4 Reasons Not to Have a Cheat Day

In 2009 and 10 I lost close to 85 pounds. I started with the Body for Life program and incorporated other things I learned along the way. One of the keys to my success was a weekly “Cheat Day”. Every Saturday I would eat whatever I wanted, no limits and no guilt. The Cheat Day worked well because it gave me something to shoot for. I could bust my butt for 6 days then take it easy and enjoy all the foods I missed for a day.

As I got healthier, I started to have problems with my cheat day. I’d become more sensitive to sugar, dairy and gluten and since most of my cheat day dalliances contained those ingredients I spent my cheat days bloated, itchy, and lethargic. Eventually, I did away with the cheat day altogether and below are 4 reasons why you should too.

  1. The Starvation Mode Myth

I have to admit one of the reasons I incorporated a cheat day into my weight loss plan was the starvation mode myth. As I learned it, starvation mode results from eating small amounts of calories over a sustained period of time. The body reduces metabolism significantly and holds onto fat reserves, resulting in the burning of muscle tissue instead of fat to provide energy.

Don’t get me wrong, there is such a thing as starvation mode but it only occurs under certain circumstances that very few of us will ever face. The U.S. military has done experiments with this and only a small percentage of the soldiers in the experiment went into starvation mode

  1. Unleash The Cravings!

In the beginning I had some legendary cheat days. I used to start at the stroke of midnight on Saturday by making a visit to Wendy’s, Burger King or Sonic for a double cheeseburger and fries. The following morning it was donuts galore. Then I’d lose control and eventually I was scouring the cupboards for whatever junk food I could find. Pretzels, sugary cereal, and peanut butter stood no chance against my appetite.

That first cheat food of the morning, usually sugary, set off a chain reaction. My insulin level spiked, then dropped rapidly and I was powerless against the cravings. By early evening, I was worn out. I’d usually fall asleep early because my body needed all the energy it could get just to digest all the crap I’d poured into it.

The next day was none too pleasant. Bloating, gas, and lethargy characterized my Sunday. Sometimes I’d be constipated and other times I’d have diarrhea. It would take all day Sunday and sometimes a good bit of Monday to get back to feeling normal.

  1. Imminent Danger for Celiacs and NCGS sufferers

If you have a peanut allergy, you can’t have a peanut butter sandwich on Saturday and expect everything to be ok on Sunday. You may not live to see Sunday. Although Celiac Disease is not immediately life threatening, the symptoms  – like weakness, gas and bloating – can appear quickly after ingesting gluten and they are none too pleasant.

Non celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is similar to celiac disease but produces extraintestinal  symptoms like foggy mind, joint pain and numbness in the extremities versus the gastrointestinal symptoms of celiac disease. Gluten consumption can produce these symptoms within hours. Is getting sick worth that piece of cake?

  1. Foods that Wreak Havoc on the Healthy

Cheat days are all about the consumption of junk food. The more we learn about the contents of our favorite junk foods, the more we discover the lasting effects their consumption has on our bodies. For example, research is now starting to validate the addictive power of sugar that I’ve experienced for years and alluded to above.

Gluten is not just a concern for those suffering from celiac disease and NCGS. A growing body of evidence supports gluten sensitivity is quite common among the general population and has harmful effects on those who don’t suffer from celiac disease. I’m living proof of this.

Then there’s Trans fats and vegetable oils, ingredients quite common in processed junk foods. Trans fats increase bad cholesterol, lower good cholesterol and increase abdominal fat. Vegetable oils contain Omega-6 fatty acids which must maintain a balance with Omega-3 fatty acids or inflammation and other health problems result.

The Bottom Line on Cheat Days

Sugar, gluten and unhealthy fats are the key ingredients in most of the junk food consumed on a cheat day. Easy to see why they’re called “junk” foods.  I hear you, “It’s just one day. How much damage can be done?”  I operated under that rationale for years. Now, taking a cheat day is more trouble than it’s worth. My advice to you, 86 it altogether. You’ll find that as time goes on your taste buds will adjust to healthy foods and they’ll actually taste better than they did when you started eating them. Sooner or later, you’ll lose your desire to cheat altogether. Sounds weird and I didn’t believe it until I experienced it myself. Now there’s no turning back.


Question: I want to hear about your experiences with cheat days. Do you take them or have you sworn them off? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Todd K Marsha is a Catholic husband and father living in suburban Kansas City. Through his writing charism he tells the powerful story of his conversion to the faith, his triumphs through God's grace, and his continuing struggle to live a more Christ-like life.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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