General chatter - Let's talk terminology, "cheat day" vs. "free day"




4star
04-14-2011, 07:34 AM
I have been seeing a lot of "cheat days" on this forum and I wonder why we're calling them that. I have started to use the term "free day" and noticed that it gives me the wiggle room for things like my bday dinner and slice of cake without making it seem like I am doing something wrong. I know it's totally my issue but I wonder if we all aren't really punishing ourselves calling special days that we aren't strictly adhering to plan as "cheating". Isn't that the lifestyle we are trying to create, one free of the stress associate with food but lets us be at a healthy weight? Like I said, this is my issue, I know. I don't expect everyone to change to "free days" or "free meals" but I do wonder why we automatically put a negative connotation on this sort of moderation. It just seems like a really defeating term to me, like beyond mere semantics.

Any thoughts?


LisaP916
04-14-2011, 08:07 AM
I agree. We call them free days in our house. My DH is doing a 90 day Body For Life program. He eats strictly on plan for six days and the 7th is a free day. We've tweaked a little further to making it a 24 hour timeframe.

We weigh in on Saturdays - him at home, me at WW. Then we meet at the gym, work out, go home, make breakfast, and see what's on the agenda for the day. Our "free day" basically starts when we have our first sort of off plan meal. If we go out to dinner Saturday night, it goes until Sunday afternoon. If we stay on plan Saturday night, it starts Sunday morning and we will go out for breakfast. It's never more than a 24 time frame and it keeps us from feeling too rigid in our different plans.

It's also go to be able to plan around things. We're going in to Boston on Monday to watch the Marathon. For this week only, Monday will be our free day. :-)

4star
04-14-2011, 08:38 AM
I like the term "free day" b/c it doesn't play into the negative images people usually stress themselves with when it is meant to be merely a day that people aren't following their normal diet. I feel like when people use the word "cheating" it's the same equivalent as being "bad" and that's guilt inspiring and anxiety provoking sometimes even to the point of derailing progress. IMO.

I have to wonder if people have felt such guilt over their weight that now it's a game of good/bad and that's a head trip. Life just isn't so rigid.


shannonmb
04-14-2011, 08:41 AM
I don't have cheat days or free days. Occasionally I will indulge in something I wouldn't have on a day to day basis, but I have really come to think of it as just living life, not giving a label to it at all. :D

saef
04-14-2011, 08:50 AM
I don't have cheat days or free days. Occasionally I will indulge in something I wouldn't have on a day to day basis, but I have really come to think of it as just living life, not giving a label to it at all. :D

Same here, because it's not a whole 24-hour shore leave from duty, it's just one serving of something, in passing, on an otherwise unremarkable day. And it's usually during a social occasion that comes up during the course of my life. Anything else feels like a planned binge. As a recovering sufferer from an eating disorder, I'm wary of anything that feels even slightly like a binge.

corazonas
04-14-2011, 08:57 AM
I also think the term might be a little counter productive but honestly I never gave it that much thought to worry about it! :lol: I also don't have cheat/free days because events/ dates/ parties never stick to my schedule so I don't schedule a time, just keep it to a minimum and not more than once a week.

One thing I have restricted is to drinking only two days a week. I work in a club and its wayyy to easy to have a drink or two here and there every time I go in. Put that on top of maybe going to a club at night with frinds and that's a LOT of calories wasted on drinking without even the fun of drunkenly dancing on a table!! hehe

4star
04-14-2011, 09:06 AM
Same here, because it's not a whole 24-hour shore leave from duty, it's just one serving of something, in passing, on an otherwise unremarkable day. And it's usually during a social occasion that comes up during the course of my life. Anything else feels like a planned binge. As a recovering sufferer from an eating disorder, I'm wary of anything that feels even slightly like a binge.

I totally understand that. I still struggle with my eating ways even though I can manage to moderate them to be lose weight, balance is hard to keep. The mental battle is very interesting to me though as I learn a lot about my own word associations through other people's point of view. Thanks for adding that facet for me to think about.

fitness4life
04-14-2011, 09:26 AM
I love all of the responses because my first thought was that we are living a new lifestyle. Free day or cheat day terminology suggests that we are pretending to live a new lifestyle and allowing ourselves to fail at that occassionally.

I agree that these terms have a negative connotation.

I watch what I eat all week long and on the weekends, I don't. I have always been this way. That IS my lifestyle! So yeah, go ahead and allow for tasty indulgences (keeping portions healthy) every once in a while, but don't punish yourself for doing so. Just make it part of your new healthy lifestyle!

4star
04-14-2011, 10:20 AM
I love all of the responses because my first thought was that we are living a new lifestyle. Free day or cheat day terminology suggests that we are pretending to live a new lifestyle and allowing ourselves to fail at that occassionally.

I agree that these terms have a negative connotation.

I watch what I eat all week long and on the weekends, I don't. I have always been this way. That IS my lifestyle! So yeah, go ahead and allow for tasty indulgences (keeping portions healthy) every once in a while, but don't punish yourself for doing so. Just make it part of your new healthy lifestyle!

Yes that is interesting. Free has a positive connotation in this situation and one might argue that is still trying to associate our food with something good/bad. It is, for all of us, part of this healthy lifestyle whether it's cheat or free or eating in moderation and there being a time for a dinner out with dessert for a special occasion. I didn't feel good or bad after my bday dinner except heartburn from the sugary cake. I think that's why I consider it "free". It causes me no worry. Merely my own word association.

I just ponder the word associations with "diet" words sometimes and how much they might matter for those who struggle with guilt associated with being overweight. Not everyone has the same point of view. It might feel positively wonderful for someone to have a "cheat day". It might fit into their lifestyle perfectly. Finding out what works for you is key to getting yourself on a good path.

joyfulloser
04-14-2011, 10:20 AM
I'm trying to understand how calling it a "free day" is somehow mentally better than calling it a "cheat day"?:?: IMHO "free day" sounds like some kind of "free for all" day...a "planned binge" if you will. Additionally, the word "FREE" implies getting something for nothing? The 'something for nothing' mentality is usually a "destructive" one IMHO and doesn't sound mentally healthy to me at all.

For me...I for one think that eating any and everything you want for an entire day is totally DANGEROUS both psychologically and physically to any healthy way of eating. It creates that "ALL or NOTHING" mentally.

I find that a planned "CHEAT MEAL" (which is the term I personally prefer) is much healthier long term for the following reasons:

1. The word CHEAT implies that you are 'breaking the rules' which some of us enjoy occasionally...at least I do!;)
2. The higher calorie meal actually PREVENTS weight loss plateaus.
3. Just knowing I can eat ANYTHING I want (in moderation), but still in all ANYTHING (chinese, jamaican, pizza, mexican takeout, etc.) once per week makes it totally easy for me to resist those same foods while out to lunch with friends, or at dinner with a significant other, etc. Gives me something to look forward to and teaches me discipline and moderation.

I've lost 55 lbs since September 2010 eating this way...and I almost feel guilty as this whole process has been totally painless because of my eating habits and of course, my beloved CHEAT MEAL!:carrot:

4star
04-14-2011, 10:29 AM
Please don't misunderstand me. My whole point in this post was more about word associations and positive/negative connations. I don't suggest anyone changing anything that works for them ro that one is better than the other. If it works, do it.

LisaP916
04-14-2011, 10:32 AM
I'm trying to understand how calling it a "free day" is somehow mentally better than calling it a "cheat day"?:?: IMHO "free day" sounds like some kind of "free for all" day...a "planned binge" if you will. Additionally, the word "FREE" implies getting something for nothing? The 'something for nothing' mentality is usually a "destructive" one IMHO and doesn't sound mentally healthy to me at all.

When I say "free" day, it means I'm free from my regular structure. I apply it to my food choices like I do to the rest of my life. I work Monday through Friday - I have someplace I HAVE to be, so my time is not my own. When I get a "free" day, there's something liberating about it. I don't have to think about work, about punching a clock, about managing my time. It's a day just for me.

So when speaking about my "free" day in terms of food choice, I don't worry about tracking points, or calorie counting, or whether I'm getting enough fruits and vegetables in. It doesn't mean I'm going to eat my way through the day and undo all of my hard work from the previous days. It just means I'm I'm free to make the choices I want to make.

Now to relate that to the negative connotation "cheat" day has... I've called in sick to work when I wasn't really sick. Call it a mental health day, an "I just can't be bothered" day, whatever you want. On those days, I feel guilty. I can't enjoy my time off because I'm thinking about the unfinished work I left on my desk and that my co-workers are scrambling to cover my responsibilities. I don't feel good about any of it.

A "cheat" day in terms of food choices has the same feeling for me. If I'm cheating, then I'm thinking about how bad I'm being, how I'm not enjoying my meal or my time because I'm stressed about what it's doing to my plan. It just feels lousy and there's nothing positive about it.

Perhaps not coincidentally my free days from work and my free days for food tend to occur simultaneously! LOL!

joyfulloser
04-14-2011, 10:42 AM
I find your choice of words "interesting" as well as the thinking behind it. That said...I like to stay away of passing "judgment" of any kind. I can clearly see from this thread, that one word can mean different things to different people and we can go on all day with symantics (tom-a-to/tom-aaa-to).

One common denominator I do notice here is that everyone NEEDS a change from the day-to-day...the ordinary...for lack of better words. Whether you call it a "cheat", "free", or simply nothing at all...I think the take home point here is just do something different and most importantly...what works for you!:D

TheBunneh
04-14-2011, 10:43 AM
I've changed my thinking from "I eat this way to lose weight" to "I eat this way."

This is how I'm going to eat for the rest of my life, I'll just have a bit more food once I hit goal. Once in a while I will have a meal that doesn't exactly fit (high calorie pizza, for example) or a treat (dark chocolate, some ice cream, a starbucks coffee) but I've stopped looking for opportunities for "free days" or "free meals" because aside from the fact that it implies I am currently restricted, or forcing myself to eat this way, it fosters my tendencies to eat purely for emotional reasons.

For example, I am going to take a road trip home to Indiana in May. A year or two ago this would be my excuse to eat a lot of fast food "just for a couple days" because it's a special thing and I never get fast food. But now I will pack my own food in a cooler because that's just how I eat. It doesn't mean I won't go out for a meal with my brother when I stop for a night in Colorado but it will just be a meal, even if it's not exactly 'on plan,' and not a deviation from set rules.

4star
04-14-2011, 10:49 AM
No one's "passing judgement" here. Just talking words associations and how they are sometimes used.

alicia89
04-14-2011, 11:17 AM
Lots if interesting responses and food for thought in this thread! I don't have a problem with either the term "free day" or the term "cheat day". Perhaps "free day" does sound inherently more positive, but I like the term "cheat day/cheat meal" because it sounds more fun, and it almost implies a bit of delicious naughtiness (like you're being naughty in a good way, not in a bad way). I think most of us know in our heads that an occasional higher cal meal/indulgence/piece of cake/restaurant food/whatever isn't actually cheating, on our diet or on ourselves, or actually doing anything wrong, but it's fun to call it that because you get to feel like a bit of a rebel. I do think "cheat" is a healthy thing to call the occasional indulgence (as long as it stays occasional!) since it implies that you're developing healthy, moderate attitudes towards food in recognizing that you can "cheat" with the bad foods once in a while, but that "cheating" is a risky thing so it shouldn't be your every-day behaviour. "Free day" implies the same thing but I just don't think it's as fun of a term!

Personally, I'm not doing any cheat days or cheat meals at this point in my weight loss, because I'd rather lose 2-3 extra lbs per month than have a free day every week. If I end up plateauing though, I am definitely going to give a higher-cal cheat day a try, but right now I'm losing at a pretty steady pace and I think going over my calorie budgets every six days would only slow that down. I definitely understand why it works for people though and I think it's a pretty fantastic strategy. Once I lose my initial 15-20 lbs I will probably start incorporating more "cheats" as I transition into maintenance, but my main strategy for eating out, parties and special occasions is to work any extra indulgences into my plan by eating healthy and low-cal the morning and afternoon before the event (or even fasting), or just doing an extra 30 minutes of cardio.

4star
04-14-2011, 11:48 AM
Lots if interesting responses and food for thought in this thread!

I thought so too although I may not have come across as clear as I'd liked. The mental aspects of the journey are just as fascinating to me as the physical aspects. It just interests me and I really don't mean that in any snide way.

InControl2Day
04-14-2011, 11:54 AM
If I had to pick, I prefer the word "free day" as opposed to "cheat day" because the word cheat has negative connotation and the person that's being cheated is the person trying to lose weight?

I agree with other people though. I just call it living life and enjoying a meal occasionally with my friends and bf and not worry about the calories. I find when there is less pressure and over-thinking involved, I don't overindulge because I'm not building up for it to be something huge.

If it works for people, it really doesn't matter what people call it though :)