We have cheat days to give us a break from being on a caloric deficit when doing a weight loss program. They are necessary for most people, but they might need to be moderated if results are not happening. Sometimes we have them too often or we consume too much on a scheduled cheat day. These explanations will better help you understand how to utilize the cheat day and avoid its pitfalls.
What is a cheat day?
It’s simply a day where you eat more than a normal day when on a nutritional plan for weight loss. This typically includes a favorite large meal that is not on the plan.
One cheat day or cheat meal a week.
This old rule is still a good one to stick to. It allows us to get results most of the week without feeling too restricted. Now, if you feel that you don’t need that cheat day, don’t take it. Sometimes adding in the cheat day can break our momentum from being on a solid nutrition plan. If you were able to skip the cheat day and just keep on the plan for weeks on end your results would be faster and your metabolism is unlikely to slow down. The reality is that most of us have lives filled with social events (necessary for our mental health), where food or drinks are consumed as part of the celebration.
A cheat day or cheat meal?
It really comes down to how many calories you consume that day. If you want to eat a little more throughout the day or save it for one big meal the result is the same. It just comes down to personal preference. I typically like a cheat day where I eat more like a “normal” person all day. For example, adding a piece of toast and extra eggs along with my oatmeal for breakfast, a halfway healthy sandwich for lunch, and a halfway healthy dinner with a beer. My body just doesn’t handle a heavy meal well if I had been eating very clean. Plus, I just don’t like to eat too much in one sitting.
Watch out for accidental cheat days.
This typically happens with an unexpected meal on a non-cheat day like at a party or when getting take out. Events come up where we end up eating/drinking more than planned on a random day resulting in an unexpected cheat day.
How cheat meals can ruin your results:
Getting takeout and thinking it’s healthy. Restaurant food is always going to have more fat, sugar, and salt. It’s best to avoid these meals unless you are using it as a cheat meal.
Friday, oh it’s the weekend. Some people eat healthy on the weekdays and relax on the weekends. This can work, but the weekends have to be very moderate if you still want to see results. With that said, Friday is still the weekday. If you relax and go out to eat Friday night, you have now had a cheat day on Friday.
I had a major realization early in my career when I was dropping weight from 195 to 165. I had recently graduated from college and still had this need to go out every Saturday night. I ate perfectly Monday through Saturday afternoon, but on Saturday night all bets were off. So that meant dinner out, then to the club for drinks, then usually pizza after. One day I tallied up how much I consumed... 6,000 calories! At the time I burned an average of 3,300 calories a day and had a 900 caloric deficit per day. This would meet my goal of losing 1.5lbs of fat a week, 6lbs a month. So by Saturday I had lost ~1.25lbs (4500 caloric deficit), but because of Saturday night’s 2,700 calorie surplus I went backwards undoing 3 days! Since Saturday was so bad, I just gave in to the “I’ll start on Monday” thinking on Sunday and ate moderately. So instead of getting results 6 days a week, I ended up with 2. Or 0.5lbs lost a week. This is just one of many scenarios where seemingly harmless nutritional actions can ruin your results. I did remedy this by only going out every other Saturday and moderating them when I did.
Cheat days are best used when they are kept moderate, no more than once a week, and used with an effective nutrition plan.
Jerry Yuhara, CPT, CES, CMT #75123
4193 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, CA 94306
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