Just about any honest person will admit to having the occasional (or maybe more often) craving to eat something that doesn’t exactly jive with a healthy diet. How big of a deal is it to indulge once in a while? A common fitness saying goes like this: “Your fitness is 80% dependent on what you eat and 20% on how you exercise.” While it’s obviously true that a healthy diet is crucial for weight-loss and getting a great physique, there is room for some cheating. In fact, having a specific cheat day can actually help you improve your fitness results!
Here are 3 good reasons why cheating on your diet is a good thing:
1. Cheating Keeps You Motivated
Some people approach healthy eating with an “all-in” mentality. These people are motivated to get results and choose to swear off all treats because “that’s what it takes!”
Unfortunately, eating clean 24/7 would require superhuman resolve, and simply isn’t doable for the long-term. Cravings begin to creep in, and soon that “all-in” approach leads to one misstep, then another, and soon it’s “all-out” (usually with a bag of chips or big bowl of ice cream!)
A more realistic approach involves picking a specific day or meal that will be your designated time to cheat. Not only does this provide something to look forward to, but it also reduces the psychological drain of trying to fight off cravings week after week.
Having one or two pre-set cheat times each week can play a powerful role in helping you stay focused and motivated to eat well outside of that designated time.
2. More Calories Is Sometimes a Good Thing
Cheating on your diet is more than a psychological coping mechanism. There are physical benefits of eating extra calories on a regular basis. In fact, doing so actually teaches your body to burn more calories.
Your body’s main purpose is to survive. If you were to go on a calorie-restrictive diet for long periods of time, this can signal your body to take protective action. Not confident that enough food is on its way, small but powerful hormonal changes can take place.
Hormones that control the thyroid gland stop being produced in adequate quantities, which tells your thyroid to slow down. What’s this mean? Basically your metabolism drops and fat-burning stops completely. Yikes!
This is why a planned cheat day can be so awesome for anyone who is trying to get lean. A burst of calories each week reassures your body that food isn’t in short supply. Hormones keep flowing to the thyroid gland and your metabolism will actually get a boost.
3. Cheating Helps Build Better Habits
In order to see noticeable fitness gains over the long-term, healthy habits must be built up. That’s why a planned cheat day can be so much better than “little cheats” here and there.
While it can be easy to think that a little treat after dinner each night isn’t going to add up, this is creating a habit. Eating something sweet (or savory, or salty if that’s your preference) becomes part of your routine and your body learns to expect this.
This innocent habit can easily start showing up elsewhere in your daily routine: A sugary mocha latte in the morning, a cookie at lunch, and then some late-night chocolate all become normal occurrences.
A specific cheat day keeps these indulgences contained and the regular eating habits you build will be healthy ones. One day of cheating doesn’t compare to the habit-building power of six days eating clean!
Anyone who is looking to clean up their diet should seriously consider adding a cheat day to their weekly routine. Not only can it help you get better results and build healthier lifestyle habits, but cheating can be a fun way to enjoy tasty food guilt-free. (Now give me that slice of pizza!)
About the author
Dave Smith is a professional fitness and weight-loss coach who was chosen as “Canada’s Top Fitness Professional” by CanFitPro. You can more of his healthy-living resources at makeyourbodywork.com.