Exploring cheat days…
With Thanksgiving around the corner, it seems only appropriate to talk about the importance of a cheat day. What is a cheat day? A cheat day is eating everything in a set period of time or given day that is typically prohibited on a diet. It is a common practice to have a cheat day once a week.
Let’s take a few moments to explore the benefits of a cheat day besides the obvious pleasure of indulgence.
First, it may help you stick to long term goals. For some, it is easier to maintain motivation and self-control with an occasional cheat day than without one. Consider it this way, psychologically it may be very difficult to never eat a pizza or hamburger again. You may be able to hold out for 6 months or a year. However, in the long term it that is not feasible to most of us. Structuring occasional indulgence, in the form of a cheat day, into a diet may make it more realistic to stay on the diet in the long term.
A second key benefit of a cheat day is it may boost your metabolism. Certain diets may decrease your Leptin levels and thyroid hormones like T3. Leptin is a protein produced by fatty tissue and believed to regulate fat storage in the body. T3 is a thyroid hormone that plays several roles in the body. One key component is regulating the metabolic rate. With the reduction in either in Leptin or T3 makes it difficult for the body to lose weight. Cheat days should restore the Leptin and T3 levels increasing the likelihood of weight loss.
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While there are psychological and physiological benefits to a cheat day there are certainly dangers associated with it as well. One danger is confusing a cheat day with a bad habit. For example, if you are an emotional eater and then this leads you to making poor choices. Instead of labeling the poor choices as a cheat day, the larger issue of emotional eating should be addressed. A second possible danger of a cheat day is that of a slippery slope. For some, allowing yourself indulgence once in a while is significantly different that consistent indulgence. Any psychological or physiological benefits of a cheat day dissipate when they occur too often. A cheat day should last a meal or a day. Any more than that it can become a life style. Planning cheat days should help mitigate the dangers of mislabeling them or falling prey to a slippery slope.
When thinking about cheat days it is best to label them as reward days or earned meals. This should help mitigate any potential guilt associated with indulgence. A cheat day does not run contrary to dietary principles but rather should rejuvenate oneself psychologically and physiologically.
Also, cheat days should be used strategically. If possible, schedule them after big training sessions or on special events and holidays. If you know you have a wedding or anniversary dinner coming up, it would be foolish to use your cheat day on a lack luster lunch.
Cheats days are beneficial both physically and mentally in helping individuals maintain the disciple of a diet while seeing the highest possible rate of return for a diet. Planning a cheat day should also help prevent mislabeling bad behavior as a cheat day or letting a cheat day become a slippery slope. Labeling them correctly should help mitigate guilt. It is also important to use them strategically around special events, holidays or even big training sessions.
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