Ask the Diet Doctor: Are "Cheat Days" Ever Okay?
3 rules you need to know to enjoy your favorite indulgence without ruining your healthy diet.
Q: Is it okay to have a "cheat day" once a week? —Paige Boychuk, Facebook
A: Yes, it is okay to eat foods off of your diet during the course of the week, as long as you don’t go overboard with the amount of calories you consume and follow these three guidelines:
1. Hit your targets. Aim to stick to your healthy diet 90 percent of the time. If you eat three meals and a snack each day (plus a workout shake four days a week when you exercise, which may not be true for everyone), that means you eat 32 times per week. Twenty-nine of those 32 meals and snacks should stick to your healthy diet plan, leaving three to do whatever you want. It sounds simple, but once you start tracking your adherence to your diet plan, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to skip a meal or grab a quick refined-sugar snack when you're short on time.
2. Stop calling it "cheating." You earned it! The psychology of cheating on your diet is bad. It conjures up images like raiding the refrigerator in a dark kitchen to devour the last piece of pie, hoping no one sees you. I prefer to think of them as "splurge meals." The splurge concept comes from a colleague Rachel Cosgrove, author of the Female Body Breakthrough. Rachel wants clients to splurge on a delicious meal just as they would a new pair of shoes. It's not something you do every day. Enjoy it while it lasts and then get back on your plan (dietary or financial). If you can hit your target number of clean meals during the week, then you aren’t "cheating" when you go out to enjoy a great meal with wine and dessert. You are simply rewarding yourself for a great week and meeting your diet goals.
3. Plan your splurge. Most people don’t feel good after stress-eating a bowl of Ben & Jerry’s on a Friday night. But if you plan ahead and reward yourself for a week of sticking to your diet and exercise plan with a bowl (not a pint) of Cake Batter ice cream, that feels different. Plan your splurges so that you can truly enjoy them.
The bottom line: Yes, it is okay to enjoy foods 2-3 times during the week that aren’t on your diet plan, but only if you earn it and make sure to enjoy it!
Meet the Diet Doctor: Mike Roussell, PhD
Author, speaker, and nutritional consultant Mike Roussell, PhD is known for transforming complex nutritional concepts into practical eating habits that his clients can use to ensure permanent weight loss and long lasting health. Dr. Roussell holds a bachelor degree in biochemistry from Hobart College and a doctorate in nutrition from Pennsylvania State University. Mike is the founder of Naked Nutrition, LLC, a multimedia nutrition company that provides health and nutrition solutions directly to consumers and industry professionals via DVDs, books, ebooks, audio programs, monthly newsletters, live events, and white papers. To learn more, check out Dr. Roussell's popular diet and nutrition blog, MikeRoussell.com.