Are Your 'Cheat Days' a Good Idea?
A popular practice in weight loss is that of having 'cheat days," where you intentionally plan to deviate from your diet plan from time to time. Is this a good idea?
Proponents of cheat days maintain that being too inflexible with your eating behaviors lowers the likelihood that you will be able to maintain healthy eating behaviors in the long run-an idea which has a lot of merit. The prospect of never indulging again seems unrealistic to all but the most disciplined souls. However, there is a hidden trap with this practice you should be aware of.
You can divide habit change issues into two broad categories; those habits you can let go of completely and those that need to modified.
The use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs are habits that can be safely eliminated since they are not needed for survival. Indeed, the opposite is true. Many times someone with this kind of issue will wonder if they can control their usage rather than strive for complete abstinence?
Experience has shown that not using at all is actually the easiest and most successful option. First, if controlled use was an option, you would have done it already and you wouldn't be reaching out for help. You have to be honest with yourself.
Second, attempting to limit consumption to say Friday or Saturday night tends to unconsciously make the cigarette or drink seem more precious, that its a reward for good behavior. That wires the brain to cling to the habit since it perceives it as valuable and makes relapse into the previous habit pattern more likely.
Now eating is obviously a habit where the goal is modification rather than elimination. And while being flexible enough to allow some occasions where you indulge in less than healthy options works for many people, you can fall into the same situation that people trying to limit their smoking or drinking habits do. You will unconsciously perceive unhealthy food choices as the reward for making healthy ones. Can you see the inner conflict this creates?
A solution is to come up with some non caloric rewards for being successful with your weight loss plan. If you drop a few pounds or keep up with your exercise program, what might be some alternative rewards? You might treat yourself to a new article of clothing, a movie ticket, a new book, etc. Get creative, make it something affordable yet fun and you will begin to get yourself out of the habitual rut you've been in.
If you would like to learn more, please feel free to connect with me about private, customized sessions by calling (732) 714-7040 or visit the Upcoming Events Page to learn about the introductory group programs I offer monthly.