Fit Mommy: Are Cheat Days Are Dangerous?


I used to have “cheat days” incorporated into my diet. They usually fell on the weekend when various activities and commitments made staying on track hard. However, once I made the decision to eat better and be more healthy, “cheat days” were rarely what they once were.

Now, a “cheat” for me isn’t geared around over-indulgence, but rather in eating the same foods I would enjoy during the week on the weekend as well.

That said, there are still a lot of people I know who do have days where they completely step away from their good eating habits and they do so as a reward for being so good all week long. However, that could be a bigger detriment than it’s worth:

…The fact is, you’ll find it much tougher to get back on the healthy clean-eating track when Monday rolls around, and the reason is surprising: Science shows foods high in saturated fats not only impair how your metabolism responds (it’ll slow down!), but also your good judgment — for up to three days!

The Mind-Numbing Evidence

The study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, found that short-term exposure to foods like beef, butter, full-fat cheese and milk, each of which contains a type of saturated fat called palmitic acid, turns off the pathways in your brain that make you feel full. Essentially, your brain gets hit with a cascade of particular fatty acids that causes resistance to your appetite-suppressing hormones, leptin and insulin.

“You end up eating more of these foods, which can lead to weight gain,” says study author Deborah Clegg, PhD, RD. Simply put, once that palmitic acid hits your system, you’re not being told by your brain to stop eating. And some of you may persist in this eating style for a few more days.

“If you eat a steak today and pizza the next day, followed by more high-fat foods, don’t rely on feeling full the following day!” explains Clegg. In fact, the opposite appears to be true. “You’ll feel hungrier,” continues Clegg, “and you won’t stop eating before you get the ‘full’ feeling because your brain has the fats that are blocking you from feeling full.” (Linda Melone, “The Dangers of a Cheat Meal”,, 7/10/12)

My diet leans towards less meat than it used to but I do understand satisfying a craving when it comes knocking. That said, part of living a healthy lifestyle is learning to live inside that lifestyle without doing more harm than good. So, if you do choose to indulge, do so in moderation and try to find an alternative means of enjoying your food of choice without it doing irreparable damage to your results or your focus.

For example, if Burgers are your thing, stay away from the fast-food variety and make a healthier version at home using ground turkey or chicken—or my personal favorite, black beans. Skip the mayonnaise in favor of a more figure-friendly condiment like mustard or yogurt dressing (hey, don’t knock it til you’ve tried it) and use a whole-wheat bun.

If pizza is your vice then again, skip the Pizza Hut or Dominos versions that are so often laden with too much grease, cheese, and fat, in favor of making a thin-crust variety at home. You’d be surprised how much you can do with a pizza stone and some store-bought dough.

Don’t have time to make your own dishes, honestly start making time as eating out is often the biggest dagger to your fitness goals.

In the end, you’re likely going to give in to a craving or two here and there, but the important part is to not allow it to get you off-track.

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