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Why You Shouldn’t Have Cheat Days

When I was trying to figure out my theme for this week’s What I Ate Wednesday, I thought back on the idea of “cheat days,” and what I’ve eaten this week. In doing so, I realized there were a lot of sweets, more than my moderate amount. I made lots of cookies, and well, when there’s things around the house, they usually get eaten pretty quickly.

But isn’t that the point of making delicious food? To eat it and share it on an as needed basis – not on just one day of the week?

Why You Shouldn't Have Cheat Days

The Idea of Cheat Days

If you follow me on Instagram or Snapchat (@hurdbird), you may have seen that I took a quick weekend trip to spend some time with my parent’s and celebrate my dad’s birthday! With birthdays come more sweets, at least in my family. And I’m completely okay with that. I was listening to a podcast where a caller talked about not being able to control her cravings during the week, and was trying to save them all for her “cheat day.” And it really sparked this fire in me.

To put it simply, I do not support cheat days, or anything of that idea. I do not think you should “save” your calories or indulgences for a pristine time of the week. See the thing is, we want our bodies to know that we can have something when we want it, rather than punishing ourselves and making ourselves wait – that only makes us crave it more, which can then lead to overeating or bingeing. Our bodies always deserve what we want to feed them when we want it, and we shouldn’t feel we have to restrict it under false pretenses that indulging on one day only will create better habits for us in the long run.

black bean brownies on white plate

There is no such thing as a cheat day. Again, there is no such thing as a cheat day. There is no such thing as a cheat day.

Our bodies work the same every single day, no matter what we put in them. We have kidneys that work tirelessly to balance our fluids and electrolytes. Our livers will continue to be involved in natural detox mechanisms, and our pancreas will be pumping out insulin when our blood glucose is high (if everything is working properly). Our digestion system is still going to work, day in and day out. Why should our minds work separately from our bodies? We want them to work together because they are better that way.

Every day is an opportunity to live life and fuel ourselves to do so. There is no such thing as “being good” or “cheating” on our diets – we are not one or the other. However, there are such things as choosing less nutrient dense foods and choosing foods that fit our moods and needs at that current time – nothing more, nothing less. Listen to what you need when you’re hungry, make a choice about food, and move on from it. Let’s not put food on a pedestal where we fear it.

Panera soba noodles bowl

How Our Bodies Self-Regulate

I’ve talked about this before in previous posts (here and here) but it’s worth mentioning again – Our bodies are smart, if we let them do their thing.

When we eat a higher quantity of sweeter things than normal, our bodies will scream for more nutrients and fiber to get to homeostasis and make sure we’re getting the nutrients we need. If we try to regulate this by forcing ourselves to eat a certain way on certain days (i.e. – “non-cheat” days), we are disrupting our bodies’ natural regulation system, and messing up our internal cues for appetite and hunger.

And we’re setting ourselves up for failure by creating these restrictions. What happens when friends want to go out and celebrate a new engagement, or cheers to a new job and we’re all splitting fried pickles and champagne? Or, what happens when your neighbor drops by with a cake as a thank you for watching the dog? What happens when you’re stuck at work super late and your coworkers ordered pizza to make the later hours more enjoyable and you told yourself you couldn’t have pizza during the week?

Now, we’re in a position where if we have it and “give in,” we’ve failed. If we tell ourselves that these choices are only available on cheat days, we’re making it really hard to live a life of “non-cheat” days without coloring outside the lines. Why spend the whole week looking forward to a certain meal or treat when you can give yourself permission to have it any day, any time you want.

stack of oatmeal cookies

Your body will tell you what it needs, if you let it. For me, after a day of cookies, it was protein and more veggies.

And splitting a dessert with dad…because it was his birthday…and because it’s good for the soul. This delicious brown sugar coconut slice of pie was a real winner.

birthday cake celebration

Cut yourself a little bit of slack. Eating is not something we should ever feel guilty about. We need to give our bodies what they need, which may vary day to day. Heck, it may even vary hour to hour.

And you may need these any time, any day, not on just one day of the week. So please, please, don’t engage in a “cheat” day mentality. Every day can be a cheat day once we give our bodies permission to eat what we want when we want it.

How do you celebrate birthdays with your friends/families? Do you prefer to make a treat or buy one out?


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  1. Love this! Whenever I give myself a total “cheat day” I spend the next few days feeling like crap…there’s no point to do that to your body. Now I try to just listen to my body and if I want a cookie on a Tuesday you bet I’m eating that cookie haha.

  2. As someone who used to be SUPER rigid, I love this. There was a time for it, for me at least. I was competing, I had really specific goals and a short timeline. It’s definitely not a way to live forever though!

  3. I could not agree more, I don’t believe in cheat days and I do feel that we need to fuel our bodies properly however I definitely let myself indulge without guilt!!

    I love the looks of those cookies and black bean brownies!! I need to try that.

  4. Love this! I’ve never been a big cheat day advocate. Some days are healthier than others but it all balances out!

    What recipe do you use for the black bean brownies? I’ve been loving the one from Minimalist Baker!

  5. I completely agree! The idea of “cheating” is so silly, I mean, who are you fooling? Yourself? Your body still knows you’re eating cookies, not a kale salad, so why not accept and embrace it yourself. When you stop putting things “off limits” your cravings really shift too. A little bit becomes satisfying enough because you’re free to get more whenever you want. I think food freedom is something everyone should strive for in order to lead a more positive, balanced life.

  6. I absolutely 100% agree with your thoughts on the whole ‘cheat day’ thinking. I have friends who I’ve watched be so restrictive and have had to sit out on fun things (birthday celebrations, girls nights out, etc.) because they already had their ‘cheat day’ earlier in the week. I eat what I want and never deprive myself, but listen to my body. If I’ve had a night of pizza, booze and sweets then I try and balance it out the next day with lots of water and protein, fruits and veggies. But if I don’t, then that’s okay too. Life is way too short to restrict yourself with cheat days!

    1. Your last line is right on – life is too short to stress about food choices. I think we’ve all been there, but the sooner we realize this, the better, in my opinion 🙂

  7. All those delicious cookies and muffins are making me insanely antsy to get back into the kitchen and bake something! I could not agree with your theme this week more. It makes me so sad to see individuals completely ignoring their bodies, depriving themselves, because they are waiting for the ‘perfect time’ or ‘cheat day’. It upsets me so much. Our bodies need food, they need fuel, and chances are, if someone on a restrictive diet is having continual cravings for sugary foods it’s because they aren’t getting enough food!

    1. I completely agree – if our bodies are underfed, they have a way of trying to tell us. All food is fuel, and sometimes we need less nutrients and just more food

  8. ‘There is no such thing as a cheat day. There is no such thing as a cheat day. There is no such thing as a cheat day.’

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I learned this the hard way, and I spent so many years trying to suppress the hunger that God made my body with, and it really hurt my body and the way I saw different foods. Coming from an RD (you), this is SO encouraging to read.

    1. Hi Emily! It is definitely a difficult thing to break once we’ve trained our brains to think we can only eat certain things at certain times, but it can be done. It’s good for our bodies to know they can have what they want/need in the moment.

  9. THANK YOU! SCREW CHEAT DAYS! THEY DO NOTHING FOR YOU but make you feel like CRAP!! My “cheat” is ordering a few extras salmon skin handrolls at a sushi restaurant, But that’s hardly a cheat AT ALL! haha!

  10. Yep yep yep. I used to try to never let myself eat anything “bad.” When I ate a lot of sugar one day, I’d feel so gross. Then something clicked and I realized that if I let myself eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it, I actually ate far more balanced and craved the things I used to call “bad” foods far less. It’s funny how the body works! Now I tend to eat relatively healthy during the week with a few treats thrown in and my diet on the weekends is much more fun. It’s not because I only let myself eat sweets on the weekends, but it just tends to work out that way.

    1. What you experienced is so true! Unfortunately, the best way to figure it out is to learn through experience. I’m the same way – it just comes naturally to me to eat healthier during the week because that’s when I have more of the fresh produce and we can have more food adventures on the weekend!

  11. The more I grow and learn to hear what my body is telling me, the more I find how right this post is. If I have been eating a lot of sweets, my body usually stops wanting them. Therefore I’ll have something else. If I want something sweet, I have it not because it may be healthy physically, but it certainly is mentally. I have no problem emotionally eating every once in a while 🙂

  12. Dessert is DEFINITELY good for the soul. I’ve definitely gone on an off wth the cheat day mentality stuff in the past, but I see now how it has never helped me at all. It just made me more or less live for Sunday when I could eat whatever.

    1. I’m glad you’ve learned through experience. Unfortunately, that is what is most beneficial for most of us! I love doing things that are good for our souls and minds 🙂

  13. I love baking so I’m always a fan of making and sharing treats! But there’s a time for both- like that cinnamon pie looks so good! Happy birthday to your dad!

  14. Happy birthday dad!! I’m glad you got lots of cookies!
    Great post. I do not participate in cheat days, because if someone offers ice cream I am taking it whatever day it is! Cheat days are far too rigid for me. I can’t plan all my indulgent eating for one day of the week. I’d much prefer to moderate it throughout the week.The closest thing I’ve ever had to a cheat day is when I would only have diet coke on the weekend. I’d end up drinking 2 gallons of the study from friday to sunday. Not exactly helpful, haha.

  15. I’ve never lived off the “cheat day” mentality. How dreadful. I’d rather cheat at monopoly and throw a tantrum when I lose.

  16. I prefer to bake my own treats so I have control of what’s in them, but sometimes its nice to just go out and have someone make dessert for you! I totally agree with this post. I used to have the mindset of allowing myself “cheat days” but it was almost like I felt forced to eat poorly, and then it was harder to eat well again. It makes so much more sense to listen to your body and allow it indulgences but also making sure to nourish it well.

    1. Totally echo that sentiment – forcing ourselves to eat poorly to get the most out of “cheat” days are just not how our bodies are wired. I love having control of what’s in my treats too – although sometimes when I’m out, some are too good to pass up!

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