourself for indulging in your cheat meal. These negative feelings can snowball into even worse feelings of inadequacy and depression, as well as further exacerbating your already lowered self-esteem. One cheat meal can lead to a loss of self-control and a reactionary attempt to regain control that can spiral down a destructive path of starvation and restrictive eating.
6) Am I aware of the full effects cheating on my diet will have on my body and fitness?
Embarking on a weight loss plan should become something bigger than just a temporary “plan”. Instead, it should become your new way of life in which you eat healthy and exercise regularly. Making this a life change as opposed to a temporary plan for a defined period of time will aid in helping your body adapt more easily to the changes that your body will go through. In changing eating habits your body will adjust its hormone and enzyme production. In changing or increasing your physical activity regimen, your body will begin to make positive changes such as building muscle, strengthening bone, creating more mitochondria in your cells to improve cellular metabolism, and transporting more oxygen throughout your bloodstream.
Cheating will negatively affect these body adaptations in that you will be interrupting the positive changes that will be taking place such that your body may never get used to your new lifestyle.
7) Can I have a controlled cheat meal or should I avoid it altogether?
Finally you can ask yourself this question. You must first evaluate your answers to the above questions before providing an answer for this one. With all of the information given above and being truthful with yourself about your answers, do you really think you can have a controlled cheat meal or should you avoid it altogether? It is very important for you to be honest with yourself and intuitively aware of how you would handle a cheat situation before deciding whether to indulge or not.
Bottom line, it seems like it is best not to have a cheat day after all. Instead, I will leave you to contemplate another concept. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat when you are hungry what food you desire. Take the conditions off these foods that you would normally eat on cheat days so that they don’t hold so much power over you. You will find that once you do that, you will eat them only occasionally and may even realize that you don’t even enjoy them.