A lot of diet strategies allow you to "cheat" once in a while - usually one day a week or for one meal a week. This is laudable, thinking - after all, you will not feel like you are missing out, will rev up your metabolic rate and it can help maintain motivation to carry on dieting.
There is nothing wrong with the occasional slip - perhaps one day you eat more in terms of calories or carbohydrates than you are supposed to. This can actually be okay - and may do you some good.
What does not make sense, however, is to claim that is it good to binge on foods that are inherently bad for you. I've given this some thought and here is why I’ll be giving the regular "cheat" days a miss.
1. You are Stalling the Conversion to a New Lifestyle
Drastically altering what you eat is tough and the body needs to adapt to the changes. If you go off the wagon even just once a week, the body will never properly adjust to the new regimen and changes will be slower in coming. You are also losing out on the chance to retrain your taste buds and change your cravings.
Going cold turkey is hard but you will more quickly learn to live the new lifestyle and will not want to go back.
2. You are Fuelling your Craving
We have established that one can get addicted to junk and refined foods and sugar. It is best to completely cut these out - just like you would with any addiction. Allowing a cheat day is the same as saying to an alcoholic that they can have a couple of drinks a week. All you are doing is fuelling the addictive behavior. Your body will get the message that, should the cravings be strong enough, it can get more of what it wants. If, however, you go completely cold turkey, it will be tough at first but, after that, the cravings start to go away. There are certain products you can use if you feel like you just can't go without that sweetness, such as Yacon syrup. And this can actually provide your body with health benefits.
3. You May Go Overboard
I am a master at convincing myself that something is good for me - I know that if I start to allow myself to cheat, it is a slippery slope. After all, one slip in a while is okay, isn't it? But after that first "slip" or two, well I might as well just eat the whole box and get the binge over and done with. Do those justifications sound familiar? Can you really just stop at one square of chocolate or a couple of biscuits or will the other cravings push you to eat even more?
4. It Probably Won't Make You Feel Good
Let's face it, it doesn't really feel great to fail and cheating is really a fail. Not only are you likely to feel guilty after eating badly, you may even feel physically unwell. Is that little bit of fun worth the time and effort it will take to get you back on track again?
5. You are Not Going to Rev Up Metabolism in One Day
We are all familiar with the so-called "starvation" myth. This is where your body desperately tries to hang onto fat during times when it perceives that food is short. There is no real evidence to back up this claim though. At least, not unless you have dropped your level of body fat to a drastic low.
Most of us simply don't need this kind of radical action - we are nowhere near the so-called starvation zone. If what you are aiming for is to drop a few pounds and get healthier, cheat days could really put your progress back a lot. If you are truly concerned that your metabolism is gearing down, start lifting weights (and start with very light weights so you don't strain something, build it up very gradually). This will increase your metabolism and ensure that you do not lose muscle.
6. Junk Food is Not Good at All
You are probably on diet because you ate too much junk food to begin with. Why give it up otherwise? It really has no redeeming qualities. It may seem like no big deal to have a pizza once a week, especially considering the way you were eating before, but that one pizza is still doing your body any favors.
7. Cheat Days Fill Your Body With Unhealthy Ingredients
If you cheat, you will never know what it feels like to be 100% healthy. Trace amounts of the baddies - gluten, veg oils and trans fats will still impact your health. Should you still eat them on a regular basis, even if that basis is much less often, there will always be trace amounts in your system?