Thursday, January 18, 2007

"Cheat Meals" or "Free Days"

Some diets--such as Body for Life--include a "Cheat Meal" or "Free" Day as part of the plan. Although it varies from program to program, the general rules for a Free Day are this:
  • Any food is permitted.
  • No exercise is required.
The principle? By enjoying the occasional treat food, you avoid feelings of deprivation (which can lead to binging). Looking forward to a Free Day also gives you extra motivation during the week. (You think: I'll make a smart, healthy choice now, because I can eat whatever I want on my Free Day.) Moreover, a Free Day also helps prevent your body from going into "starvation mode," which some experts believe can happen after an extended period of calorie restriction.

Proponents of the Free Day usually recommend that we try to keep our treats and cheats down to moderate portions. Basically, don't eat the entire pizza. But it's ok to have two or even three slices if you want them.

My opinion: Cheat Meals and Free Days are absolutely necessary.

For me, consistent calorie restriction will eventually fail. I enjoy big plates of spaghetti and baskets of tortilla chips with guacamole way too much to give them up forever. Cheat Meals and Free Days give me a chance to mentally and physically relax. I can enjoy a few favorites guilt-free, without totally busting my diet.

Moreover, Cheat Meals help me break free from the "all or nothing" mentality. I no longer binge because "I blew my diet, so I might as well eat what I want for the rest of the day." Instead, when I eat something that's not part of my plan, I say to myself, "Well, I'll just count that as one of this week's Cheat Meals." Then I get right back in my program.

It's different for everyone. Some people can get by without any Cheat Meals at all. Others need an entire Free Day. For me, it's best to space out my "cheats" over time. Rather than one Free Day, I prefer to have two or three Cheat Meals during the week.

And, of course, a day of total rest from exercise is a necessity for me, too. My body can't handle a 7-day-a-week workout program (although some people can do it without a problem).

So what works for you? Do you incorporate Cheat Meals or Free Days into your plan?


Annieann77 said...

I agree with the no excersize or "lazy" day, but I think the "cheat day" is just an excuse for your diet to fail? At least for me, I know that if I had a cheat day where I could eat whatever I wanted I don't think I would stop!? It would just give me an excuse to eat other naughty items that I wasn't suppost to. I think that a planned cheat day is good for people with lots of willpower that know when to stop. I'm just not quite there yet!? ;)

Fatinah said...

hmmm, another interesting post. I use my flex pts, but honestly, I never really feel as though I've gotten my points worth, as it were. I wonder if I used plan points everyday, but then gave myself a cheat day, if I would do better? I'm going to have to think on that! Thanks!!

a.m. said...

I don't have cheat meals/free days for my eating, since I focus on getting all my RDA's of vitamins and nutrients and things like that. I see my plan as giving my body what it needs to be healthiest, so nothing is really off limits. On the positive side, I've found that I don't want to eat what is only empty calories--soda, for example.

Of course, I'm not 100%, but I'm still learning what's in what.

Gripperm said...

You have to have a cheat meal to shock your metabolism and your body..ask any dietitian and they will tell you. It is not a way to fail a diet because in reality a diet is not a temporary thing, it is a way of eating for life and you will have times that you will eat something you should not.

Tee said...

I have a cheat meal every other week, sometimes weekly. I don't just eat everything in site, but if we decide to go out to dinner, I have the cheeseburger and fries. I think this is necessary while following a weight loss program/diet.