Surprising Ways a Cheat Day Can Help You Lose Weight

Are you getting tired of your diet and tempted to cheat? The good news is, you can. What you might not know is that scheduling a cheat day could help you lose weight. You can still eat the foods you enjoy without feeling guilty about it the next day. As long as you exercise some self-control.

Here are some surprising ways a cheat day can help you lose weight.

Defining a cheat day

somebody making three cocktails on a bar

A cocktail can be an easy cheat day treat. | Dianefotofoto/Getty Images

Cheat days are those days when you’re allowed to have one meal you’ve been craving. Although some people might allow themselves to dedicate the entire day to eating whatever they want, the idea is really to just splurge when it comes to a single meal a week.

Registered Dietician Nutritionist Amy Gorin told NBC that an entire day of cheating on your diet could lead to overindulgence. “Choose one thing you really want, whether it’s ice cream or a piña colada, but don’t give yourself excuses to turn the one indulgence into a whole day or week of overindulging!” advised Gorin.

A cheat day can help you stay motivated

Woman Sitting On Sofa And Eating Lunch

Knowing you have a cheat day coming will keep you sane. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Need a bit of motivation? A cheat day might be in order. When you’re too strict with your diet, you’ll likely be tempted to break down and binge eat. This will just lead to breaking your diet plan altogether and going back to your old eating habits. When you allow yourself to cheat every now and then, you’ll be able to stay motivated because you know it’s just a matter of time before you can enjoy a treat.

Cheat days help regulate your hormones

Female friends smiling and laughing With Each Other.

Your metabolism needs a jolt every once in a while. | Bowdenimages

Another reason you might binge eat is because certain hormones are out of whack due to caloric restriction. If you’ve been on a restricted diet for an extended period of time, adding a cheat day will let your body know you’re not starving yourself. Leptin, for example, is a hormone secreted by fat cells that help the body maintain energy balance. When you consume a sufficient amount of food, leptin lets your brain know you have enough stored energy. This is what makes you stop eating when you’re full. However, when you don’t eat enough, your leptin levels decrease, and your body sends hunger signals.

Cheat days make you more likely to reach fitness goals

Woman turning down a carb option.

Say “yes” to your heart’s desires every once in a while. | lolostock

A recent study showed that those who incorporated cheat days said they felt more confident about reaching their diet goals. They reasoned they would be less likely to fall off the wagon if they knew a reward was coming. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology found subjects were more likely to stick to their fitness goals if they knew they would receive a treat later on.

Cheat days put you in a better mood

Banana split ice cream served on white plate

Don’t miss out on great experiences, like splitting an ice cream with your family. | Gregory Lee/iStock/Getty Images

Who doesn’t feel better after indulging in a delicious treat? The knowledge that you’re going to get a yummy reward at the end of the week is enough to put just about anyone in a good mood. Remember that being healthy shouldn’t involve punishing yourself. You’re allowed to feel good and get a few breaks. If you’re constantly feeling guilty and being down on yourself, it’s just a matter of time before your diet gets off track. Be kind to yourself.

What to keep in mind

A healthy assortment of bread, cheese, and fruits.

Cheat day or not, your food should have some nutritional value. | Yulia Davidovich/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Although it’s OK to cheat on your diet from time to time, you should still make sure your meal has some nutritional value. Try to avoid pigging out on a couple of bags of potato chips, a large pizza, and a 2-liter of Coke. Also limit the amount of cheat days you have, the rule of thumb is just one. If you let yourself cheat four out of seven days in the week, you’re not really on a diet. You’re pretty much just kidding yourself.

Resources

Paper bag full of healthy food on a wooden table

Stock up on yummy recipes and healthy ingredients. | KucherAV/iStock/Getty Images

Ready to cheat? Make sure you’re still getting a nutritious meal. Here are some resources to help you make the best food choices.

Websites

Books

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