Is Taking One Day Off From Your Eating Plan Good Sense or a Recipe For Disaster?

St icking to a diet can be gruelling. Sometimes the only way to stay motivated is to allow yourself a treat once in a while. The 80/20 rule is a popular concept used by weight-loss advisers, but now personal trainers such as Harley Pasternak, who trains Rihanna and Natalie Portman; and James Duigan, author of The Clean and Lean Diet (Kyle Cathie, £12.99), are advocating ‘cheat days’ or ‘cheat meals’, where you can briefly forget your diet principles. At one time, this concept of allocating a briefSt icking to a diet can be gruelling. Sometimes the only way to stay motivated is to allow yourself a treat once in a while. The 80/20 rule is a popular concept used by weight-loss advisers, but now personal trainers such as Harley Pasternak, who trains Rihanna and Natalie Portman; and James Duigan, author of The Clean and Lean Diet (Kyle Cathie, £12.99), are advocating ‘cheat days’ or ‘cheat meals’, where you can briefly forget your diet principles.

Is Taking One Day Off From Your Eating Plan Good Sense or a Recipe For Disaster? Photo Gallery



At one time, this concept of allocating a briefSt icking to a diet can be gruelling. Sometimes the only way to stay motivated is to allow yourself a treat once in a while. The 80/20 rule is a popular concept used by weight-loss advisers, but now personal trainers such as Harley Pasternak, who trains Rihanna and Natalie Portman; and James Duigan, author of The Clean and Lean Diet (Kyle Cathie, £12.99), are advocating ‘cheat days’ or ‘cheat meals’, where you can briefly forget your diet principles. At one time, this concept of allocating a brief spell of foodie freedom was used by bodybuilders, who used cheat meals to maintain their sanity when sticking to an intense diet and exercise regime, but now it’s accepted as the norm.spell of foodie freedom was used by bodybuilders, who used cheat meals to maintain their sanity when sticking to an intense diet and exercise regime, but now it’s accepted as the norm.

When cheating’s OK

A cheat day can be a useful motivational tool to help you stick to your diet the rest of the week, say some experts. It’s incredibly hard to stick to a healthy diet 100 per cent of the time, says Nick Mitchell, founder of Up Fitness (upfitness.co.uk). ‘Realistically, you can only expect to stick to a very strict diet for a maxA cheat day can be a useful motivational tool to help you stick to your diet the rest of the week, say some experts. It’s incredibly hard to stick to a healthy diet 100 per cent of the time, says Nick Mitchell, founder of Up Fitness (upfitness.co.uk). ‘Realistically, you can only expect to stick to a very strict diet for a maximum of 12 weeks without cheating.’ Cheat days can be a break from the monotony of dieting, agrees registered dietician Dr Sarah Schenker. ‘Having a break from your diet once a week makes life feel more normal,’ she says. A cheat day after a period of restricted eating has also been said to speed up your metabolism. ‘Cheat meals reset the hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin, and so convince your body that it’s not starving,’ says Mitchell. When you return to your diet, your body reverts to burning fat again rather than holding onto iimum of 12 weeks without cheating.’ Cheat days can be a break from the monotony of dieting, agrees registered dietician Dr Sarah Schenker. ‘Having a break from your diet once a week makes life feel more normal,’ she says. A cheat day after a period of restricted eating has also been said to speed up your metabolism. ‘Cheat meals reset the hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin, and so convince your body that it’s not starving,’ says Mitchell. When you return to your diet, your body reverts to burning fat again rather than holding onto it.

Avoiding the guil

‘Foods that cause blood sugar spikes and then insulin highs can be tolerated by the body once in a while, and the same for high intakes of salt or saturated fat,’ says Schenker. To keep blood sugar spikes at a minimum, opt for a cheat meal instead of a cheat day, says Mitchell. ‘I call these free meals – I think the word “cheat” has negative connotations.’ You should only eat a meal you won’t feel guilty about after. ‘Guilt is not a welcome partner when it comes to your relationship with food,’ agrees psychologist and diet expe‘Foods that cause blood sugar spikes and then insulin highs can be tolerated by the body once in a while, and the same for high intakes of salt or saturated fat,’ says Schenker. To keep blood sugar spikes at a minimum, opt for a cheat meal instead of a cheat day, says Mitchell. ‘I call these free meals – I think the word “cheat” has negative connotations.’ You should only eat a meal you won’t feel guilty about after. ‘Guilt is not a welcome partner when it comes to your relationship with food,’ agrees psychologist and diet expert Marisa Peer.

Smart choices

If you’re fairly sensible with your ‘free’ meals, you’ll avoid guilt. Combining carbohydrates with protein will slow down the release of sugar. ‘When I was bodybuilding, I’d have spaghetti Bolognese on a Sunday to keep me sane,’ says Mitchell. ‘It contained protein and wholewheat spaghetti with filling fibre.’ If you do binge on high-fat, high-sugar foods, you’re likely to have bloating, fatigue and poor concentration after. ‘You could experience a food hangover, which can take up to three days to recover from,’ says Peer. So how do you recover? ‘Start the next day with poached eggs and steamed green vegetables, instead of high-sugar fruit and porridge, to rebalance your insulin levels,’ says Peer. If you follow a healthy diet where you don’t restrict or eliminate major foods groups, it’s unlikely you’ll need to have cheat days.

The pitfalls

However, a cycle of restriction and reward could lead to binge eating. ‘You have to deserve your cheat meal, and take it when you really need it,’ says Mitchell. A 1994 study at the University of Toronto, Canada, found that the feelings of restriction from starvation or dieting had a direct correlation with patterns of binge eating. Adopting a healthy diet should be a long-term commitment, so if you feel the need to binge on 20 donuts, your diet is probably too restrictive. Bingeing on naughty foods could increase your cravings for these foods because, as your blood sugaHowever, a cycle of restriction and reward could lead to binge eating. ‘You have to deserve your cheat meal, and take it when you really need it,’ says Mitchell. A 1994 study at the University of Toronto, Canada, found that the feelings of restriction from starvation or dieting had a direct correlation with patterns of binge eating. Adopting a healthy diet should be a long-term commitment, so if you feel the need to binge on 20 donuts, your diet is probably too restrictive. Bingeing on naughty foods could increase your cravings for these foods because, as your blood sugar falls, you crave a lift again.

How to plan your cheat’ meal

Nick Mitchell gives his tips for incorporating cheat meals into your diet Stick to one cheat meal, not a cheat day. If you eat whatever you want throughout the day, your blood sugar will be all over the place.Nick Mitchell gives his tips for incorporating cheat meals into your diet Stick to one cheat meal, not a cheat day. If you eat whatever you want throughout the day, your blood sugar will be all over the place.

Do more resistance training. This type of exercise, as opposed to cardio, encourages your muscles to use glucose more efficiently. Do a bodyweight session at the gym on the day you have your cheat meal. This will send glucose to your muscles to be used as energy and not to your fat cells to be storedDo more resistance training. This type of exercise, as opposed to cardio, encourages your muscles to use glucose more efficiently. Do a bodyweight session at the gym on the day you have your cheat meal. This will send glucose to your muscles to be used as energy and not to your fat cells to be stored.

Eat your cheat meal at the end of the day. People following a low- carbohydrate diet often struggle to sleep. If your cheat meal has more carbohydrates in it, eat it for dinnerEat your cheat meal at the end of the day. People following a low- carbohydrate diet often struggle to sleep. If your cheat meal has more carbohydrates in it, eat it for diner so you’re more likely to sleep well.

Use cheat meals to survive special occasions where diet restriction will be challenging. If a friend invites you for dinner, take this as yourUse cheat meals to survive special occasions where diet restriction will be challenging. If a friend invites you for dinner, take this as your cheat meal so you don’t become an anti-social dieter.

Don’t let your cheat day become a habit. If it gets to Sunday and you’ve been good all week and don’t have a craving, try a non-food treat instead, such as a beauty treatment or magazinDon’t let your cheat day become a habit. If it gets to Sunday and you’ve been good all week and don’t have a craving, try a non-food treat instead, such as a beauty treatment or magazine.

 

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