I’ve been away: The trouble with cheat days

So, I’ve been out of the saddle for a minute.  I haven’t been writing in… well… as time stamps would display, about a year.  But I haven’t been off the fitness wagon, just the blogging one.  A lot has changed since I started this blog in 2011.  When I began my fitness craze in 2009, I was just a man on a mission.  I knew absolutely nothing more, or less, than your average person.  I believed what Cosmo covers and Jenny Craig ads were teaching about weight loss.  So I committed to figure it out.

In the last 5 years of my fitness insanity, to include but certainly not limited to my personal endeavors with weight-loss I have gleaned a fair amount of knowledge, a lot of experience and even a few certifications.  What started as just me wanting to lose a little weight, became over 70lbs of fat, and the addition of at the National Academy of Sports Medicine: Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, AND Women’s Exercise Specialist certifications.

I found that I really loved this stuff.  I LOVE working with my clients on their various goals, I LOVE staying active and working with people.  I HATE when those people (who I just said I loved) try to explain to me how Cosmo/Jenny Craig/Weight Watchers/ Dr. Oz has it right, and I am somehow misguided.  There is a LOT of mis-information out there (most from the 4 entities I just mentioned), a LOT of “gym-science” and even MORE information that is actually designed to HURT you, not help you (i’m not kidding, there is widely believed dietetic “wisdom” that is honestly designed to keep you NEEDING the program… yaay capitalism)

Lots of the misinformation is completely forgivable, much of it sounds so obvious that it is easily accepted into our mainframe of knowledge right past the “common sense” filters.  But one such piece of information makes me want to punch a kitten.  It has crept its way so deep into these dieting programs that I have people SWEARING by it.  so… WE NEED TO TALK.

The Cheat Day:
Lets start with the “Pro”.  Cheat days are fun.  They give us something to look forward to.  You get to go to a restaurant and order what you want, or eat a plate of cookies, or … whatever.  Cheat days make the week “worth it” and you might even really ENJOY them.  They make the idea of trudging through life only eating soy paste and drinking cabbage water sound actually doable.  But here is the problem:

Cheat days are truly harmful.  TRULY.  Not just dietetically, but psychologically, physiologically and holistically.  And here is why:

I’ve said it here 1000 times.  Health is not a hobby, its a lifestyle.  You need to redefine your lifestyle, you NEED to get into a groove of eating right, liking your food, craving your food, and wanting your food.  You SHOULDN’T be eating soy paste and cabbage water, if for no other reason, than that sounds disgusting.  Find your foods you like, and make them work for you, there shouldn’t need to be a “cheat” day, because you should be LOVING what you eat.  NO ONE loves food more than me.  If once a week you eat a large pizza and an entire package of nestle cookie dough, you are depriving your body learning to process cleaner foods. (if you’d like clarity on what I mean, please ask)

If you spend all week being “good” and then habitually (as in weekly) take a break from that, you are actually doing massive damage to your metabolic systems ability to process food regularly.  Chances are, you’ll be a steady weight all week long, and then the day after your little excursion you’ll see a 3-7lbs JUMP in the scale.  Is this a big deal?  YES!  Your body can’t restructure muscle, or reform skin, or re-sculpt definition, or ANY of the restorative processes you want to accompany weight-loss if your body is CONSTANTLY reburning the same 7lbs.  Simply put, it is better to eat a cookie a day, then to eat a box of cookies once a week.

Cheating is CHEATING.  It undercuts the system, and confuses your body.  It actually makes your body work harder to do very basic processes.  If you live your life in moderation, a cheat day is unnecessary.  If you NEED ice cream to survive, then build a single serving of good whole ice cream into your weekly diet.  Truly won’t hurt you.  If you NEED sweets, there are literally DOZENS of work arounds and tricks that will help fulfill or curb those cravings, and it does it so effectively, that you will soon crave the alternatives.

Sugar is NOT the enemy, GLUTTONY is! And a cheat day, is the VERY DEFINITION of Gluttony.  Taking a day to eat whatever you want, hurts the physiology of metabolic process, but unfortunately thats not all it does, it has a psychological effect to.

The cheat day is the dietetic equivalent of staying in an abusive relationship, because you know deep down your “partner really loves you”.  This food is hurting you, your body actually knows that, and SO DO YOU.  But you are standing by it, convincing yourself you aren’t strong enough, convincing yourself that the food is somehow better than you, all while reassuring yourself, that like the abusive partner “its not their fault”.  This is honestly damaging and will keep you from truly fulfilling your life long goals.  I had a client recently tell me, “I don’t want a crash diet, I want to be healthy forever”, I love it, I couldn’t agree more, so lets get past the idea that cheating is an option.

I try to be encouraging, and tough love is really my M.O. but it really is hard when you hear people that are beautiful and intelligent re-hash and repeat garbage that was literally invented by a multi-million dollar weight-loss corporation designed to keep you coming to their weekly meetings.  Redefine yourself.  Refind yourself.  Break free of the shackals of BS food.  Don’t “cheat”, find your core and fly.

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