Cheat Days: Good or Bad?

Everyone has heard of cheat days, but that doesn't mean they're good for you.

I am actually not a big believer in the "cheat day," the reason being that psychologically, it messes with my head when I feel that I've binged. Cheat days imply that you can throw all of your hard work out of the window and go back to harmful eating and no exercise for a temporary “feel-good” time period. But you don’t truly feel good, right? Cheat days throw you off track and you’ll most likely end up feeling guilty, bingeing on excess food, or in a worst case scenario, completely giving up on yourself.

With that being said, I do believe in higher-calorie days, but I don't call them cheat days — there is always a calorie limit. I think that a blowout day of taking in 5,000 to 6,000 calories can throw off your entire week's work. Some trainers believe the body will not absorb all those calories at once, but it's been my experience that extremely high calorie days can really throw off a diet.

A regular higher-calorie day, with boundaries, can help a diet, though. I recommend 2,000 calories once a week. Always remember, you can’t be perfect ALL of the time. There is simply no fun in that. A life of broccoli and treadmills that’s completely chocolate-free would send me sailing off the roof of a building in no time. Seriously! Being healthy is crucial to the overall quality of every aspect of your life, but there is room for some fun and indulgence in every healthy lifestyle. I practice the 80/20 rule, either make 20 percent of your daily calorie allowance treat foods (a brownie, glass of wine, etc.) or make one out of every five meals a treat meal. Remember that a treat food or meal doesn’t give you free reign to turn the entire days into “cheat days.” Once you get used to eating well, it’ll become second nature and you’ll understand how your body reacts to unhealthy foods. Life requires balance — and finding that healthy balance is the key to a healthy life.

If you do binge, don't freak out. Everyone slips up sometimes. The key is to realize what you're doing and stop yourself before you do further damage. Think of healthy eating as a game that's always on — if you draw a foul or get sidelined for a minute, your job is to get right back in the game as soon as you can. If you overdo it at one meal, don't just throw in the towel for the rest of the day (or the rest of the week). And don't beat yourself up, either — instead, learn from the experience and move on. Each mistake is an opportunity to add another strategy to your playbook so you get it right the next time.

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