5 Reasons Why You May Want to Rethink Cheat Day

The context of a cheat meal essentially insinuates, well, you are “cheating” on your diet... While hypothetically gorging on “unhealthy” foods may sound tempting after strict days of salad greens and lean chicken breasts, there are five reasons why you may want to rethink that so-called cheat day.

5 Reasons Why You Should Rethink Cheat Days

1. Unpleasant Side Effects

Adhering to a more wholesome diet and eating more nutritious foods tends to heighten energy levels and keep digestive processes moving. Though a slight bender may not cause catastrophic side consequences, going overboard with highly processed foods (and a lot of them) can lead to some unpleasant side effects. Overdoing it can lead to unpleasant physical and mental effects such as fatigue, nausea, bloating, diarrhea, and feelings of guilt, failure, and lack of control.

2. Potential Overeating

Speaking of lack of control… While a “cheat day” or “cheat meal” can satisfy some, other individuals may lose control. Ultimately, deprivation of “off-limit” foods raises the risk of binge eating when they are allowed and reintroduced.

3. Falling Into A Downward Spiral

Again, “cheating” on your diet with that bowl of ice cream is a viable practice for some. But for others, overeating and binge eating is risked and not only for the moment, but the following days to come. Binging for multiple days, or even weeks, often results into a downward spiral and getting off track from healthy lifestyle choices.

4. Provokes A Negative Relationship to Food

According to dictionary.com, to cheat is “to practice fraud or deceit” or “to violate rules or regulations.” There really is no positive association to “cheat,” provoking the risk of negative feelings towards food. And at the end of the day, most nutritious experts tend to discourage describing foods as “good” and “bad,” as eating so-called “bad” foods may provoke feelings of guilt following their consumption.

5. You May Feel Like You Are Missing Out

Following a rigorous diet and designating only one day or meal to break it may start impeding on daily and occasional pleasures. You may even start feeling as if you are missing out on events and celebrations, turning away that piece of cake for a birthday or slice of pie at Thanksgiving. People with nominated cheat days may start realizing they would rather participate in special occasions and celebrations with food any day of the week, rather holding out on those special moments with loved ones.

Should You Cheat On Your Diet?

Interestingly, research actually supports cheat days. In fact, a recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity found dieters who broke strict dieting cycles lost more weight than those who maintained the regimented diet. Researchers speculate greater weight loss results from a metabolic boost, as interrupting strict dietary routines can lessen the risk of fixed and compensatory metabolic responses.

While nutrition experts still remain skeptical on the practice, they often believe granting yourself a cheat meal or day offers a psychological reset. But they also stress the importance of remaining mindful of the type and volume of foods, as the “cheat days” in the mentioned study above were not free-for-alls and all-out binges. Ultimately, health professionals suggest to pursue a healthier lifestyle, follow realistic standards, and implement strategies that work best for personal needs and goals. And when it comes down to it, perhaps the word “cheat” should be reconsidered and geared towards more neutral terminology. Ice cream time, anyone?