Many people think that because I eat a healthy diet and am a personal trainer, that I don’t like to eat things like pizza, nachos, and sushi rolls. But that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Sometimes I think that being a foodie is one of the reasons I pursued personal training. Because I like to go out to eat and indulge from time to time, I wanted to know how to do it reasonably and responsibly and still be able to hit my health goals.
And so, I am here to say that I have a cheat day once a week. No, that doesn’t mean I go absolutely crazy and eat a whole pizza, a dozen cookies, and drink a whole bottle of wine by myself. That would be unrealistic to do and still maintain my health. Instead, for my cheat day, I don’t track my calories; I eat intuitively for three of my five meals that day. That means I eat clean for those meals, but I don’t necessarily control my portion size. I simply eat until I feel full.
For the other two meals, Eric and I typically choose to go out to eat for lunch or dinner, and I order whatever sounds good. During that meal, I don’t worry about whether its vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, etc. I just eat what I’v been craving, and I eat until I’m satiated. The second meal is typically a dessert of some sort that I’ve been wanting, and again, I don’t worry about counting calories, but I do know when it’s appropriate for me to stop.
So why do I do a cheat meal once a week?
First of all, any diet that doesn’t allow for small indulgences has failure built into it. When you allow yourself no leeway, eventually your willpower will fail, and that’s when you will binge. And it’s hard to get back on the clean eating train after a binge eating session, so by eating healthy 90% of the time, and choosing one or two meals a week to splurge on, you are much more likely to keep your progress on track.
Also, by incorporating a cheat day in once a week, you essentially keep your metabolism from stagnation. If you are dieting and continually eating less calories than your body needs to maintain weight, eventually your metabolism will begin to slow because your body normalizes to the new calorie intake. A cheat meal, with a higher calorie count, essentially keeps your metabolism from falling into this trap and keeps it functioning at a high level.
A few words of advice if you are trying clean eating/cheat meal for the first time. Those who are worried about going overboard on their cheat days may still want to track their food on that day, but simply increase their calorie amount by 300-500 for the day, which will still keep them accountable but also allow for their favorite foods. I would also recommend doing your cheat day on a Sunday. When you do it earlier in the week, it can be more difficult to get back to eating healthy the next day. By doing it on a Sunday, Monday is often an easier day to reset and get back on track than any other day.
Just remember, trainers don’t eat clean 100% of the time and neither should you. It’s about having a maintainable eating plan that doesn’t keep you from living life, but also allows you to feel the best while doing so.