Cheat Days: Fantastic or A Fail?

Cheat days for weight loss

The term “cheat day” in weight loss was not familiar to me when I was losing 150 pounds. In fact, it was well after I reached my final weight that I even heard the term.

Now I see the term very frequently. I see it on blogs, in weight loss articles on the Internet, and even in some books. Whenever I see that term, it concerns me.

Why? Here are eight concerns I have with cheat days:

1. Cheat days imply that there is something to cheat on.

A permanent lifestyle change allows for you to eat foods you enjoy and fit into your weight loss plan without feeling like you are cheating.

2. Cheat days imply that weight loss is a negative experience and one we need to be released from.

Weight loss is hard. I totally understand that, but on the whole, it can be a positive experience because you are changing your life for the good.

3. Cheat days take away from developing new habits.

If you decide to have a cheat day when losing weight will you make that a habit after you get to your goal weight? I’m not saying you can’t do that because it is your decision, but I am asking if that is your long-term intention?

4. Cheat days make you feel as though some foods are off-limits.

I definitely have some foods I avoid completely; however, if you utilize a cheat day to eat all those “off-limit” foods on your list are you really preparing yourself to handle all the tempting foods in your life?

5. Cheat days can set you up for failure if high sugar/high fat foods are your weakness.

This one is totally self explanatory. 🙂

6. Cheat days can seem like a reward for being “good” on your diet.

I’m all about rewards but not food rewards. If your cheat day is to reward yourself for doing well during the week, think about whether this is a good long-term strategy.

7. Cheat days are an unnecessary distraction.

I’ve had friends who counted down the days until their “cheat day!” I teased them that they were so busy planning their cheat day that they were missing out on the good parts of their diet experience.

8. Cheat days can undo good work from the prior week.

Cheat days without a calorie limit really can cause your weight loss to be slower than it needs to be. If you go wild and eat 3,500 calories in a single day, that can slow down your weight loss for the week.

You can probably tell that I have real concerns about cheat days because I’ve seen lots of people struggle with them. I’ve known people who look forward to cheat days and sometimes end up adding in an extra cheat day during the week and over time the cheat days become more numerous until they have fallen off the wagon completely.

What I really am concerned about is that the concept of a cheat day may cause some people to avoid embracing a new, permanent lifestyle and instead cling to the old way of living.

I guess my feeling is – if you want to eat it – make that decision for yourself and don’t call it a cheat.

How do you feel? Cheat days beneficial or a big no-no? Diane

Image courtesy of Marin/

6 thoughts on “Cheat Days: Fantastic or A Fail?

  1. L says:

    I don’t schedule cheat days and I think if I did I would be sabotaging myself, which I can do easily enough without making it my habit.

    I’m attracted to the unconscious power a habit can produce in my life, so I guess I think habitually planning cheat sessions is counterproductive to staying the course.

    Great post. Thanks, Diane.

  2. Kitty says:

    I do not like the idea of cheat days (or cheat meals). In fact, I did a post about it a couple of weeks ago where I advocated having treats occasionally, but not cheats. Cheat meals or days can derail weight loss. Also, it promotes a diet mentality and makes it seem like you are doing something wrong by “cheating.” I also think it is important to change eating habits. Sure, a treat from time to time is fine. But having a day that you “cheat” is just not conducive to permanent change.

  3. Jenea Mason says:

    I do not do well with cheat days – they turn into cheat weaks, then months, and pretty soon there is no lifestyle change at all. I’ve tried really hard to think about things in a positive light so that I don’t feel like I’m giving up some of my favorite foods forever. For instance, I’ll tell myself that I can have a burrito – I’m choosing not to right now. It’s simple but it’s been helping me a lot in the long run.

  4. Martha says:

    I don’t do cheat days or cheat meals since there is no cheating. All food is technically in my repertoire although I choose to eat healthy food most of the time. For me, it’s all about balance – choosing healthy food most of the time and sometimes having the French fries. Since nothing is off limits, I’ll have about 1/4 of the order of fries and send the rest back. If I want some ice cream I’ll have it.
    That said, I tend to me more relaxed with my eating choices on the weekend. I do still track my food and pay attention to both calories and nutrient mix.
    But cheat? Nah.

  5. AdjustedReality says:

    I don’t like the sentiment of cheat day – I definitely think there’s room in weight loss/healthy life styles for splurges here and there, but calling it a cheat day means you’re doing something wrong.

    I feel like once a week, eating something you wouldn’t normally eat is a good thing, at least for some people. But, it’s shouldn’t be an all out buffet of calories – I usually would just have one meal, like a burger and fries, and then back to healthy. Eating a big restaurant breakfast, a burger and fries, and then pizza for dinner and pie for desert might just completely sabotage your whole week in one day!

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