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Friday, 10 June 2016

What's Wrong With 'Cheat Days'?


It's no secret that I'm not a fan of diets, 'quick-fix' weight-loss products and those weight-loss companies that focus solely on the number on the scales. Something I see a lot of on social media is people having 'cheat days', the idea is that you can have anything you want to eat on this day....cakes, chocolate, sweets, takeaways, fried chips, fizzy drinks, etc and it's almost like a free pass, it's a cheat day so you're allowed those normally forbidden products as long as you go back to your diet the next day. Cheat days are something I have a real problem with, not just because they wouldn't work for me but I believe they're extremely unhealthy and cause a bad relationship with the food you're eating. Mentally & physically I think they're a bad idea, I thought I'd explain why.



My whole ethos is that healthy eating should be a lifestyle not a diet, there shouldn't be calorie restriction or macro counting and you should never feel unhappy or bored eating food. I believe food should always be fun, exciting, delicious and satisfying and it shouldn't dominate your life, become something you're obsessed with or make you wish you were eating another way. You have to figure out what this means for you, there's no fixed perfect diet for everyone and no golden rules you absolutely have to stick to.

As time has gone on my taste buds have changed (did you know your taste buds change every 28 days?) so I don't crave refined sugars, white carbohydrates or Cadbury chocolate. I prefer the taste of raw cacao brownies, almond butter, dates, creamy banana smoothies, sweet potato wedges and fresh avocado on toast. I think plant-based meals are so exciting, have the most incredible tastes and I love the way they make my body feel but that doesn't mean I don't occasionally have food that contains refined sugar, that I never munch on a few crisps, ban myself from alcohol completely or don't let myself have a (gluten free, vegan) pizza at an Italian restaurant. If I want to eat something then I'll eat it, but I listen to my body and my body doesn't like these processed foods regular - mentally & physically it makes me feel tired, down, sluggish and generally unhealthy but if I fancy those foods at the time then of course I'm going to let myself have them. Just yesterday I had vegan ice cream that most certainly wasn't sugar free or soya free but it looked delicious so I had some and I really enjoyed it, I don't feel guilty for that because life is about balance and eating 'unhealthy' foods sometimes is completely okay, completely normal and is actually part of a healthy life.

The words 'Cheat Day' bothers me in itself, why do you have to cheat on your diet? If you're looking at certain foods as cheats that means you're restricting yourself, following some super strict diet guidelines, not having fun with foods and that you see your diet as some sort of punishment you have to endure. If you're relying on periodic indulgences to get you through the week then your dietary approach probably isn't sustainable in the long run, and it's certainly not healthy for your mind or your body. The goal shouldn't be to eat 'perfectly' all week then come Saturday gorge on any foods you'd normally not go anywhere near.

Cheat days are also a very bad idea if you have a history of binge eating or comfort eating - you've gone a full week restricting yourself and then suddenly you have a day that serves as an excuse to binge on junk before you get back to your diet routine. They have a tendency to bring out feelings of guilt or shame, because instead of having a few squares of chocolate or one packet of crisps as part of your balanced lifestyle you just overeat throughout the whole day, this will only have a negative impact on your mental health. You never want to feel in a bad mindset after eating, you should always feel happy, nourished and like you've really enjoyed what you've just consumed but when you're stuffing sweets, popcorn and burgers into your mouth throughout the day it's hard to feel positive about yourself afterwards.

This most certainly does not mean you can never indulge or never have these processed foods, of course not, it just means find a balance that works for you; we're all so different, there's no one-size fits all when it comes to food and I think that's so important to remember.
I eat the way I promote on my blog 95% of the time because I love it, it makes me feel the best I've ever felt and I have a genuine love for this lifestyle. I feel like I'm doing something so positive for my mind & body and I'm enjoying it so why would I sacrifice that for a random binge 'cheat day' just as an excuse to eat loads of pick'n'mix or Ben & Jerry's?
I think putting your focus on whole, plant-based foods and trying to limit your intake of processed, sugary foods when possible is vital for a happy, healthy body but if one night you fancy some Galaxy chocolate or you go out for a meal and the three cheese pizza takes your fancy then go for it and have no regrets!

Feel confident and happy within your body without the need for restriction and deprivation. Don't diet, just eat to nourish your beautiful body and most of all, have fun!


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