Redefining the “Cheat Day”

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Written by Ryan Lehr

Let’s set the very familiar scenario: You have made it into the gym four or five times this week and have been following a strict diet plan that you have been provided with by your nutrition coach, (Lisa), and you have come to the weekend and it is time to have that much desired day off. Too often, we give ourselves a pat on the back in the form of a “cheat day,” but never consider if this indulgence is deserved on the day off just because of a few good days of following a nutrition plan and getting in the gym. Have the goals set forth been met? Instead of the well sought-after “cheat days” that may be turning your nutrition or weight loss goals into a nightmare, there are better options available as long as you’re willing to do a little research.

First off, saying, “It’s my cheat day,” carries too many negative annotations. Fitness members learn of this term and treat it as a weekly holiday and binge eat all of the crap they can in the window of time provided instead of just the one adequate indulgence meal. More often than not, this habitual cheat day will spill over to the next day, and the day after that, and the vicious cycle continues with you saying, “I’ll get back on track Monday.”

Don’t misinterpret this and start believing that you should never give in to your indulgences, because you do deserve them! If you are sticking to a meal plan and attending classes at the gym consistently, then you should be able to treat yourself. There is a benefit to allowing yourself a “treat meal” and there is some science behind this that you need to have a brief understanding of so you don’t get too carried away with this concept.

Your body produces a hormone called leptin. Leptin is stored in your adipose tissue (fat cells) and communicates to your body when you have stored enough energy, giving you that feeling of being full. Allowing an occasional treat meal will help to keep an appropriate leptin level and even help to burn fat. This way you won’t go on an all-out binge and will help to keep your appetite satisfied while promoting a faster metabolism and improving weight loss.

For starters, no longer refer to having a “cheat meal” – or even worse a “cheat day.” Start referring to your small indulgences as “treat meals” as they give a more positive annotation and more clear perspective on what purpose they serve. Find a plan that works for you, whether it is once a week, or scheduled every few days as the purpose of a snack. From licensed nutritionist and dietician, Jim White, “It is not supposed to be an all-you-can-eat binge meal. If you’re gonna do pizza, do three pieces of thin crust veggie pizza and a beer, instead of a huge pepperoni/sausage thing with five beers. You can really affect your waistline with one meal.”

Keep working hard in the gym, sticking to the goals you have set forth, and treat yourself on occasion!

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