Ah, the cheat day. That lustrous, wonderful day at the end of the week where hard working, iron-pumping fitness die-hards can go batshit crazy. It seems a little too good to be true that you can eat clean all week and then bask in a sea of pizza, ice cream & cookies without derailing your fitness goals.
The idea is that eating a bunch of junk once a week ‘confuses’ your metabolism, making it work harder and burn faster once you’re back on track. But does it really work, or is it just a euphoric myth? Wouldn’t it be it be better to not cheat at all, or perhaps just a teeny bit?
Like most things, the answer depends on who you are and what works for you. Some people do epic cheat days, some indulge in cheat meals, and others skip them altogether. For me, personally, they just don’t work.
Cheat days, or even meals, mess me up psychologically, emotionally and physically. I feel incredibly guilty, as if I’m undoing the week’s hard work with each spoonful. My guilt probably stems from the fact that I’ve been fighting my genes since middle school; I have to work really hard and eat reasonably well in order to stay healthy. I know what foods like chips, cookies & ice cream do to my health and self-esteem; most of the time, it’s not worth the short term pleasure to compromise a week of work and years of habit.
Furthermore, I don’t even really like the cheat day food (except for pizza!) and I don’t find myself enjoying it most of the time. I’m not just pushing to hit a number on the scale; I can’t shake the knowledge of all of the artificial dyes, sweeteners, coloring, chemicals, animal products and GMO’s likely lurking in whatever processed delicacy I’m going HAM on.
Even when I am seriously craving pizza, I can’t help but think – how can i make this healthier? Maybe I’ve spent way too much time on Pinterest, but I feel like the balance of hard work and enjoyment come from enjoying cheat foods that serve as a compromise. They’re as delicious as the real thing, but made from healthier, fresh, real ingredients. The perfect example would be making or buying a vegan, gluten free, veggie-topped pizza! Which I do treat myself to quite often 🙂
Lastly, I usually feel like complete shit the next day. Food hangovers are real. Post-cheat day (or even just cheat meal) I’m bloated, tired, gassy, emotional and just generally miserable. And feeling that bad isn’t exactly a great precursor to starting the next week off right.
I know that everybody needs to bend the rules, which is why I believe in cheating with boundaries; for example, one day, i might put in an extra-tough workout and allow myself to hit a certain number of calories. I do this all the time when I have potlucks at work, family parties, or friends’ birthdays or weddings – that way, I can indulge without the guilt and without hindering my progress.
How do you guys feel about cheat days?