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Is it Good to Have a Cheat Day on a Diet? Here's the Real Answer

Is it Good to Have a Cheat Day on a Diet?
It should be called 'rewarding' and not 'cheating', wouldn't you say? Many of us would think it ludicrous not to have a 'cheat day' at least once a week. So, is it good to have a cheat day on a diet?
Naomi Sarah
Last Updated: Dec 31, 2017
"God grant me the serenity to accept my goal weight, the courage to resist anything with more than three hundred calories, and the wisdom to check the fat grams before I open my mouth and insert a fork."
― Shirley Jump, The Groom Wanted Seconds: A Novella
The dedicated lot among us will find it exceptionally hard to stick to a diet 7 days a week. Slipping up every now and then is but natural, where you shouldn't beat yourself up about it. It's encrypted in our DNA to see food as a desideratum, where abstaining from one's favorite food for too long can eventually wreak havoc. There's absolutely nothing wrong about cheating on a diet, especially when done in a controlled manner.

I used to cheat all the time, and experienced zero results, in spite of religiously working out. That's when I decided to dedicate just one day of the week to cheat on my diet, noticing huge results as I went along. How, right? That's because you allow yourself to consume a few extra calories a day, which ideally burn up during the course of 24 hours. But when you overindulge in unhealthy food from sunup to sundown with temerarious abandon, your body says, "Enough of this!", because it can't burn up the entire load of calories in a day, therefore slowly layering or holding on to fat. So, how often should you cheat, and how?
How to Cheat on a Diet Without Feeling Guilty
Chicken burger
Cheat on your diet to your heart's content, but don't let it override your sense of counting calories.
Ignore the disparagement that will, at some point, come your way from two kinds of people―one, the jealous sort, and two, the kind that will never find it within themselves to live a salutary life. You're on a diet because you want to live a long, salubrious life, that is devoid of the ill-effects that ineluctably follow the negligent. Let's see how you can cheat like a prince, but not consume food like a king.
Don't Call it Cheating
Before you dash to the refrigerator, let me explain what I mean by this statement. The idea of a cheat day is not to wallop everything in sight because you think that's what you can do. It's about eating what you love, in controlled amounts. Think of it as a 'cheat meal', as opposed to a cheat day―we don't want you to experience indigestion, guilt, and other just-as-bad aftereffects. It's not about cheating, but more about rewarding your week-long effort of staying put on the diet wagon. Treat the experience like buying a new pair of shoes you've been dying to get your hands on.
Don't Overdo the Act
Doctors, dietitians, and nutrition junkies will vouch that a cheat day is a necessity. That's because you allow your body to get what it desperately craves for, in limited, controlled portions. Keep cheat days for the end of the week, like on Sundays―it's the perfect day to eat your favorite meal or snack. But, if Friday nights or even Saturdays suit your schedule, then so be it. The only rule? Stick to one meal choice that is enough to satiate your hunger and cravings―you mustn't be left gasping for air or undoing your belt buckle, post meal.
Run Away From Buffets
Do not, and I mean DO NOT, eat from a buffet. It's a mindless binge-fest that's not even appetizing anymore once you've vacuumed every entrée, main course, and dessert in clear view. Take a deep breath, clear your mind, ignore the buffet line, and opt for à la carte. It's a much better alternative to stuffing your face like a silly child that hasn't eaten in days. If you want to devour a plate of spareribs that's been grilled to perfection, skip the appetizers, drinks, and even dessert. Learn how to replace food choices, depending on how many calories your cheat meal contains.
Less is More
For the Dalai Lamas of exercising, cheating on your diet shouldn't be a problem at all. If your knees buckle every time you pass a bakery―with its heavenly aromas and hard-to-ignore pastries―don't be afraid to walk into it and buy what your gut tells you to (literally). Whether it's a single glazed donut, slice of cheesecake, or buttery croissant, just remind yourself that you'll be burning it off at the gym. Or better yet, walk it off after you're done. You've stuck to your diet all week, and busted your derrière at the gym―the least you can do is reward yourself with a mini cheat meal.
Calories, Calories, Calories
Calories may seem like trivial numerals when you polish off a plate of fried chicken, but at the end of the week, they won't be. To burn one pound of fat, you need to pulverize 3,500 calories. If your diet is made up of 1,500 calories/day, for instance, you'd have to eat lesser than 500 calories every day to help your body shed weight. All you have to do is cut down on the amount of something you'd ordinarily consume―like two cups of coffee instead of three, or one sandwich instead of two. Your cheat meal has to be monitored, likewise.
Look Forward to it
Our self-restraint turns friable when it comes to the foods we love, because it excites our senses in ways that we understand best. Once you pick out a day to cheat on, keep a reminder on your cell phone or a post-it at the office, of what you're going to eat that day. It will encourage you to stick to your diet for the first six days of the week, and actually help you avoid cheating until that day finally arrives. And when it does, remember, eat it slowly and with all the love that you can muster.
Cheat in Public
The best place to eat a cheat meal is when you're alone at a restaurant, or with a group of friends. You're bound to behave when you're in public, as opposed to sitting in front of the TV or with your head ducked into the refrigerator. Even while having a conversation with someone, you're naturally going to eat slowly while you chitchat. It's important to be surrounded by supportive or like-minded friends, to make the cheating an occasional experience, and not something you're forced to do often.
Practice the Art of Self-Control
Many of you will cheat today, but do it again tomorrow, and the following day. That's because you aren't eating enjoyable meals otherwise. You must learn how to cook meals that aren't only good for you, but delicious, too. Forcing yourself to follow a strict diet will get you nowhere, trust me. The next time you cheat, pack up your cheat meal and bring it home. Place it on a pretty plate, listen to a favorite song, and eat it at the dining table―not in front of the TV or computer. Savor the flavors, and let it transport you briefly to a place you'll only visit after another six days.
Recuperate and Relax
Not taking a day off from a taxing workout schedule will do more harm than good. Your muscles need a day of rest to repair and recover, so that your body is in a better state to burn fat and build muscle. It is essential to sit back and just take a breather, during any one day of the week. Go for a deep-tissue massage that will help ease aches and pains, like muscle tension that refuses to go away. If you push yourself too hard, your body will ultimately succumb to injury, leaving you agitated and in harm's way.
Importance of Leptin
Leptin is a hormone that is in constant communication with the brain, about whether there's enough fat and energy stored in the body. When you're done eating, leptin sends the brain (hypothalamus) the most important signal your body receives―satisfaction. Once the brain registers this, you stop feeling that gnawing hunger pang. By cheating on your diet, you allow the body to receive those little sparks of satisfaction, therefore allowing leptin to send 'happy' signals to the brain. By cutting off the supply of pleasurable foods, leptin is forced to warn the brain of the deficit, thus shifting gears and working against the body's effort to lose weight.
In the end, it is good to have a cheat day on a diet, simply because we were born to break the rules, sometimes. Cheating on a diet will help you lose weight, because it keeps you on track for at least six days, before you can sit down to that much-awaited meal. Don't kick yourself in the rear if you happen to cheat on more than one occasion―as long as the meal doesn't pile on more calories than expected, you'll be just fine.