Cheat days – even the word is music to the ears of anyone on a rigorous diet. However, they can make a lot of us feel guilty. The good news? You shouldn’t feel guilty! There are pros to cheat days, and today’s blog will tell you 3 of the best.
Possibly the best reason to have a cheat day is to treat yourself for all the hard work you’ve been doing! Your brain loves rewards, and indulging in your favourite meal is the perfect reward – you’ll flood your brain with dopamine and end up feeling great. A review of studies has proven that there is a positive link between rewards and sticking to your diet – so next time someone bugs you about cheating, hit them with the scientific facts!
Keeping yourself motivated
It might seem counter-intuitive, but cheat days can actually help you stay on track. Hear me out here – the idea is that if you plan your ‘cheating’ ahead, you won’t feel bad like you may do if you ‘cheat’ and snack randomly. You no longer have the sense of ‘failure’ when you indulge in a piece of cake or something to satisfy your sweet tooth. Cheat days have also been suggested to reduce cravings – allowing yourself to eat some of your ‘off-limits’ food gives you the willpower to not completely break your diet and binge on the good stuff (or bad stuff, depending on how you see it!)
Sorting out your metabolism
If you’ve read anything about hunger, you’re probably aware of the body’s two hunger hormones – leptin and ghrelin. Usually they’re pretty balanced and do a good job of regulating your appetite and metabolism. The problem arises when you start calorie restricting (which is needed if you’re trying to lose weight) – your leptin and ghrelin levels get all out of line. Cheat days actually allow your body to up your levels of leptin (your appetite-suppressing hormone), so your motivation to stay away from binging can stay tip-top!
One thing to mention is that although the odd cheat day can actually be helpful, making it a regular habit is most definitely not. Have a cheat day once a week, don’t reward yourself with a tub of ice cream after every workout!
What’s your favourite cheat meal? Let us know!