As you know, I'm in favor of treating yourself when you want. But it's very, very important that you keep your cheat day to, well, ONE DAY.
If you eat three meals a day for a week you could have a cheat meal and still be over 90% on track. You can do this in your meal planning ahead of time and schedule for that one meal that is not on your 100% approved list. The key is to planning your meals and keeping track of your food.
A study done in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research shows that 3 cheat days a week, and eating like an angel the other 4 days…is JUST as bad as eating nothing but junk food all the time! Or at least, when it comes to gut health. The scientists compared the feces of rats who were always fed junk vs ones who were fed junk just a few days a week and cycled. It turned out that the microbiomes of the two groups were equally bad!
Well, this is a difficult question to answer because it's not like there have been studies done on one cheat meal a week, vs 2, vs 3 etc. But I do have a lot of tips on how you can allow your cheat meals to do you good instead of harm!
First order of business is, maybe don't even think of it as a cheat day. Dr. Alexandra Caspero says that having an OFFICIAL "cheat day" can be a bad thing, because then it becomes an excuse, a field day, to eat whatever you want. And for some people that's a dangerous thing. 😉
Instead, she says it's better to "consciously decide to indulge" when you want, like at a holiday party or a dinner out with friends. Because if you're making a conscious decision instead of picking out a day of the week, then you'll always be practicing that willpower to say no when you want to say no, like to office doughnuts!
Caspero also says to think about which junk foods are most important to you. It sounds obvious, but sometimes we aren't as selective as we want to be about our cheat day meal choices.
Like, if you don't totally love potato chips, don't just eat a bunch because the bag is sitting there and you get a slight urge. BUT if you really love pumpkin bread, then don't be afraid to eat a slice because the experience will be worth it!
Or think about which meal of the day is your favorite: breakfast, lunch, or dinner? If pancakes with maple syrup glommed on is your favorite thing…then pick that above a dinner with lava cake dessert.