Is it okay to have 1 cheat day a week when you’re following an eating plan or diet? After all, you’re being responsible and following all the rules the other 6 days of the week. How is 1 day of cheating going to throw off your diet?
I used to look forward to Sundays because that was the day I reserved for all my junk food. The rest of the week was low carb and I was making sure to keep things dialed in as best as possible. However, I would end up eating lots of bad stuff in the middle of the night, which is another issue altogether.
I do think they’re connected somehow. The midnight snacking and the cheat days go hand in hand, and it was a psychological issue, looking back on it. And I do still have the night-eating syndrome on Sunday nights actually. In fact, I’ve been brainstorming methods to overcome it.
I pretty much lived for my cheat day every week. It was the one day when I could let loose and eat whatever the heck I wanted to eat without thinking much about any kind of consequences it might have. Now, a cheat day can work for some people when done properly. However, it’s important to understand the downsides of overeating just one day a week, while keeping on track the other 6 days.
So, in short, I now advise AGAINST cheat days. I realize now that they really held me back and stopped me from making the fat loss progress I was looking for. However, I found a much simpler solution, which to me, is far more enjoyable anyway, and I’ll explain it below. It does require some discipline, but at least you get the best of both worlds. Enjoy your favorite foods every day while getting into your best shape. And there’s no need for a cheat day.
How 1 Cheat Day A Week Can Derail You
So, why is a cheat day bad? In my personal experience, it’s because I couldn’t control it. When you can’t control the overeating on a single day of the week, it will hurt all the hard work you’re putting into your fitness regimen the rest of the week.
Let’s say you’ve been eating 1,800 calories per day in order to lose weight. So, you follow a 1,800 calorie eating plan 6 days a week. Then that 7th day, you’re ready to go all out with your favorite junk food.
The thing about a cheat day is that most junk food is so calorie-dense, you can easily go over your calorie budget by a few thousand or more. That’s exactly what happened to me every Sunday, and then the next morning, I’d always feel sick to my stomach, and I wouldn’t even be able to eat until late at night.
I’d easily be able to eat McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Popeye’s all on the same day. Combined with other random snacks and sweets, my guess is that I ate about 6,000 – 7,000 calories on my cheat day without even thinking about it.
So, let’s say that you ate 6,000 calories on your cheat day. But in order to lose weight, you need to eat 1,800 calories. You’ve more than tripled the amount of food you need to eat per day for successful weight loss.
Or in other words, you ate more than 3 days’ worth of food in a single day.
Why Diets Do More Harm Than Good
My guess is if you want to know more about cheat days, that you’re on some kind of diet that feels restrictive to some degree. And when we’re dieting, is it okay to have a cheat day?
I realize now that the reason I always turned Sunday into my junk food day is that I was always following some kind of restrictive diet or eating plan. When you have to restrict foods you love from your daily eating routine, a cheat day becomes something you truly look forward to.
So, my answer to this is to stop dieting altogether. You can lose weight more effectively using an alternative method I’ll explain in the section below. This method allows you to eat your favorite foods any day of the week in moderation of course.
One of the biggest downsides to most diets is that more often than not, they focus on what you can and cannot eat. At the same time, they don’t give you any kind of guidance as to how many calories you need to be eating per day in order to lose significant weight.
When someone successfully loses weight and keeps it off, it’s because that person is eating at a calorie deficit. Regardless of whether they’re following a diet or not, the answer to weight loss lies here. Plain and simple, eating at a calorie deficit is HOW weight loss happens.
And when you eat at a calorie deficit rather than follow a diet, eating becomes more enjoyable, because you are no longer restricted from eating the foods you enjoy. If you want to indulge in junk food, you can do that any day of the week. I’ll explain this in detail below.
What To Do Instead Of Dieting
As I mentioned above, following a calorie deficit is how weight loss happens. Whether you’re following a Keto diet, a Mediterranean diet, or no diet at all, the fat comes off because of a calorie deficit.
What I have taught several friends of my own to do is to follow a calculation that causes approximately 4 – 5 pounds of fat loss monthly. If you have more than 20 pounds to lose, then the deficit is a bit more aggressive, and you’ll lose more weight at a faster rate.
It’s simple and effective for fat loss. It’ll take you about a minute to figure out how many calories you should be eating per day in order to lose significant weight monthly.
There’s one other thing I’d like to quickly discuss that I believe has made it far easier for me to eliminate cheat days from my life altogether. That is intermittent fasting. You may have heard of its fat-burning benefits, but did you know it will also help you crave cheat days far less?
Why Intermittent Fasting Makes It So Much Easier
You may already know about the fat-burning benefits of Intermittent Fasting, and while that is fantastic, I’ve come to learn that one of the reasons I love it so much, is that it has given me the ability to eat large meals every day of the week, eliminating the psychological associations of dieting, which in turn eliminates the craving for a cheat day.
See, prior to intermittent fasting, I was eating 5 – 6 small low-carb meals per day. It felt so tedious to have to prepare all that food and think so much about what I was going to eat every single day for every little meal. Plus, it felt like I couldn’t be myself and eat what I wanted to eat. It was all restrictive.
Intermittent fasting eliminates all that food prep and mental noise about it. I’ll explain what I mean. Visit this link here to see what one week of intermittent fasting looks like in my life.
See, it’s far more enjoyable to take those 5 – 6 small meals and turn them into 3 bigger meals. And since I’m no longer dieting, and simply hitting my calorie and protein intake each day, I can eat whatever I want during my eating period.
So, the feeling of dieting has gone away, and the craving for a cheat day is no longer there. I eat two smaller meals, and one huge meal. That huge meal has all the food in it that I’d eat during a cheat day anyway. Plus, my last meal before bed is usually some kind of dessert that I love. Last night it was carrot cake. That kind of food I used to reserve only for cheat days.
The Psychological Problem With A Cheat Day
I clearly understand now why having one cheat day a week was a bad thing for myself, even though, for years, it was the day I looked forward to. The psychological issue is that I was dieting. Because I was dieting, I was always looking forward to a cheat day.
When that cheat day came, I overate by thousands of calories. This means I derailed my eating plan by consuming enough calories on that cheat day to make up for 2 or 3 days of food the rest of the week. Because of this, I was never hitting the fat loss goals I so wanted to achieve.
Now, a cheat day is okay if you’ve got the discipline to stay within your calorie budget on that day. However, for me, the moment I’d get McDonald’s or Burger King, all bets were off. It was a psychological thing, and I knew I’d just pig out the rest of the day, and go over my calories by several thousand.
If you’ve got control over that, then a cheat day may work perfectly fine for you, as long as you stay within your calorie budget. The way I see it though, every day is a cheat day for me now, because I no longer diet, so I’m no longer looking forward to any kind of special day. Every day is special now.
As I mentioned at the start of the article, I still have a problem on Sunday nights, in my sleep, and I am trying to figure out how to get past this. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, and grab random food. I’m pretty sure I overeat by about 400 – 500 calories in the middle of the night. At least it’s not by thousands though.
Plus, I’m no longer sleep-eating the rest of the week. That was another huge obstacle that was stopping me from hitting my fitness goals. I’m happy to say that for the most part, I’m on target with all my eating and nutrition.
Cheat Day In Summary
So, I would advise against having a cheat day per week. If you can stay on top of your calorie budget on your cheat day, however, then go for it. I tend to lose myself at the very thought of having a cheat day, and just binge.
I feel that when we stop dieting and start eating mindfully by following a simple calorie deficit, there’s no reason for a cheat day. You can eat what you want any day of the week, eliminating the need and craving for one. If you add intermittent fasting into the mix, it sure makes eating a heck of a lot more fun too. But it’s not necessary.
My cheat days started back in college, shortly after I gained the freshman 15. A friend in my dorm who was on the wrestling team helped me burn off all that fat by devising a nutrition and workout plan for me. One of the things he told me is that I can have a cheat day once a week. At the time, it worked, cause I was more mindful of what I was doing.
However, it wasn’t until I stopped cheat days altogether that I realized just how much fat I had hidden away on my body. I had a skinny fat body type for years, and for the life of me, I couldn’t get rid of the excess fat hidden away in places like my chest, love handles, and stomach.
I lost 15 pounds, dropped from a 32 to a 30-inch waist, and also stripped off 3% body fat within a few months. This all happened when I stopped dieting and having 1 cheat day a week. I eat what I want now, and my goal is to help others get into the best shape of their lives and have confidence in their own bodies, by following simple eating and fitness strategies.
Thanks so much for reading. If you have any questions or comments about anything written in this article, please let me know and I’ll be more than happy to get back to you as soon as possible.