No matter how much I write about cheat days, it will never be enough. This day becomes a holiday for everybody who goes on a diet. When we begin our career as “a person on a diet”, we all go through the phase, where cheat days are our favorite moment.
I remember the time when I used to follow strict, nutrition plans and I used to eagerly anticipate Sunday. This was the day when I could eat whatever I wanted. All week, I was picking the foods I was gonna eat on Sunday – cakes, biscuits, spaghetti, pizza, you name it – everything that was advertised on TV and everything that was close to the cash-out in the supermarket. Sunday was a holiday!
Fortunately, for the past couple years I do not have cheat days.
What does my experience show about cheat days?
1.You live the whole week with the feeling of deprivation and you long for a free day.
2.You give your best effort to eat on cheat days and on the next day you must endure the consequences.
-after your cheat day you feel full;
-you don’t have desire for anything besides sitting and staring in space;
-you don’t have good sleep;
-you wake up bloated;
-you lack energy;
-you go through phases of sharp hunger, no matter the fact you’ve eaten an hour ago;
-you are thirsty;
-you suffer not just physically, but also mentally;
– everything is accompanied by the strong sense of guilt.
This is just a short list of the senses that your body endures. I could describe it in more detail, but I will leave it for the next time.
What is the problem with cheat days?
Some of you will say that you don’t have a cheat day, but just a single cheat meal. Still, I am not a fan of the mindset with a cheat meal. In the roots of it is the idea that we are breaking some rules. In the roots of it is the idea that before the cheat meal we are deprived and now we can award ourselves. The cheat meal by itself, suggests that for us a healthy lifestyle is not a choice, actually it is not a lifestyle, but just the needed evil, that will take u to our goals.
I see things like this. If when it comes to workouts, I am FOR sprints and AGAINST long, monotonous cardio, when it comes to nutrition I believe in the opposite.
Imagine the week as a sprint, and the cheat day or the cheat meal as a break. Most people do this – they sprint during the week, and give their best, held by the thought that the break is coming soon or in other words – they will eat whatever they want.
How many sprints could you do with a max effort, before you get tired and before everything starts resembling a long break? Not much!
Imagine nutrition as a marathon. The marathon is your life and your nutrition. You are advancing with a moderate pace and you are constantly coming closer to your goal. You divide your efforts. You don’t give it all out at the beginning, just to compensate with a longer break later on. You don’t exhaust your will and you don’t have such a strong need from a break. You don’t get out of breath and you have strength to keep going.
That’s how your diet is gonna look like, if you do not sprint during the week, just so you can rest during the weekend.
You will be able to eat healthy and every now and then you will slow down the pace, without some dramatic changes and consequences.
Besides that a cheat day and a cheat meal program your mind in a wrong way. A cheat meal has a strong psychological factor. If you educate in yourself, the conviction that there is a particular day and time when you are allowed to eat particular foods, every time when you happen to do it on a different day, you will get the feeling of guilt. You will feel as a complete failure and this will rush you to act self –destructively.
On the other side, if you forget about the cheat day and you decide that healthy nutrition is a lifestyle and your own choice- then the marathon begins. You will eat good and every now and then you will get out of breath and you will slow down the pace. It doesn’t matter if it is the beginning, the middle or the end of the week. Right in this moment, physically and mentally you will need, not a break, but a minor slow down. For example your grandma has prepared your favorite pie. You decide that you want to eat some, not in order to compensate for the deprivation, but just because you need to feel the taste, that will return you memories from years that have gone by. You eat some and it is enough. Then the marathon continues. This approach to your nutrition won’t make you feel guilty, it won’t make you feel bad from the amount of food you have eaten.
When it comes to the physiological aspect of a cheat meal, a lot of people claim that they have such a meal, with the goal to provoke a positive reaction from the body – increase their metabolism, replenish glycogen stores, speed recovery and so forth.
You can achieve this with quality food, not just with crappy food. You don’t need to eat the whole world and eat a bunch of empty calories that will harm your body, in order to increase your metabolism.
Our body doesn’t like extremes. Actually life doesn’t tolerate extremes! The body prefers us to eat healthy and every now and then ( not up to a schedule), if we feel the psychological need, to give it some crappy food that brings satiety to our senses.
So, do not turn nutrition into a schedule. Do not create excess guilt and do not live with the feeling of deprivation, followed by a momentary award. This is not a healthy lifestyle. This is just another way to get enchained in rules and routine.
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And my latest accomplishment – hip thrusts with 104kg – 3 sets of 8 reps 🙂