Why Cheat Days are Risky
This is the proverbial fork in the road and the path you choose in that moment is a bigger deal than you may think. “Just one bite” “one meal off,” or a “weekly cheat day” may not be nearly as harmless as we all tell ourselves and often lays the groundwork for a fast diet fail.
Research looking into people’s behavioral patterns has shown that following a highly-structured diet can help you lose the most weight1,2 which helps you feel reinforced and motivated to stay on track and get to your goal faster. We all want to live in a world where we have our cake and eat it too, but that cake has calories and won’t help you get the result you want.
So let’s rewind to that moment when you are at the fork in the road: do you stay on track or do you try to negotiate your diet plan? It all starts with this decision to stay committed or not.
Path A leads you to stay on track.
It is here that you recognize the significance of your decision to stick to your plan. You heed the advice of the coaches and community and make an extra shake or get rid of the tempting food or avoid the challenge altogether. Ultimately, these choices help you say “Nope, not going to give in, I’m doing this and I’m going to keep on doing this.”
Path B leads you down the all-too-familiar “just this once” route.
And maybe the caloric damage isn’t even much at all. But let’s look at how it affects the big picture of your overall effort and goals. Maybe you get right back on track after giving in to temptation. Or maybe that “once” is the beginning of the end of the diet. Either way, the bigger issue is the rationalization, which then makes it much easier to rationalize again the next time temptation arises. Soon, the structure of the diet relaxes, then weight loss slows down, motivation wanes, and then… there’s no more diet. That first negotiation can easily become the beginning of the end.
So, stick to Path A, by doing what it takes to stay on track. This requires problem-solving, planning and connection to your reasons why you’re doing this in the first place. Every time you choose Path A, you boost your motivation and give yourself positive reinforcement, which will continue to support you the next time another challenge rears its ugly head.
The bottom line: Rationalization breeds more rationalization whereas problem-solving generates more problem-solving. It’s not always easy to stay on track but it’s whole lot easier than continually trying to get yourself back on track.
So make the decision to commit today. We’re here, committing right along with you.
1Obes Res 2004;12:151S-162S
2EFSA Journal 2010;8:1466