Welcome to the first blog of our new series, “Ask the RDs.” Our team of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists will be answering questions about all things nutrition, food, meal planning and more. Submit your questions on Facebook and Twitter!
Today's question is a common one: "Are cheat days okay?"
Hi everyone! Christy here. I mostly get this question from people who are attempting to follow a super strict diet and are feeling deprived of foods they enjoy.
Here’s the big problem with a cheat day: It affects us mentally.
When we deprive ourselves of the food we really want and enjoy, it gets placed on a pedestal and labeled “forbidden.” If we restrict this food, it is more likely that we will focus and dwell on it. Then, when we finally get it, we'll typically overeat.
This leads to the next problem with a cheat day: It often leaves us feeling guilty.
Yes, it may be your cheat day, but how many times have you woken up after a day of excessive eating and felt great about yourself? I'm going to assume not many.
Instead of cheat days, I have a better recommendation.
Try a more holistic approach in which you eat foods you enjoy that give you energy and nourishment. Don’t assign foods to a “forbidden” category. Let yourself practice flexibility with all foods. This includes the entire spectrum, from nutrient-dense to desserts.
It is important to aim for variety, balance and truly enjoyable foods.
This will vary from person to person. Everybody's needs, wants, likes and dislikes change constantly. But, if we include all foods into our everyday and normal eating, then it's just that—normal. They’re taken off the pedestal and now look less tempting.
So here's my short answer to "Are cheat days okay?"
No, because if you are eating the foods you enjoy, there is no need to cheat. Ditch the extremes and the diet mentality and learn to eat in healthy moderation every day based on your body's needs.