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How To Tackle Cheat Day Like a Pro

Dieting—or even just trying to swallow the suggested amount of kale weekly—can wear down even the toughest gym rat. Yes, we all need our greens, but sometimes fitting in a little bit of ‘fun food’ can prevent you from overeating later. It’s true; there’s growing research to suggest that occasional, planned splurges can actually help your healthy eating. Is that great news or what!?

The whole point of cheat days is not letting yourself feel deprived. Feelings of deprivation from dieting can happen in two ways. One- a steady caloric restriction has been shown to cause a drop in the hormone that signals fullness, called leptin. Two- a life without pizza can make anyone feel deprived. While you obviously don’t have to settle on a pizza pie, everyone needs a little scheduled time to:

So make cheat days work for you! Here are a few of our favorite tips- because everyone deserves some cheesy goodness every now and then.

Pick your poison.

Cheat days are all about having the foods you really, really love- so make it worth it. Go for your favorite brand of chips, order bacon on your burger, you have so many options. If you really, really love a food, don’t even try to get the ‘light’ version. Get the triple double chocolate version. Enjoy the heck out of it. [Maybe just don’t order more than one round.]

Do it with friends.

Share a good pizza, nibble at a cheese plate, or go for the poutine if you’re feeling daring. Make it memorable and enjoy every minute. Bonus: you can try more foods because the first bite is always the best. Associating treat foods with special occasions and social time can encourage you to treat responsibly too, and not eat when you’re sad. Happy eating = good cheating.

Don’t drink and dive [into your food].

Drinking is shown to reduce your inhibitions, which can extend to food. So pick either the cocktails or the dessert, not both. And don’t forget, those drinks have calories too! (And unless you’re drinking straight liquor, probably a lot of them.) Plus if you’re more alert, you might enjoy something fancier, like delicate patisserie macarons. Oh yeah.

Try a cheat meal instead of a cheat day.

Some people prefer to have a whole cheat day every two weeks, but if more frequent small(ish) treats sound like they would work better for you, go for it. If your cheat meal is a lunch or dinner, how about a homemade wing Wednesday? Pass the hot sauce!

Speaking of chicken…

If you want true bang for your buck, pick protein-rich ‘cheat day’ foods.  Protein is an essential nutrient and a key for satiety, to make you feel full and satisfied longer. That means you won’t be tempted to go back for more in an hour. So take it back to childhood with these chicken nuggets, or pop out the popcorn shrimp.

Keep the sugar to a minimum.

Even though the words ‘cheat day’ bring to mind endless doughnuts, cakes and cookies, sometimes it can be hard to stop with sweets. Avoid sugary treats if it’s a trigger for you—we know the struggle! Instead, go for something with tons and tons of flavor, but less sugar per bite. We like to indulge in spicy chips like these.

Don’t cheat when you’re feeling starved.

Even if you’ve just gone to the gym, don’t cheat when you’re famished. Unless you’re carb-loading for a marathon, if you inhale the food when you’re starving you might not enjoy it quite the same way. Plus, there’s a good chance you’ll get way too full. You know, your eyes are bigger than your stomach and all that jazz. So have something light early in the day, and you’re likely to be much more satisfied after a juicy semi-homemade burger and some spicy curly fries.  

Be fair, take care.

Finally, don’t forget to take care of your body afterward! Set aside something to help with the ‘junk food hangover’ that can sneak up you!  Even if you didn’t drink and indulge, eating a lot of salty, greasy, or sugary foods can leave you with a fuzzy head and a stomach crying out in surrender.  Alleviate the food-coma symptoms with something light, like sparkling water with lemon. You’ll thank us tomorrow.

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