January 05, 2021 4 min read
You kept up with your routine, you’ve made progress with your strength equipment, and you’ve been eating your leafy greens to adjust your diet. Now you have a deep, primal need. A need to cheat! An important factor in keeping yourself committed to your diets and exercise is to give yourself a cheat day from time to time. Many people give themselves a cheat day about once a week and taking this cheat day will keep you from coming to despise your new lifestyle. So, with cheat days being so precious, let’s figure out how to have the optimal cheat day.
Just like with your workout regime, you should have a plan when going into your cheat day. If you just drift through the day following your cravings and whims, you’ll defeat the self-discipline you’ve been building for yourself and may find yourself cheating every single day. Plan what kind of foods you intend to eat on your cheat day and take note of the cravings you have on a normal day so you can satisfy them later. Having this plan will be beneficial in making sure you don’t go too crazy as well as something to look forward to as you progress through the week—a goal for you to work towards. Consider what you think you might be doing on your cheat day, whether that be sitting around watching TV all day or playing a sport. This will help you decide what kind of foods you want to indulge in to best compliment your day off.
Rather than stuffing yourself as much as possible on your cheat days—snacking constantly throughout the day—plan instead on a specific meal to indulge in. You won’t give in to cravings and you’ll still enjoy the foods you want. This kind of control will keep you from overindulging and going overboard which would probably have you waking up feeling pretty awful the next day. This would also diminish your exercise routine because you wouldn’t be feeling your best.
Now I know this part doesn’t really feel very “cheat-y,” but hear it out. To figure out how to have the optimal cheat day, you also need to be aware of how to do the least amount of damage to your progress. While you should still eat what you’d like on your cheat day, try to do yourself a favor and select fresh foods rather than processed foods. For example, say tonight’s the night you just feel like having a simple burger and beer—totally doable! So, to add some quality to your meal, why not try to find a place that serves burgers but sources their ingredients regionally like pastured, grass-fed beef. You’ll get to eat your cake and kind of have it too, though in this case a burger because you’ll be enjoying food that isn’t quite as bad for you.
Furthering this idea of making conscious choices while you indulge, it’s recommended that you focus on a singular indulgence per cheat day. Focus on the one food you’ve been craving most during the week rather than going wild and eating everything possible. Not only is this more health conscious, but every cheat day will give you something to look forward to as you can indulge in something different each week. If you’re struggling to pick between two foods, remember that you will always have next week to look forward to. Save one for later rather than breaking down and eating both.
This all comes down to a theme of pacing yourself—just like when you exercise. The key to optimal cheat day success is applying the preservation of self-discipline and good habits that you’ve formed up to this point. However, it’s also important to remember that a cheat day is a day for you to enjoy, not just race to see how much food you can eat. Snack socially to help you slow down if you get urges to splurge. Between eating and talking with others, your brain and stomach have time to effectively communicate and determine when you feel full. You see, when you eat too fast, sometimes your brain thinks you’re still hungry because it hasn’t had time to process the food you’ve already eaten. This can cause you to end up overeating and put weight back on.
Even though it’s your day off, it’s still important that you keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. Dehydration and hunger can feel very similar. If you keep sipping on water you should feel far less hungry throughout the day, preventing you from accidentally overindulging to feel full. In addition, if you’ve been indulging on high-sodium foods like baked goods or chips, drinking enough water will keep you from feeling bloated after your cheat day.
At the end of the day as you begin to wind down, take stock of how you feel both emotionally and physically. If you’re in bed feeling absolutely miserable or guilty about the day, you probably went too far and overindulged. If you’re feeling something like heartburn, you’ll know that maybe your food indulgence for that day just wasn’t worth it. If you’re not feeling great, this should tell you that you need to adjust your future cheat days so that you indulge in something that won’t make you feel sick; you may need to pull back altogether in how much you indulge.
The goal of a cheat day should have you ending the day feeling good and satisfied. You should be ready to tackle the next week of exercise and healthy eating as you work towards your next cheat day. A good cheat day will do wonders for your morale and make the commitment to a healthier lifestyle feel much more manageable and achievable.
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