Today, Monday May 11th, is celebrated as Eat What You Want Day. It seemed an appropriate time to discuss cheat days and cheat meals, since they’re such a hot (and highly debated) topic in the Low Carb Diet community.
I’ll tell you my experience, give you a few things to consider, and then I would love to hear YOUR thoughts. 🙂
I should start by saying I am NOT a fan of the “cheating” concept. Not only because it doesn’t work for me (more on that in a second), but also because I don’t even like the word “cheat”. It reminds me of infidelity, which is one topic you will see me get REAL heated on. 😛
Seriously though, what if you decided to have a “cheat day” once a week or once a month, just so you wouldn’t get bored with your partner, or just to keep it interesting. Is that okay?? Of course not!
When you make a healthy life choice, it’s a commitment.
Those are my thoughts, that’s my opinion. That doesn’t mean I’m perfect and never eat a carb. It happens. And when it does, I pay dearly for it. I go through a horrible “break up” with myself, I pay for it physically AND emotionally, and no amount of temporary pleasure was worth it – ever. EVER!
So while I do believe eating healthy is a lifestyle choice and a commitment, I do get derailed sometimes. Just so you know I’m not perfect and I’m NOT being judgmental… just opening up the topic for discussion, and to hear YOUR experiences.
People choose to have a cheat meal or a cheat DAY on their diet for one of three reasons:
- To “jump start” weight loss during a stall.
- To keep from getting bored on their diet.
- To justify a bad food choice in their own mind.
As for whether a cheat meal or a cheat day will actually jump start your weight loss when you seem to be in a stall… that’s highly debatable. A number of people have shared their experiences in the low carb challenge group, with varying experiences.
Most of the time, whether the “cheat” was an intentional decision or just a “fail” it results in instant weight gain of several pounds, bloating and stomach pains / stomach upset, feeling discouraged and disappointed – and like a total failure, and it induces all of your old cravings… often leading to an all out binge for days on end, followed by a difficult time getting back on track with healthy eating.
I was recently at a catered social where they served a beautiful spread of high carb foods. I chose to eat super clean and very low carb at that meal, and I shared my reasons why in that post – and talked about HOW I avoid beautiful (unhealthy foods):
Why Cheat Days Don’t Work For Me
Indulging in a cheat meal doesn’t work for me for the same reason a cheat doesn’t work for an alcoholic. It’s a downward spiral. A fast downward spiral that sucks me into a dark hole of physical and emotional misery where escape is a serious challenge.
ONE cheat day – even a controlled cheat day of “normal healthy foods” (like oatmeal and baked potatoes), without even binging! – results in immediate weight gain for me. The last two times I tried it, it took me 11 days to get back to the weight I was before that stupid cheat day. ELEVEN DAYS. Both times.
That was frustrating. Was it worth it? HELL NO.
There’s another reason I avoid cheat days, and even cheat meals…
For me, eating low carb is not JUST about weight loss. Sure, it was in the beginning, but then I realized there were other benefits. For years I suffered with extreme back pain, muscle and nerve pain. My doctor wanted to diagnose me with Fibromyalgia (which I refused). I believe my pain issues stem from inflammatory arthritis in my lower back, causing sciatica – and all sorts of related pain – due to a near fatal car accident more than half my life ago.
When I started eating low carb, the pain went away – like magic!
I discovered that carbs promote inflammation in the body, so if you have any time of arthritis or inflammatory disease, eating low carb makes you feel a million times better! Many people who HAVE been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia reported their symptoms improved dramatically as well.
So yes, being out of pain is a HUGE perk.
NOT getting back in pain is a BIG deterrent!
Not to mention you have to go through the keto flu (aka low carb flu, or Induction Flu) all over again to get back into ketosis (fat burning mode). Which is pure misery.
Leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts. 🙂
One last note… it does bother me when this topic of cheat days or cheat meals come up in my Low Carb Challenge Group. The whole point is to challenge yourself to eat low carb consistently for 90 full days. Just three short months. The health benefits of eating a low carb ketogenic diet are AMAZING, and it’s only by doing it consistently that you’ll really experience those benefits – and truly experience life-changing weight loss. There’s no place for “cheat days” in a CHALLENGE. 🙂
Lynn Terry, aka @LowCarbTraveler