Weight Loss Support - Cheat Days? Pros? Cons? Advice?

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02-26-2007, 05:27 PM
Hi everyone!

I'm just wondering who here has a cheat day every week -- one where you allow yourself to go off plan.

The last two weeks I've been allowing myself a cheat "meal" -- just one -- where I can go off plan, and I was SO SCARED to do it. My body seems to be okay with it, though, because I lost 2 pounds the first week, and 1 pound this week.

I know that a lot of the research now supports having a day off plan, kind of "shocking" your metabolism, so to speak. My doctor this morning even mentioned that I should be eating well "6 days a week".

I'm SCARED of giving myself a whole day, and I was scared enough giving myself one meal. I don't even eat EVERYTHING that I want at that one meal, it's just not totally on plan food, KWIM? For example, the first week BF and I went for pizza... well, it was thin crust pizza, and I didn't have dessert or beer. Normally those things would have been DEFINITELY on my menu!

Any pros or cons of giving yourself a cheat day? Should I do a whole day, one meal, or not at all? Anyone have any advice, stories to share? Anything would be GREATLY appreciated, as I am feeling very conflicted about this.


02-26-2007, 05:31 PM
i don't really "give" myself a cheat day. I will say on that note however, i do cheat at least once a week. I really am trying to learn a new lifestyle, a new way of eating/thinking that will last me the rest of my life. I tried this last year and eventually gained it back because my "cheat" days started to get more and more frequent until i was back to where i started. I'm not perfect and still need somethings occasionally but i do it in moderation..and don't plan to cheat. For me...it sets me up for failure. But others may find it works for them. I personally am trying to focus on how good i feel when i'm eating well and exercising lots. Ant using that as my motivation to say NO to the chocolate and chips etc. Good luck!

02-26-2007, 05:38 PM
If it's part of your plan, it isn't cheating is it? My problem with thinking of a food plan in terms of a "cheat" day is reinforcing the idea that sometimes you're being "good" and sometimes, even if you're allowing yourself to be, you're being "bad."

The scale will tell you if your food plan is working for you (not by one single weigh in, but over time), and that includes whether one day of less strict food monitoring is working for you. I think relaxing your food plan, once in a while - you and the scale deciding how often and to what degree, it is needed, (without thinking of it as cheating) makes long term weight loss more doable and therefore more successful.

Beach Patrol
02-26-2007, 05:39 PM
I think that a "cheat day" or a "cheat time" varies with individuals. I'm doing South Beach, but I do a two day strict & one day not-so-strict. It works for me, and I don't go overboard when I cheat. I 'plan' the cheat, too, so I know exactly what I'm going to have & when. I think it helps me to not feel deprived, so I don't go crazy & eat everything in sight. Ya know?

02-26-2007, 05:39 PM
I've just started mixing up my daily calorie intake. I aim for 10,000 a week but I have one day when I have about 1800. I eat breakfast and lunch normally but I have what I want for tea (within reason) or a good tea but then a big treat. I don't take the whole day off.

I've only done it for 2 weeks but I've lost 4.8 lbs in that time so it seems to be working OK. I was nervous when I first did it but I've found that having something to look forward to makes it seem less like a diet and more just normal life which is what it's about I reckon. Personally I wouldn't take the whole day off because if I had the freedom to eat what I wanted I could easily consume 2 days' calories. :tape:

02-26-2007, 05:47 PM
Personally, I'd give myself a cheat meal. A whole day would likely turn into a binge day for me, and it would probably cancel out the weight loss I'd done during the week. Maybe try doing a cheat meal and cheat dessert? Then it seems like youre allowing yourself more, but it wouldnt be as scary as doing a whole day of relaxed eating. Thats what has worked for me!

02-26-2007, 06:17 PM
I've thought about your question a lot. Very recently I have started planning on including a certain special food each day that I really enjoy. I measure the amount, and I make sure that it fits into my overall calorie allotment. I am very new to planning out my day of food. I also am now in my second month of using FITDAY which is helping me a great deal.

I planned yesterday and today around having a very small piece of my homemade cherry pie with dinner. I have the pie, enjoy it IMMENSELY and am satified that I got to eat something that the family ate and enjoyed. By planning the pie into my overall food plan, I am satisfied and haven't felt the need to binge. Measuring helps a lot, too, to keep me honest with myself.

I like this technique because it allows me to work a certain food into my daily diet just like I add each of the other foods. I'm thinking that this allows me to practice a habit that will help me continue on my weight loss without me feeling as though I am missing out on special foods.


02-26-2007, 06:27 PM
Personally, I don't like the concept of "cheating."

If I'm going out to eat or if there's a party, I plan for it. I think about what I'm going to eat and how much, and I adjust my intake for the rest of the day to try to fit around it. Or, if I want a special treat, like real ice cream, I work it in with the other things I'm eating that day and make adjustments. It doesn't always work, and sometimes I go over what I had planned, but at least I know what I'm doing. I track it all.

I was once using a diet plan that allowed one meal a week of whatever you wanted, as much as you wanted--and that one meal would stall my weight loss for the rest of the week. It just wasn't right for me.


02-26-2007, 06:29 PM
Wow, thanks for all the great advice and insight. I'm still confused, but it's really awesome hearing everyone's input! Keep 'em coming! :D

02-26-2007, 06:40 PM
Now that I am maintaining my weight loss, I allow myself one dinner a week (not any set schedule) where I am more free with what I order. It is a treat MEAL and not a treat day. I usually go out to a nice restaurant with friends, I drink a glass of wine, I have cream in my afterdinner coffee, I split dessert with friends (the fudgier the better). I still take care when ordering my entree, I no longer eat fried foods or a ton of cheese (just doesn't agree with me) or anything with a cream-based sauce. I still try avoid the chip basket at Mexican places and the bread basket at other restaurants - just habits I don't want to pick back up. My favorite things to order are grilled/blackened salmon or ahi - delicious and healthy.

This is for the rest of my life, so I needed a plan I maintain forever. A lovely night once a week in a restaurant definitely works for me, life is too short to do without desserts like molten lava cake. I like the fact that I can have a great meal out and enjoy good company and good food while still basically sticking with my healthier way of eating. A restaurant setting works for me - I don't like seeming "piggy" in front of other people, so it keeps me honest while sharing a dessert. The food is also "finite" (unlike a big tub of ice cream at home). I never take home leftovers from my treat night (no matter how good it is), it is a one-time event and then immediately back on plan.

When I was actually losing weight, I had 2 treat meals - my birthday dinner and Christmas dinner.

02-26-2007, 06:50 PM
I also don't like to think of splurging as "cheating." Who am I cheating? Not my body -- it knows!

That said, I do try to work in times when I eat different foods ... sometimes a meal at an Indian restaurant, sometimes a dessert, etc. Usually, I record these days along with all the others. I rarely have times when I just eat away. I don't think I want to go back to my old habits, but I try to be aware of what i'm eating, even when I'm splurging. I do think it's important not to let yourself feel guilty about it!

This is for life, and sometimes life, for me is pizza or some other goodie. I just don't think of it as "cheating" As for frequency, sometimes it seems like I don't do it often, other times, it's more than once a week, depending on what's going on in my life.

I guess I'm trying to find the balance. It's hard, but I keep trying.

02-26-2007, 06:59 PM
I never cheat. What I allow myself to eat is part of my plan and I count it in with my calories. If I want one of my "sinful" treats, then I have it. I never consider it cheating. I'm in this for life and I don't think the cheating mentality is a good one. At least not for me.

02-26-2007, 07:21 PM
I also don't go by the "cheat" theory. I am in this for life and it would be next to impossible to go through life without some pasta or bread or cake. So every now and then I will allow myself to eat those and similar items. Holidays, birthdays and what not. I don't look at it as a cheat, but as PART of the plan. Right now I am so focused on losing the rest of my weight, I don't have much interest in that kind of stuff. I have had a few bites of cake at social events in the past. But only after carefully planning for it a week in advance as well the day of the event. Hopefully, when I finally get to goal, I could ease up just a bit, a tiny bit that is and allow myself a few more indulgences throughout the course of the year.

But if it works for you, more power to ya. I firmly believe there is no one right way to do this. We've all gotta figure out what works best for ourselves.

02-26-2007, 07:38 PM
Agreed. I don't cheat. I eat really well regularly, and sometimes I drink too much wine or I eat something I normally wouldn't. The word cheat reminds me of the word diet, which is why I got fat in the first place.

02-26-2007, 07:38 PM
I do go with a cheat day, but it's usually only about one meal and snacks later on. I try to only do it after I have my weigh-in from Weight Watchers. Then, the next day, I start all over again. After awhile though, you don't want all the junk and your cheat days really aren't cheat days anymore, just little treats.

02-26-2007, 07:53 PM
I allow myslef a night (or a meal) where I have what I want, but not the whole day. Even then, I watch it! for example, when I had fr. fish the other night (loaded in cals), I would typically have f.f with it! I didnt, i had a healthy salad and also made sure that the dinner was not too l ate at night and on the early side. The other thing I do is have a very light healthy eating day!

It really depends on how my week is going though, if I have had a real good week i go for it or otherwise...I try to hold off. I do it in moderation and keep a careful eye on myself so it does not become too frequent and also watch how it affects my weight loss etc. Not just that, but after eating low fat meals all week, I find that a richer higher fat meal upsets my tummy and I feel rather not so good after........yettttttttttt, if it satisfies my craving and keeps me from an all out binge, so be it! so far , its working! I do not feel deprived and I feel it is something I can live with. I would rather satisy one craving in moderation when I see fit versus having them all bombard be me at once and then whamo! If i feel I went overboard one week, I buckle down more the next.... working on that happy medium! and perhaps satisfying the next craving the next week.

even on my so called allow times (as glory mentioned), I see how much of a difference I have made...and I too oh enjoy m y nights out! especially this time of year! I found a way to go out and enjoy myself but yet still make a heap of progress! someone mentioned leftovers! oh my! this was always my pitfall in the past. I would eat out, bring leftovers, eat again later! well no more of th at, its a one shot deal now! :)

02-26-2007, 09:04 PM
Agreed. I don't cheat. I eat really well regularly, and sometimes I drink too much wine or I eat something I normally wouldn't. The word cheat reminds me of the word diet, which is why I got fat in the first place.


Cheat and diet are 4-letter words ;)

02-26-2007, 09:35 PM
So, here's something I've always wondered. If you are a person who does a weekly "cheat" day or whatever, what do you say when people ask how many calories you eat? Do you figure in those "cheat" calories or not?

For example, if most days you try to keep it to 1500 but get one "cheat" meal, do you say you eat "1500 calories" or something like "1500 most days ,but I also have a cheat day." or "probably 1700 because of my cheat day"

I'm just curious how people conceptualize this for themselves...

02-26-2007, 10:13 PM
I don't feel that I can handle cheat days or meals. I can easily see it flowing over into the next meal, or the next day, or a full day of bingeing with such rationale as "well I can eat ANYTHING I want today so I'm going to eat it all". I just don't see myself handling that successfully these days. Maybe one day when food isn't such a big issue in my life but that is not the case yet.

However, when I go out for dinner I order what I please. If we go out for desert, I will have desert. I don't keep junk food in the house because that turns into a binge fest followed by longer and more frequent binge fests.. agh. Having said that, I eat out less than once a week... once every two weeks perhaps or even less than that. Occassionally I will be out of food or forget my lunch and then I will buy something, but then I try to buy healthy lunches simply because for me lunch time feels different than dinner time. I like the company and atmosphere of going out to dinner - as the old addage goes: good friends, good food, good conversation, so it feels worth it. Whereas lunches just feel like "time to nourish myself, my body" so consuming less than healthy food just doesn't satisfy me.

On the note of the word "cheat" - I tend to apply the terminology "fall off plan, off track" for myself... or binge. I'm not really on any sort of plan so I when I fall off track, I don't feel as I've cheated, simply as though I made a choice that didn't support my goals. But that's all it is :)... I like JaimePhan's thinking: "The word cheat reminds me of the word diet, which is why I got fat in the first place."

02-26-2007, 10:58 PM
So, here's something I've always wondered. If you are a person who does a weekly "cheat" day or whatever, what do you say when people ask how many calories you eat? Do you figure in those "cheat" calories or not?

Nope, I do not. If anybody asked me, I would say I eat 1800-2000 calories a day (which is a typical day). If someone asked for MORE detail like "do you have a treat meal" I would embellish.

02-26-2007, 11:10 PM
No cheat days for me- I feel cheat days are just another way cheating myself. It is a word the proves that one's goals aren't apart of a lifestyle change- or that one views their health in a negative way.

02-26-2007, 11:24 PM
It ALL counts, so why wouldn't you tell someone what you really eat, averaged out over a week? With FitDay, it's easy to see what that is.


02-26-2007, 11:31 PM
With me, it's not so much a "cheat" meal, but an inevitable thing. Usually I go out to eat with my parents and everyone once a week (they're big on eating out) and I'll just order something that at least looks decently healthy. If the restaurant has a website, I figure in the calories. If not, I don't worry about it so much. For really special events, like *my* birthday, I'll order something I love (cheesy, pasta, etc.), but I figure it's only a couple of times a year and one meal is not going to kill me in the grand scheme of things. It's when one meal turns into two, two into three, etc. that it gets to be a problem. I haven't had any issues with that yet, though, thank goodness.

02-26-2007, 11:41 PM
I tend to allow cheat days. They are normally on the weekend. Before my Mom moved I went there on Sundays so I didn't have control over dinner and that was my cheat day. Now I normally go out to dinner with my sister once a week and I plan that as my high calorie day. I don't normally go way overboard just higher then a normal day (maybe 1,600 calories rather then my 1,200).

Like everyone else said you need to do what works for you. Try it for a few weeks and if it doesn't seem to work then modify.

02-26-2007, 11:41 PM
Everything in moderation is the key. Instead of viewing it as a "cheat" day - view it has something special and pleasurable. Just like that little black dress that hangs in your closet ... the one that always does the trick. Now imagine if you wore that dress to go food shopping, to clean the toilets, run that 5k, do yardwork etc. It's not so special anymore, huh. Every once in a while it does get trotted out and it still works its magic. It's when special foods started to become every day or every meal indulgences that ran most people into trouble. One Big Mac a month with fries and a Coke is NOT going to kill anyone. A SuperSized Big Mac Meal -twice daily --That's when the body starts to have issues.


02-26-2007, 11:47 PM
For me its unfortunately not a planned cheat day but more like a moderate binge day. Its usually on fairly healthy things, but sometimes a candy bar or chips or *gasp* a regular hamburger and small fries from McDs. I seem to consistently end up with 1 or 2 days at 2200 calories. I really wish I could stop this because its really slowing down my weightloss for sure, though it is still coming off steadily. Today I had 1300 but most good days are 1700. Mondays and Tuesdays I usually go low to make up for my weekends of eating more. I wish I did have more control *all the time* but I only manage to have it most of the time. That other bit of time I just eat more, but like I said I do tend to make it pretty healthy stuff at least..ya know..binging on like 6 tangerine's in a row..or a few packets of raisin oatmeal..not that big a deal but it does add up over the course of the day. I do find calorie cycling a good idea, because if I've eaten low for a few days I will be extra hungry by the third day of that and will eat more.

02-27-2007, 12:02 PM
Once every week or two, DH and I will go out to a nice restaurant. I find that I still tend to order the same food calorie-wise that I eat all week. The exception is that I will share a yummy dessert with him. I don't feel like I'm cheating because I plan ahead and eat way fewer calories that day, prior to us going to dinner. So, it still averages out pretty close to what I'd eat anyway.

My other exception is mine, DH's or my kids birthdays. I try to stick to one piece of cake and a small serving of low-fat ice cream on these days. Thanksgiving and Christmas, well It was a Free-for- All this past year and that wasn't in my plan. Still trying to lose one more of the holiday lbs. I put on.

02-27-2007, 12:12 PM
I personally don't see anything wrong with cheat days. It's all up to you....what works for YOU?? if you see a loss with a cheat day/meal or whatever, I say go for it. If it's helping you to not binge and not feel deprived, go for it. Just because there are certain people that don't "understand" why you do it, or think it's "wrong", doesn't make it wrong. And I don't think it's fair for people to tell other people that it's wrong just because it didn't work for them PERSONALLY. We're all different...and we're all allowed to go about this new lifestyle thing our own way. And I can guarantee that those same people that say it's wrong have a treat here and there themselves...I highly doubt they stay on plan 100% of the time. It's going to happen because we're not perfect, so why not plan for it??

02-27-2007, 01:02 PM
Given the responses here, I think what people refer to as cheating/planning are a lot of semantics (probably reflective of the poster's personality, with more in-control types wanting to say they "plan" for a splurge day, and the more spontaneous, devil-may-care folks using "cheat" - but that's just my hare-brained theory :P )

Regardless of which word you use, I think in general we just prepare for and/or deal with days when we want and consume more food than we should. Unexpected stuff happens in life all the time, the same goes with our diets. An out-of-towner may swing by bearing fatty food gifts, or we suddenly got invited to a party where the grub's bound to be delicious. It happens.

How you want to handle it is up to you too, I've read about people here who skimped an extra 100 calories every day for a week to "save" up for a splurge on the weekend. Some may decided to put in some extra exercise or reduce calories/portions in their other meals that day. Others may just simply write that off a splurge day and decide to continue on their original plan w/o adjustments. Do what fits you best w/o giving you a guilt trip or putting you through a cycle of I.O.U.s

Now, for me personally I prepare/plan/cheat about once a week (the 2,000 calorie day, see my signature) -- sometimes I don't cash in on that splurge day, and that's ok too.

02-27-2007, 01:34 PM
My current way of eating, which may need to be tweaked, includes eating fairly restricted during the weekdays then eating a meal or 2 out during the weekends. Some people could call those cheat days or cheat meals but generally they are just how my weekends are structured. Usually, I am doing something on the weekends and it is a treat that I don't get during the week. I do tend to portion control myself and I still try to make sure I'm not eating something that conflicts with my goals. An example would be my favorite chinese restaurant. DH and I will order some food, make sure we include veggies, don't get anything fried or too greasy and we will portion control ourselves. The other place I like on the weekends is a local pizza place that has the best veggie pizza (broccoli is an amazing pizza topping) and their crust/sauce is no fat. I have 2 slices and take the rest home.