• Mon, Jan 10 2011

Cheat Day: Do You Diet and Binge?

Many of us are on strict diets for the new year, but that doesn’t mean things like ice cream, nachos, and cocktails aren’t taunting us every time we opt for our perfectly-portioned, fat-free snacks. The solution for lots of people is a “cheat day” — a day of going rogue in the kitchen (or wherever your sweet tooth desires) — as a reward for all those days of loyally following a healthy eating plan. Lots of trainers and magazines recommend the concept of maintaining a “mostly healthy” diet; books like Joy Bauer’s The 90/10 Weight Loss Plan, Suzanne Somers’ Eat, Cheat, and Melt the Fat Away, and The Cheat to Lose Diet all lure dieters into their programs with the promise of “bad foods” as part of the road to weight loss, and even body builders who spend most days measuring out their portions on a scale allow themselves one day to go hog wild at McDonald’s.

So if it works for Suzanne and the body builders, it has to be good, right? Not everyone thinks so. Johnny Bowden, a nutritionist and weight loss coach, isn’t in to the trend. “For [people like me], having a little is like telling an alcoholic to drink moderately. A cheat day would be like telling that same alcoholic to go ahead and get wasted one day a week,” he says in his article, “Why I Don’t Believe in Cheat Days.” His reasons for avoiding diets with built-in cheat days are as follows: “One, it can undo a lot of good in a very quick period of time. Two, it can stir up the cravings you’ve tried hard to tame. (Think having just one cigarette after you quit for a week. Bye-bye, “nonsmoker.”) Three, it can lead to long-term consequences if you overdo it.” He also cites the fact that 25% of Americans have insulin resistance, a condition that makes the pancreas over-produce insulin (a hormone that makes the body store fat) in response to carbohydrate consumption. For those people, a day of over-eating donuts and soda could easily undo a week’s worth of careful dieting. And last but not least, he discusses a study that suggests even short-term diets that are high in fats and sugars can have long-term effects on body fat.

Of course, most modern diets recognize that you need at least a little “treat” mixed into your green- and grain-heavy meal plan. But Bowden seems to think that for anyone with an addictive personality, treats and cheating shouldn’t be part of the program.

Do you allow yourself cheat days when you’re on a diet? Take our poll, and tell us what you think of cheat days in the comments section, below:

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via That’s Fit

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