How To Go About A “Cheat Day”

  • Most healthy diets or eating philosophies don’t demand you to follow their eating plan to the letter. In fact, many of them allow for some “cheating.” Mark Sisson encourages his readers to follow an 80/20 principle where it is only necessary to follow the Primal Blueprint 80 percent of the time, and eating unhealthy food is permissible twenty percent of the time. Tim Ferriss encourages a “Binge Eating Day” once a week where it is okay to eat all of the unhealthy food you can fit into your mouth. I think these are fine ideas, but in order for them to be successful, they have to be practiced in a certain way.
  • First, it is important to define the purpose of “cheating.” Personally, I view cheating as a way to keep healthy eating manageable. If I didn’t allow myself any “cheat” foods I think I would feel pressured to only eat healthy foods and I would miss out on certain social experiences.
  • Healthy foods should make up the vast majority of your diet, but there should be no guilt felt when eating cake at a friend’s birthday party or drinking a soda filled mixed drink that your friend made you.
  • Should “cheating” be planned or happen naturally? If you need structure, then go ahead and mark out every Thursday as a cheat day. But if you are more of a go-with-the-flow type of person, then feel free to “cheat” when it makes sense in your life. Just remember not to feel pressured or like you are following any type of strict regimen.
  • Unfortunately, often times “cheating” is practiced with the wrong mental mindset. If Sunday is someone’s cheat day, they will look forward to that day every week, putting it up on a pedestal. This puts a lot of positive attention on unhealthy foods, and will cause you to always wish you could be eating those “cheat” day foods. That will undermine a positive outlook on health and food.
  • That doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy your “cheat” meals. In fact, you should enjoy them, or else there is no point to “cheating.” But enjoy them in the moment without allowing them to take over your brain.
  • Instead of looking forward to eating unhealthy foods that you can eat while “cheating” you should look forward to healthy foods that are equally if not more delicious. Designate one night a week where you are going to put a lot of effort into making a meal, and make it taste good! This places the positive attention on healthy foods. So instead of looking forward to Sunday, when you can eat french fries, look forward to your Tuesday dinner, when you know you are going to make a delicious stir fry for dinner!