Why You Don’t Need To - and Maybe Shouldn't - Have Cheat Days

This debauchery day is probably compromising your progress, and the problem has nothing to do with mathematics.

Hamburger and french fries on a plate

Have you ever found yourself wondering if you should do a cheat day? In other words, take a “break” from your healthy eating and just eat whatever you want, worry free?

Maybe you heard that it’s a great idea to boost your metabolism. Or you just want to create an opportunity to eat something you really love — but you avoid eating on a day-to-day basis.

This dilemma of modern dieting ends today.

A lot of food on a table

Your words matter

First of all, we are going to speak briefly about language. Our words have a lot of power.

The way you talk about your food is deeply tied to the way you feel about what you eat. And the way you feel about what you eat is associated with how you feel about yourself.

And that my friend, is at least as important to what you’re actually chewing. So it’s important to reinforce that your food is no crap at all.

I wish I could see your grandmother’s face if she heard you talking about her lasagna like that. Now that we’ve settled on your language, let’s get to what really matters.

The Cheat Day Problem

From my previous experience and what I see all the time with my clients is that the famous “cheat day” leads people to the overcompensation cycle.

You have restricted yourself too much, so you “deserve” to please yourself too much.

This cycle of restraint and compensation ends up becoming a more and more extreme spiral until you throw in the towel.

You start by eating some extra candy on Saturday and “paying” off with extra cardio on Sunday. You drink three cocktails instead of one at the Happy Hour and skip breakfast the next day. You do this until at some point, you’re doing “egg fasts” 3x a week as if it were a natural thing. It’s not my friend, I’m sorry.

Cocktails on a table

Mentally and physiologically speaking, cheat days are not as fruitful as they sound.

Having a cheat day only makes sense in a reality where “bad” foods — read those you LOVE but do not think are part of your “fit” life — are out of your reach on a day-to-day basis, then you need a day of “relief.”

Do you realize that it is this mentality that keeps these foods on a pedestal?

And everything that is beyond your reach ends up being the object of desire?

And when you eat, it gets infinitely more difficult to eat just one piece because you know that tomorrow you won’t it have any more?

A lot of dark chocolate

It’s exactly what makes the idea of moderation with food so out of reach for you.

And if that is the case, I invite you to start small.

A more assertive and powerful way

Ending the obsession with food, including the cheat day dilemma and the cycle of overindulging, guilt and restriction begins with a self-care mentality.

“Caring for yourself” is not (and should not be) synonymous with “eating clean” or “excluding some foods” from your plate. We need food (calories, you know them?) to survive, so it’s natural and expected that eating is pleasurable. In this logic, eating what you love is essential — and you do not need to book a special day in your calendar for it.

Studies show that nutrient absorption is maximized when individuals really enjoy what they are eating. So maybe that unseasoned salad you eat with tears in your eyes is not as beneficial as you think.

Salad in a bowl

Also, stress affects your digestion — be it the stress of traffic or the guilt for what you’ve eaten. So, help yourself and eat foods you really enjoy, giving up the guilt and stress of trying to follow a perfect diet.

Intrinsically, the term cheat day implies that if you “behave well” for a certain period of time you deserve to eat “badly” for a day. Please, tell me where is the sense in this?!

Those who practice intuitive eating do not need a garbage day, because there is no “good” food or “bad” food, nor is there moral superiority or guilt associated with what was eaten.

We listen to our bodies and eat what will really satisfy them, every day, for the sake of self-care and self-love.

I am a Brazilian girl (living in Sao Paulo with my fiancé — and another 20 million people). I love coffee, books, and good food. I also really enjoy studying and learning new things that allow me to further develop myself both professionally and personally. I have a degree in Food Science and hold a Ph.D. in Agri-food Marketing. In addition, I am a Certified Nutrition Coach and an enthusiastic Nutrition student.

There is a power that comes alive when women free themselves from the food prison in which they have learned to live, when they realize that they are capable and deserving of feeling fantastic in their own bodies, and that confidence is a state of mind — not a body lotion which you get the right to use when you reach a weight-loss goal.

My work is dedicated to nurturing, celebrating and sharing this message.

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