If ever there was a bad idea it’s the THE CHEAT DAY.
If you don’t know what a cheat day is, ignorance is total bliss. Close this page and go on your happy way.
For the rest of you who know about this dreadful idea, I hope you will join me in contemplating its silliness.
The problem starts with the fact that if you have a cheat day, you’re cheating on something. This could be a so-called “clean” diet that you follow faithfully for 6 days a week and then cheat on with “unclean” foods – usually desserts or alcohol or high-fat, refined carb foods like pizza.
The problem continues because the person and the food they eat get lumped into good and bad categories. When they follow their diet plan Sunday through Friday, they are good and eating good food. When they cheat (read: bad), they are eating bad food.
It doesn’t stop there. These cheat days more often than not turn into a glorified binge. This happens because the mentality is the same as that of diets and eating disorders – restriction, all-or-nothing thinking, labeling. It’s understandable. If you don’t allow yourself to have even a bite of a brownie or a piece of chocolate during the week, you’re going to cheat and cheat big.
People pile their plates high with all kinds of foods that they deny themselves the whole week (and no veggies or fruit of course), and to explain their behavior, they smile and say it’s their cheat day. How does this make sense? How would anyone think this is a good idea?
I used to think it was a good idea. I thought that having a little dessert every day would hold me back from my goals. I foolishly thought that a binge day would be better than trying to allow all foods all the time. My intentions were good as I assume others’ are. I wanted to be healthy…but I bought into something incredibly unhealthy.
What eventually happens if this behavior continues is that this day of overeating on forbidden foods becomes physically and mentally damaging. Since so many people do it, it normalizes this disordered way of relating to food. But being normal doesn’t mean healthy.
In retrospect, the main gateway to me developing an eating disorder was adopting the cheat day. I became more and more strict in what I would eat six days of the week. I was so rigid those six days, but on the seventh it was time to make up for all that deprivation. I’m certainly not saying that everyone who has cheat days will develop an eating disorder, but for me it quickly escalated into that.
These days in recovery, I don’t ever consider cheating as something desirable or alluring. The main reason is that I don’t have anything to cheat on! I (most days) eat what I want when I want it. I can have a bite of a donut or a couple spoons of ice cream every single day if I want to and not have any guilt. I wish someone had told me it was possible and better this way, which is why I’m telling you!
Other than my personal experience with cheat days, they are a bad idea because they:
If ever I would encourage you to cheat on something, it would be the cheat day. Actually, I take that back. Divorce it! Say goodbye forever! And say hello to normal eating, peace with food, and freedom from useless guilt, rules and drama.