This is Your Body on Cheat Day
Building a diet that you don’t want to cheat on
We don’t care if The Rock eats the entire bakery on his cheat days. You are the not The Rock. In fact, don’t be The Rock. Be Jocko Willink. Make it your habit to show up every day, and you’ll get where you want to go.
We can feel you getting defensive. “But cheat days take the suck out of dieting!” “Knowing I can cheat is like a hack to keep me on track!”
We’ll admit it. We like life hacks. We like optimization in our diet, our sleep, and our exercise.
We’re nerds about that sort of thing.
But as much as “hacks” speak to our need for constant improvement, we know that all truly good things require sustained effort. So we like to check our enthusiasm with science and commonsense when something seems too good to be true.
Hence our exploration of the cheat day mentality.
The psychology of the cheat day seems to make sense: Wouldn’t eating a “healthy diet” be so much easier if you knew you can break free and go hog- (or hotdog-) wild one day a week?
Sustained deprivation, after all, doesn’t sound like a solid gameplan.
But there is evidence that this self-proclaimed psychological hack is self-defeating.
Let’s start by looking at what “cheat days” do to your body:
Cheat days are supposed to turn your metabolism on high after a week of eating…kale, I guess? But instead of having a slightly more decadent meal to complement a week of light eating, cheaters tend to really go overboard once they have free rein (back to The Rock’s legendary cheat meals). This means that instead of giving your metabolism a little more to chew on, you’re overloading your system with greasy, highly processed foods that send your glucose levels all over the place and throw your gut bacteria into a tizzy.
A sleeve of Oreos later, you’re more likely to feel bloated and sluggish than excited about the food-freedom you’ve offered yourself.
If you’re into the specifics: Cheat days are supposed to increase the production of leptin, which can control hunger, increase satiety, and boost metabolism. However, the role of leptin in weight loss or maintenance is still a subject of debate among scientists, and overeating seems to only have small and short-lived metabolism-boosting effects.
It’s not just that cheat days create a disruptive up-and-down for your metabolism. They can also build negative mental habits that encourage binging and restriction instead of a mindful and balanced approach to mealtime.
Food isn’t a reward, and food isn’t a punishment. Food is a delicious thing you can use to fuel your pursuits, connect with loved ones, and heal the planet.
It’s something that’s a part of life every single day. As such, it’s worth putting in the time to build a good relationship with food instead of a relationship where you’re dying to cheat all the time. We’re sorry to have to kill the cheat day “hack” for you. But even though you can’t fully hack your way into a sensible diet, our team can help make the journey a little easier.
Instead of depriving yourself all week and eating nothing but dessert all weekend, we can help you have delicious, nutrient-dense, health-promoting meals every day of the week that will never leave you wanting.
Stop cheating on your diet, and find food you can live with for the long haul.
We’re here to help.
Check out this week’s options here. Our chef is looking forward to hearing your feedback!
Pizza photo by Carissa Gan on Unsplash