Weekly Wellness: Benefits of cheat days


Cutting out unhealthy foods can be very difficult, and cheat days are bound to happen. (Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

Cutting out unhealthy foods can be very difficult, and cheat days are bound to happen. (Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

It’s pretty common for people on diets to take “cheat days,” when they allow themselves to eat whatever they want, even if it’s not part of their diet. The idea is the next day, you’ll go right back to your normal healthy weight loss routine, but for one day, anything goes. Most people feel horrible about themselves after binging on cheat days. But what many people don’t know is that they may actually be beneficial.

Cutting out certain foods, such as sugar or carbs, can be difficult at first. A lot of people feel side effects, like headaches or tiredness. Once you’ve stopped eating these foods for long enough, you begin to feel effects when you do eat them. For example, my family eats extremely healthy. Over the summer, I didn’t eat sweets or sugar at all. Now when I eat those things, I get a headache and feel a massive sugar crash because my body isn’t used to it. This could help explain why people don’t feel good after their cheat days. Since they’ve been avoiding junk food for so long, their body may be in a kind of shock when it enters their system.

Cheat days are technically supposed to be the days where you eat everything you’ve been craving so you can peacefully stick to your diet for the other six days of the week. Most people assume these days stall their weight loss goal, but there are actually some ways it can help. Cheat days can help you stick to long term goals. If you allow yourself some freedom once a week, you won’t fully fall off the wagon and throw away your diet. If all of a sudden you stop eating certain foods for good, your body will crave them so much you won’t be able to take it anymore and you’ll want to quit. This is an example of having everything in moderation.

Cheat days can also speed up your metabolism. If you’ve been cutting out certain junk foods for a long time, your metabolism is most likely going to slow down. If you balance it out by eating whatever you want on some days, it will kick-start your metabolism. Leptin is the “starvation hormone,” and lets your body know when it’s full. Decreasing your calorie intake affects Leptin levels, an occasional increase will balance things out.

Cheat days can help you eat smarter long term. If you tell yourself you cannot eat a certain food ever again, you’ll want it all the time. Knowing your cheat day is coming up may help you say no to junk food other days of the week. It’s something to look forward to. I find this easy to do in college because we’re all on a specific schedule. During the week, it’s probably easier to stick to healthy eating because you only have certain time slots available for meals. On the weekends, we can allow ourselves to go out and eat or drink whatever we want, knowing we’ll get back to our usual healthy lifestyle during the week.

Tessa Pawlik is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at tessa.pawlik@uconn.edu.

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