One of the more prominent element of various diet plans these last few years is the cheat day or cheat meal. Programs such the Xtreme Fat Loss Diet and the Cheat Your Way Thin program are just two examples.
Cheating diets are those in which you’re allowed to have a meal or a day in which you can eat a big amount of calories, much more than you would have eaten on any other day of the diet.
This is supposed to be useful for mental reasons as it allows you to eat more freely and breaks the restrictive nature of diets. It is also supposed to be good for physical reasons as the cheat meal helps to prevent metabolism slowdown which is common with many low-calorie diet plans.
However, there are those who take a stand against cheat meals and provide several arguments as to why they are useless or even harmful. In this post I want to share some of the arguments I read online and counter some of them.
1. Cheat Meals Lead To Overeating
This is, indeed, one of the main dangers of cheat meals. You’re given a license to eat more than you normally should. Where do you draw the line? How do you avoid eating too much and ruining your diet?
This argument certainly has merit, but it can also be made about working out. How do you avoid over-training? How do you make sure you’re not training incorrectly?
There is a right way to eat cheat meals and a wrong one just as there is a good way to exercise and a bad one. You need to exercise control and cheat in moderation. The fact that things can go wrong doesn’t make this a bad method. It is just something to be aware of.
2. Relapse Danger
Cheating also involves eating some undietary foods like pizza and ice-cream. These may be some of the culprits which have led you to become overweight in the first place. If you eat them once a week during your cheat day, isn’t there a danger that you will relapse and start to eat them more often?
If you’ve had a semi-addiction to a certain food and you know that resisting it isn’t an option than you may have to give it up entirely. Cheating is only useful when practiced with self-control and limits. If you can’t control your craving for pizza than you need to go Cold Turkey. Only include foods that you can control in your cheat meals.
3. No Need To Eat Junk
Cheat meals often include foods which can be described as junk food. However, they don’t have to. It is a personal decision what to include in a cheat meal. I certainly am not in favor of eating junk food. However, food is also one of the greatest sources of pleasure in life. So, if you want a piece of cake, a slice of pizza, or a bowl of ice-cream once in a while I am not going to stop you.
However, I do have some limits: I won’t eat anything with trans-fat, for instance. I don’t care how good it may taste. You should also practice similar restraint. Avoid the absolute junk, but don’t feel the compulsion to avoid any and all undietary foods.
4. Keeping Fattening Food Around The House
If you have tempting and fattening food around the house there’s a good chance that you will eat it even not on your cheat meals. This is why we call it tempting, because it’s hard to resist.
However, having this kind of food in your home is unnecessary. You can very well go out to eat on your cheat day or just shop for groceries on that day. You don’t have to store your cheat foods in your home all week long.
5. Danger of Guilt
Some say that if you eat a cheat meal you may feel guilty afterwards. I see no reason why this would happen. If you follow a diet that prescribes cheat meals than you’ve done nothing to feel guilty about, have you? As long as you eat a normal meal and don’t overdo it, you should feel perfectly fine.
6. Why Eat More Calories
Weight loss is all about calories and cheat meals are big in calories, so why mix the two? Why not just avoid them at all?
It’s a valid and logical question, but your lose weight not just by eating less calories, but also by burning more. Your metabolism is responsible for that and cheating is down to keep your metabolism high. In addition, on diets which include cheating you normally also have days with a very low calorie consumption so the total is still very low.
7. Doesn’t Solve Cravings
I don’t know why this is relevant. Cheat meals aren’t supposed to solve cravings. They are supposed to keep your metabolism high and to give you some respite from a restrictive eating routine.
Some people believe that by eating the foods you crave once a week that you will develop even bigger cravings. I’m not sure this is the case. I think that indulging yourself once in a while can be a good thing and help you keep your cravings under control. It’s a personal thing.
The Bottom Line
Some people do well with cheat days. Others do better with a more restrictive approach. There is no ONE way. There are plenty of ways to lose weight. You simply need to find the one that works for you. However, cheat meals are not something you must avoid. They can be quite useful. Do you eat cheat meals? What do you include in them?