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Breaking Away from Cheat Day Mentality

“It’s okay – this is my cheat day!” Have you heard a friend say this? Or perhaps you’ve whispered it to yourself during a day of unlimited gluttony. The concept of having a cheat day while adhering to a strict diet is nothing new. When used correctly, the cheat day is not bad by nature. However, for most, the cheat day mentality becomes super problematic and causes more harm than good. Breaking away from the cheat day mentality in favor of a more honest approach to food can be a solid solution – one that benefits your physical and emotional wellbeing.

What is the ‘Cheat Day’ Mentality?

Every diet consists of rules – what to eat, what not to eat, how much to eat, when to eat. It can be exhausting! Even the healthiest of nutritional plans can feel harsh and restrictive if you’re not used to curbing your cravings. Thus, the birth of the ‘cheat day’ – a day when you allow yourself to bend (but more often break!) the rules of your diet plan.

In theory, a cheat day isn’t so bad! After all, it should only come after strict and dutiful dedication to your dietary plan, say 1 cheat day after 10 days of unwavering adherence. This shouldn’t undermine the overall progress and trajectory you’re on – so long as the dietary modifications are minor (which often isn’t the case).

However, the idea of having a cheat day usually snowballs into something bigger. Guilt, shame, overindulgence, reckless eating – for some, the cheat day mentality tends to morph into a mindset that’s seriously problematic.

Signs Your Cheat Day Mentality Has Gone Wrong

Few of us are able to keep a lighthearted, balanced approach to cheat day. Here are some signs that your cheat day mentality has gone off the rails:

  1. Your cheat day is causing blood sugar spikes or digestive issues. This is typically a sign that you aren’t ‘bending’ the rules – you’re breaking them massively and changing your nutritional intake so much so that your body responds with discomfort.
  2. You are labeling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ with absolution. When you throw moderation out the window, you’re on track to develop an unhealthy relationship with food.
  3. Instead of eating to satisfy hunger – you’re overeating and indulging out of desperation. When you start scarfing down food because it’s you’re only chance to have it, you aren’t functioning from a point of reason or nutritional balance.
  4. You feel guilty after cheat day. The emotional and psychological implications of this certainly won’t help establish a healthy lifestyle.

Shifting Your Attitude for a Healthier Approach

The core problem behind the cheat day mentality is that it doesn’t encourage you to approach a healthy diet with positivity. The excitement of cheat day is often the result of being on a diet that feels too restrictive and bland. You then begin to associate those negative connotations with healthy meals – not good!

Swap cheat day mentality for a more healthy and reasonable long-term plan. Create a diet for yourself that is more representative of a long-term way of eating, rather than a short-term restrictive diet. Moderation is key here!

When you regularly integrate appropriate portions of treats into a healthy eating plan, you’re in a better position to embrace healthy habits without the frustration, guilt, and sugar swings that can come with a cheat day.

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Dr. Candice Seti


California-licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Nutrition Coach, and Certified Personal Trainer

Dr. Candice Seti

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