Are Cheat Days Good For You?
You’ve been eating nutritious foods all week, and then Friday rolls around and you’re craving pizza. Is it better to enjoy a few slices and call it a “cheat day,” or power through the craving? The answer might surprise you.
What counts as cheating on your diet?
Most people base their “cheating” on a time frame. They may dedicate one day a week to eating whatever they want, or a single cheat meal a week. But really, what counts as cheating is up to you and may change depending on your goals.
Does it work?
Cheat meals or cheat days may help you make healthier choices through the rest of the week. If you know that Friday will mean pizza from your very favorite restaurant, you might find it easier to skip the cheap slices they’re offering in the break room at work and stick with the nutritious lunch you meal-prepped.
Rather than thinking of your indulgence as a “cheat,” however, which is a word often associated with feelings of guilt, we recommend reframing it as a “treat meal.” It’s good to treat yourself sometimes! Studies have shown that for many people, planning a time to “indulge” helps them stick to their goals.
That being said, there can be some drawbacks to cheating on your diet. For example, certain diets simply don’t allow for cheating, like the Ketogenic diet. Some people also find that designating one day or meal a week to get in all their favorites can lead to an all-or-nothing mentality, where you overeat not because you want to, but because you’re worried about missing out for the rest of the week.
So… what’s your best bet?
Mindful eating practices can be a helpful way to enjoy your indulgences without overeating. A 2017 study found that mindfulness-based eating approaches may prevent weight gain. More importantly, it’ll help you slow down and really appreciate the flavors of your food.
The important thing to know is that a cheat day here and there won’t erase weeks and months of consistent workouts and healthy eating—and might actually help motivate you. It all comes down to what works best for your mind and body.