Posted on 18 December, 2017

Is it Okay to Have a Cheat Day?

By Jacob Andreae in Health, Lifestyle, Nutrition Is it Okay to Have a Cheat Day?

Here’s my simple one-word answer to that question… No. And here’s why.

If you’re asking if you can have a cheat day, it means you’re not eating in a way that you thoroughly enjoy. Chances are, you’re trying really hard to eat healthy, move more, and better yourself for some purpose. That purpose is probably to lose weight. And all that takes discipline. And that discipline is hard work. But while it might be manageable during the week, it’s not so easy to maintain on the weekend. So you probably just want permission to relax for a day. You probably want permission to ‘reward’ yourself for all your hard work throughout the week. You want permission to have a cheat day. Here’s something better. 

 I cheat every day. Every. Single. Day

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I cheat every day. Every. Single. Day. Trying hard to eat ‘healthy’ all day every day, when you’re not used to it, is hard work. Heck, eating healthy when you are used to it is hard work with the way food is marketed at us on a relentless basis. When you see that dark, rich chocolate brownie in the display while you’re “just having coffee”; it’s hard to say no, isn’t it?! How do you say no? Well you don’t always have to. I’ve been eating healthy for a very long time. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a chocolate brownie, glass of Bailey’s or hot chips. But you do need a sort of framework to follow in regards to what you eat and drink, along with some rules. You don’t want to make unhealthy eating a habit. 

There’s been two times in my life when people have said to me, “Wow. You’ve lost weight. What have you done/what are you doing?” What’s interesting is that the two times people have said this to me, I’ve been trialling a nutrition strategy at the same time as exercising regularly. It’s no secret that healthy eating and regular exercise is how you lose weight. Even if people can’t see the difference in your body shape, they can certainly see the difference in your face. They might not know what it is, but they can definitely tell that something looks different.

The first time someone said this to me, I’d just given up wheat. I wasn’t eating bread or pasta, which I used to eat a lot of. I started eating a lot more eggs, chicken, fish, meat, fruits and vegetables — essentially Paleo. The second time someone said this to me was only just recently and I’ve been intermittently fasting. I have a black coffee in the morning and my first meal is around 1pm. From there I eat lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and sometimes dessert.

I’m not about to say that one lifestyle is better than the other. Paleo. Fasting. Keto. Vegetarian. I couldn’t care less about entering into that argument. But when I talk about a strategy for nutrition, this is what I’m referring to. It doesn’t matter what it is, it’s the strategy that gives you the framework for how you eat. I’ve just taken bits and pieces of the different strategies and created something that works for me. And that’s what I suggest you do.

Paleo. Fasting. Keto. Vegetarian. They're all nutrition strategies. 

The take home message? Forget about a cheat day. Find something that works for you and do that. If you find yourself craving a cheat day, it probably means you’re going too hard and trying to make too big of a change too quickly. Ease up on whatever strategy you’re employing. Your journey through life is a marathon, not a sprint. These changes to your eating habits should reflect that. They are continually evolving. Small, consistent changes lead to big, sustainable differences.

What nutrition strategy will/do you employ? 

Note: Intermittent fasting is not something I want to do for the rest of my life. It’s not something that I’ve done perfectly for the extended time that I’ve done it. But it’s worked for me for now and the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I was eating way too much. How that looks in the near future probably means smaller and less meals, not necessarily skipping breakfast. How it looks beyond that, who knows. But so long as the food I eat serves me well, it doesn’t really matter. 

[Image source: Marco Verch]

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About Jacob Andreae

About Jacob Andreae

I write and speak about Fitness, Nutrition and Mindset. 

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Is it Okay to Have a Cheat Day?A quick start guide to losing weight and staying on track. Learn the strategies I use to eat and move for optimal health. Includes worksheets to enhance your motivation, commitment and discipline, along with a sample eating plan and exercise program.