Fitmodo Diaries: The Virtues Of A Cheat Day

I've been doing Fitmodo for a few weeks now, and the cravings are worse than ever. Bad food calls out to me from the confectionary aisle of every supermarket and service outlet I pass. Sometimes the cravings get a bit too much, and that day becomes a cheat day. Is it wise to have a cheat day?

The problem I find with a cheat day is that it means giving into your urges, making any sort of willpower you built up during your fitness period drift away in a matter of seconds. Then you set a precedent for yourself where your stomach tells your mind that junk food is ok again. It's a slippery slope.

On the other hand, perhaps you need a regimented cheat day each week to stop yourself going mad?

What are your thoughts on this? Should you have a cheat day?

Image: Marlon Hammes


Comments

    Look at it this way - the majority of the population are going to eat crap food, and it'll be a normal day for them. At least you're doing it irregularly enough that you can still consider them 'cheat' days.

    I did the Body for Life program a few years ago, which had you follow a very specific workout and diet program. It used the concept of a free day, once a week where you ate what you wanted. The important wasn't the day off, rather it was the six days on.

    Why not? If you're relatively dedicated to your fitness you deserve a day off.

    EDITED VERSION (deleted first attempt):

    I did the Body for Life program a few years ago, which had you follow a very specific workout and diet program. It used the concept of a free day, once a week where you ate what you wanted. The important thing wasn’t the day off, rather it was the six days on.

    There have been a few studies that have basically found that cheat days encourage and even cause the cravings.
    "Willpower is like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets"

    Why don't you just live a healthy lifestyle anyway? I do, it's not hard, going on fad diets and celebrity diets aren't the way to go. You'll just crash after your 6 week diet and just throw all the weight back on again. I don't know how people can be that addicted to crap food.

      I think Fitmodo is about a healthy lifestyle, but if you currently have bad habits it can be hard to change them.

      Crap food is the most delicious.

    "The problem I find with a cheat day is that it means giving into your urges, making any sort of willpower you built up during your fitness period drift away in a matter of seconds"

    Cheat days have very little to do with dealing with 'willpower' and more about boosting leptin levels. Letptin is what regulates the metabolism. By the end of the 'diet' or 'starvation' week, the body has around 50% reduced leptin levels - causing a 50% reduced metabolism. The body thinks it's being starved because the calorie intake is much lower than the output. The body shuts itself down to preserve precious body fat. By 'cheating' it solves the issue by telling the body 'Hey I'm eating plenty of calories. Time to speed up the metabolism to normal levels again'. The leptin flows at proper levels and Boom! Full metabolism is restored ready for another week of starvation.

    Also, (for most of us) by not cheating, the metabolism drops so much that week-after-week you only lose tiny bits of weight. As a result, you have a greater chance of losing willpower than if you had a regulated cheat day once per week.

    Note that, the cheat day needs to be regulated. Don't over eat. Only eat enough to fill up. If you need to lie down. You've over eaten. Obey this and you're pretty much guaranteed to lose a kilo a week if dieting with exercise.

      Totally correct Ian! It gets worse as you get older as well....Your BMR (Basal Metabloic Rate) steadily declines with age, LoL

      Just because you're dieting and exercising I don't understand where you get the idea you're starving or in taking a lower calorie rate. You can triple your calorie intake and still be dieting so long as you're keeping an appropriate exercise regime.

      Also as far as fats go there are heaps of alternative to eating junk food to 'kick start' your metabolism.

        Exactly. I lost 2 and 1/2 kilos in a month by simply eating properly. Big breakfast followed by a reasonable lunch and a small dinner. This is the way the body is supposed to function.

          I should add that excercise is important as well. 20 minutes of cardio is all you need to maintain a fit and healthy body.

    Cheat days can be beneficial. It provides a structured way to still enjoy your vices. It doesn't so much as encourage your cravings (you do that on your own!), but manages them so that they're in moderation. It schedules it so that you don't fall into that trap where you undo all your good work with "rewards".

    If you still like junk food, you need the cheat day. If your diet denies you things that you enjoy eating, your diet wont last. Its as simple as that. Why not make those foods a part of your diet? The key is moderation.

    There are 2 interesting observations I've found while I was following the slow-carb diet which included the cheat days:
    1. Sweet things became sweeter.
    2. A few bites usually satisfies the craving.
    Its like a drug, the more often you have it, the more of it you need to get that satisfied feeling.

    Cheat days are also beneficial if your diet is especially low calorie. It provides the necessary calorific spike that prevents the body from going into starvation mode (where it slows the metabolism, and stores as much as it can).

    Also, it can help with changing your lifestyle. After a dozen Krispy Kremes in a single sitting, I haven't felt like eating a single one in over 6+ years.

    Can, I just say, that it is excellent that there are still people who believe in having a healthy diet and living somewhat of a healthy lifestyle, even if it does or does not include 'cheat days'. Thats really up to the person and how they manage best (as has been said if you are healthy more days than not, than you are living a healthy lifestyle). My question here is a bit different the fact that people get themselves in these situations where they have to take on a diet, and lose weight. The fact seems that most people are addicted to sugars or are at least over eating in conjunction with a slightly high sugar intake. I read someone say it before that eating those sugar treats; the chocolate bar or lollies or what ever food it is we all love, is this kind of suger intake actually really quite bad for you? Is sugar really really more addictive than we want to believe it is?

    Cheat days are rubbish. All they do is take you further from your goals. The longer you hold out, the less you want to eat or drink crap anyway. Good food and water is fantastic, once you're used to it the same stuff you used to crave will taste overpowering.

    In my experience, the need for such days diminishes over time.
    The main thing is to get started and don't have too many treats too often.

    IIFYM - If It Fits Your Macros works well too

    As someone who has been dealing with anorexia for five years now, reading comments and posts like this really puts into perspective the ever increasing disordered eating mentality in society.

    Gone are the days where people just ate in moderation of things they enjoyed and exercised for pleasure.

    We are headed for a crisis in this department. There's little room for a healtht relationship with food in the culture we are in now. It's all about cheat days, fat shaming, body hatred, insecurity and obsession with the foods people shun during ridiculous diets that all amounts to a permanent smear on the psyche that is disordered eating.

    These sort of posts don't help. Typical media.

      You sound fat.

    I know I'm late to the discussion, but it's been a long weekend. Here's what Dr Karl thinks of cheat days. (I trust Dr Karl for all my information about everything.)

    http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2011/09/13/3316468.htm

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