What Do I Think About “Cheat DAys”?

Posted: March 4, 2011 at 12:06 pm

“Free” day. “Cheat” day. “Treat” day. “Refeed” day. No matter what it’s called, you’ve likely heard of this phenomenon where you pick one day each week with no limitation or restriction. A day to eat whatever you want. You may expect me to sit here and tell you my disbelief in such an approach to eating. You know what though? I think many of us practice one ourselves. And that’s okay to me! The key lies in how we approach it.

I personally find myself managing my eating with such a day each week. During the week, when in my regular routines, I eat numerous healthy meals.

Oats for breakfast…

cranapple granola oats

…fruits, nuts, yogurt, etc for snacks…


…and a variety of meals that include veggies, whole grains, and quality proteins.

IMGP9893 tortellinisoup spice chicken 6 pasta 6 mexican casserole 5IMGP0095 veggie burger   hummus IMGP0041

On the weekend, typically Saturdays, I find myself indulging a lot more readily though.

We have dinners out…

cheeky three tacos

…hit up dessert as a way to relax together…

sydneyparty6 yogli mogli

…attend social events with lots of food…

fettuccine IMGP8564

…and sneak in little extra treats that somehow appear in our shopping carts. *cough*


Recently, Katy posted about the “refeed” days included in the 4 Hour Body eating plan she reviewed. It got me really considering the pros and cons of eating more openly a particular time each week. Right now, this style fits into my balanced relationship with food because it comes as my natural eating routine. I have also experienced the detrimental side when I allowed the following to happen:

  • No wiggle room. If something happened, like a dinner with friends, on a night that wasn’t my specified day, I would get anxious and end up going overboard because I didn’t “stick with the plan”.
  • Too restrictive at other times. When it wasn’t my “treat day” I did not allow a single thing to pass my lips that you could consider a treat in any sense of the word. This only led to intense cravings that I would tally up in my mind to get my grubby hands on every Saturday. As you can imagine, this always led to a binge and eating way, way too much junk from morning until night .
  • Not enjoying food. This turned the food I ate regularly during the week into things I '”had to” eat and not that I wanted to eat. I lost pleasure in eating. I also lost my understanding of my body, because I would be either hungry during the week or stuffed on my treat day.

These three issues caused numerous binges and a very messed up relationship with food. So, how can I say I still view a “free” day each week as reasonable?

It’s about not labeling it so and it coming as part of balance and moderation. It’s about not feeling guilty when I have times during the week that I find myself in situations where I don’t eat optimally health-wise. I strive to eat healthfully 80% of the time. For my life, this ends up with eating balanced meals during the week when I cook and being okay with splurging a bit when we go out to eat or get together with friends. I still allow small treats basically every day. For example, I love my coffee and square of dark chocolate during the kiddos’ naps. I no longer label days or food as cheats or treats. They are food and I can enjoy them as I wish any day, but will have to keep in mind how they affect my body, my energy, my goals, etc. I go with cravings and take the time to savor them so I end up more satisfied eating one cream egg than five.

All in all, I think the negative connotation that comes with “treat/free/cheat/off/refeed/willy nilly/etc” days is unnecessary. I would say the majority of us do it. We just have to step with caution in our view of eating at different times.

Question of the Day – Do you eat differently some days during the week? Have you ever actively deemed a day as a “treat day”?

Reminder - Atlanta Blogger Meet-Up NEXT SATURDAY for dinner. Email me [tina @ faithfitnessfun dot com] if interested.

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68 Comments to “What Do I Think About “Cheat DAys”?”
  1. Errign says:

    I don’t think I intentionally have treat or free days, but I will definitely have one night a week that I go out to eat with friends and maybe don’t think about the healthiest option to eat right off the bat. I agree with you that creating a negative connotation with the idea of a treat day is what makes them into something bad, especially when you’re restricting most days and binging one day or something (not saying this in reference to anyone, only an example).

  2. Cate says:

    I usually eat some kind of treat everyday. I definitely eat a bit more on the weekends though because we have more time to cook or go out- it just seems to work out that way. I try to balance my sweet treats by eating a pretty balanced diet throughout the week. I have found I am not really happy if I feel like a particular food is off limits.
    I wouldn’t say I have “cheat day” though – it just seems like a strange mentality to have. It is about the balance of the week and some days you eat more than others and that’s OK.

    Interesting post Tina -plus I am enjoying reading the comments.

  3. This is something I’m trying to find balance with myself. For a long time I would tell myself I couldn’t eat treats (for me, sweets) during the week, but then I would go crazy on the weekend and eat SO much sugar. I’m trying now to NOT go overboard on any particular day, whether or not it’s a weekend day or a special occasion or whatever. I never want to feel like I’ve eaten too much sugar, just like I never want to get hangovers 🙂 It’s a work in progress.

  4. Katy says:

    Thanks for linking to me!

    Now that I’m not doing 4HB, it’s interesting to see how my body is going back to eating intuitively. I think 4HB was a good reset, and now I don’t just eat something sweet after dinner “because it’s time for dessert,” I wait and see if I’m actually hungry or craving something. THEN I indulge 🙂

  5. Cheat days seem like a good idea…until things don’t go as planned! They don’t work for me. I don’t like eating to be so ‘black and white’. If I want to indulge during the week, I will. I don’t like having a whole day designated to eating junk. It makes me crave it even more! But if it works for others, that’s great! We all need to find the balance that works well for each of us.

  6. erin says:

    I have cheat days. For the most part I eat simply throughout the week – every 3 hours about. On Fridays or Saturdays I will have a drink of wine, cookies, a donut with coffee w/the kids – it’s more relaxed. I make sure I get my protein for building muscle. And when I get closer to competing, I’ll take out my cheats so that I can drop some of the body fat. But I eat so well during the week, that a cheat on the weekend is fine and healthy, IMO.

    • Tina says:

      Definitely! I think its great to have that balance. I mainly don’t like the idea of going crazy one day a week because it’s a cheat type of mentality. That’s not so healthy in my mind.

      • erin says:

        Your talking about the icecream for breakfast, a box of twinkies for lunch, a whole pie with fried wings and then a dozen CC cookies, eh? LOL. That is “old-school”, what the body builders did! Some peeps do still do that. My husband used to, because he trains with one of the old school guys. Just the idea freaks me out – I think my body will revolt. I do think women HAVE to eat and train differently then men, though. I met last year’s Olympia Figure winner and she doesn’t believe in unhealthy cheats. To her a cheat is sushi! LOL.

  7. Missy says:

    I’m so glad I read this today. I have been pigging out all day so I am now deeming it my “cheatday” LOL. Not sure if I’ll keep the habit, but at least it makes me feel better about today (0:

  8. Lisa says:

    I actually wrote about this a few weeks ago. I read the “4 hr Body” and was offended by his term “Binge Day.” That has such negative connotations to me.

    I do not have a “cheat day.” I eat healthy 90% of the time and 10% of the time I eat whatever I want. I still count my calories, I save some at the end of the day so I can have a treat every day. It makes me happier than restricting treats for just one day a week.

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