Cheat days. Cheat Meals. Everyone has partaken in a cheat meal or cheat day, heck, maybe even a cheat week, at some point. ‘Diets’ are difficult, I know. But what about moderation? Are cheat days even that beneficial? Find out my thoughts!



Wednesday is here! Monday was great. Tuesday was a bit rough. Today, I’m honestly still a bit off. I loved reading your comments from Monday’s post on fitness classes! It’s so interesting to learn everyone’s perspective. Last week, I wrote on the ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ food debate and received alot of great responses. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to post on topics like this, but I hope you have been enjoying it as much as I have.

Today, we are talking Cheat Days. And yes, the picture is a cinnamon roll we got in San Jose when we visited our besties last June. We had 3 at the table for 4 people, and I ate only 1 bite! So rich, but really good!

Let’s revisit out little story from last week. Remember being on that clean eating journey, but enjoying that pumpkin spice doughnut from your co-worker? Now that you’ve ‘cheated’, why not just take the whole day off and just eat all the unhealthy foods?!!! Tomorrow will be better and you won’t eat anything ‘bad’. But you wake up late for work the next day, you’re rushing, not feeling the day, and your co-worker decides to make a Starbucks run. Do you want a pumpkin spice latte? Oh-yes-a-Venti-with-some-extra-whip-cream-even-though-I-know-it’s-not-on-my-diet-but-I-NEEEEEEEEED-one-today-okay-don’t-judge.

Ladies, c’mon <imagine me saying this like Ted>.

We’ve all been there, right? I’ve been wayyyyy to many times to count.

[bctt tweet=”5 Reasons You Should Ditch Cheat Days @fitappoach #sweatpink #cheatdays”]

After my initial elimination diet, when I had to cut out gluten-dairy-soy-salmon-eggs-oats-pork-rosemary and more for 6 months, I celebrated, after running my first half marathon, with a giant cheeseburger, sloppy waffle fries and ice cream. I crashed about 30 minutes later. #fail #reallife

We are taught to embrace cheat days, thinking they are necessary to our survival on a ‘diet’. I’m going to have to disagree. And here is why:

1. CHEATING: What happened if you cheated in school? Not good things, right? Cheating in a relationship or in a sporting event is not encouraged. So, why are cheat days okay when it comes to diets or healthy eating? If we associate cheating with something bad, we are associating the food we eat on cheat days, as bad. And when we do something (or eat something) bad, we feel guilty or slimy, right?

2. REWARDS: When we initiate a ‘cheat day’ we are essentially rewarding ourselves for something, whether it’s sticking to a diet, completing ‘x’ number of days of workouts, or for getting through a tough week. For me, it tends to be a combination of a week filled with working and tough workouts. My reward is M&M’s, obv. But what about what happens when you are off the diet? When you’ve reached that ‘goal weight’? How many times have you been on some kind of diet before? Is it working? What if life slows down and you don’t have a stressful day? What will the excuse be to cheat? And what about adopting a healthy lifestyle?

If you adopt a healthy lifestyle, that includes moderation, it takes cheat days away, for the most part. If I am not depriving myself of a treat, whether it be M&M’s or extra carbs, then I desire binge cheat days less and less. It goes back to the whole idea of labeling food ‘bad’.

3. HOW MUCH: What constitutes a cheat day or cheat meal? Is it a handful of M&M’s? A bag? A few slices of pizza? A fru-fru drink from Starbucks? Personally, I used to have no cut off (and still struggle sometimes) – I’d eat all the M&M’s (can you tell I’m a fan?) and a few slices of pizza, and why not some chips. It didn’t have a good way to draw a line, because I used extra workouts and/or stress from work as a measure for how much I would allow myself to indulge. Anyone else?

4. BUT IT TASTES SO GOOD: Said no one ever after a dig cheat day. Maybe? Yes? Sometimes? Here is the thing, so many times, I would consume my cheat day treats or meals. The next day, I either felt terrible or below average. Hardly ever has it made me feel as good as I do when I eat food that fuels my body or practice moderation. Does it really feel good, physically and emotionally to indulge on cheat days? Really? C’mon.

5. I’LL START FRESH TOMORROW: Raise your hand if you have said this before <raises hand/double fists it>. I can’t even count the number of times I will justify a cheat day by saying I’ll do better the next day. AND THEN I DON’T! One of the things I try to hammer into my nutrition coaching clients is that consuming a food that might not be as healthy is not a justification to throw away the entire day. Did you read that? Do not use eating that pumpkin spice doughnut or drinking the pumpkin spice latte as an excuse to throw the rest of the day away. Did you see that?

You still have more opportunity to can choose a healthy option. And what’s more, what if you have a bad day the next day? Emotional eaters out there <raises hand>? If you made the choice for a less than healthy option today, what is to say that you won’t make that same choice tomorrow? And have another cheat day. That eventually turns into a cheat week. And then why not just start the clean eating/diet in a few weeks when life isn’t so crazy, amiright?

So, what do we do? Cut out unhealthy food all together? Remember how I don’t believe in ‘bad’ food? I’ve moved to a place of not really having cheat days either.


1. PRACTICE MODERATION: If I want some M&M’s, I’ll have a few. Some days I will eat more than other days, and my body let’s me know that. By no means am I perfect, and there are days when I don’t practice moderation. But…

2. DON’T THROW AWAY THE WHOLE DAY: You chose to eat a doughnut for breakfast. Okay, own the choice. And do not use it as an excuse to eat all the unhealthy things for the rest of the day. You still have snacks, lunch, dinner, an opportunity to get in physical activity and solid rest. You have not wasted your entire day by eating that doughnut.

3. MOVE AWAY FROM FOOD LABELS: Stop calling that doughnut or handful of M&M’s bad. Own your choice to consume this food item. Recognize that there are healthier options that you could have chosen. Enjoy your treat in moderation.

4. STOP DIETING AND START LIVING HEALTHY: There is a time and place for strict weight loss goal, when it calls for being more strict with your food intake. Clean eating or healthy eating is all about a healthy lifestyle. Eat healthy for a better life, friends. Quick fixes don’t work in the long run. Strive to make healthy choices that will last in the long term.

When we stop labeling food and live in a world of moderation, where we are conscious of our food choices and listen to how our body responds to those choices, nutrition becomes a lot less complicated. 

[bctt tweet=”Live in moderation rather than cheat days. #sweatpink @fitapproach @ideafit #healthyliving”]

Please realize, I am not perfect. I struggle with this too. We are all just works in progress. However, I want to make you aware that there is another way to approach food, food labeling and cheat days. These are all things we go over in my nutrition coaching program. If you’ve been on the fence with nutrition, shoot me an email and let’s talk. I’d love to give you info about the program.

What do you think: thumbs up or down for cheat days?