Have a cheat day, go on!

28 June 2014 by
First published: 28 June 2014

Healthy eating and diets regularly revolve around restricting portion sizes and eliminating food groups. However top nutritionists are constantly encouraging us to have a cheat day, due to the theory that too much deprivation can actually lead to more cravings and make it harder to stick to your plan. Sapan Sehgal, co-founder of London Field’s Fitness studio claims that ‘having a regular cheat day can have huge physiological effects on your body as well’.


A cheat day is about sticking to your plan 90% of the time and splurging out 10% of the time, lowering the boundaries and indulging once a week. However, there is a difference between a ‘cheat day’ and a ‘binge day’. ‘A cheat day only works when it’s enough to feel indulgent, but not so much that you set yourself back,’ instructs registered dietician Marjorie Nolan. Don’t use it as a day to overload on chocolate, pastries and pizzas but schedule in your favourite dessert after dinner or delicious pancakes for breakfast.


Something to look forward to
Scheduling in a cheat day, helps view your diet as less punishing and more about living a new healthy lifestyle, which is enjoyable. It helps make dieting or restructuring your meals more sustainable and increases your motivation and determination to stick with the plan during the week, the thought of ordering your favourite pasta dish on Friday night, makes it easier to resist those cookies on a Wednesday! Sapan also insists that you shouldn’t feel guilty on cheat days because you are rewarding yourself for your success in the week. We’ll eat a cookie to that!


Muscular growth and recovery
In addition, by having a cheat day every 7 – 10 days and consuming more than your typical daily calorie intake, will result in the body increasing the release of naturally occurring hormones such as insulin and stimulates the thyroid gland which kick-starts your metabolism (crucial for weight loss). Sports nutritionist, Alan Aragon, reports that ‘periodic spikes in calorie consumption are a great way to achieve a net calorie surplus that can speed muscular growth and strength, but to avoid large gains in body fat, make sure ‘once every 7-10 days’ doesn’t turn into cheating on most days.’


Lowers hunger pains
A diet or meal plan which results in a calorie deficit, makes your leptin levels plummet, hence the heightened feelings of hunger and low energy levels, as this is what it’s responsible for. Therefore, a calorie surplus from a cheat day causes the body to feel a rush of fuel, resulting in a dramatic boost in leptin levels, increasing your metabolism and priming your body for fat loss. Cheating is a great way for our body to adjust to cope with the lowered leptin levels as you lose weight / take control and view them asnormal not starving signals – essential for a long-term healthy living plan.