This is a huge debate within the weight loss industry. Should people once a week get to eat whatever their stomachs’ desire?
While one guru says you should stick to your diet and not stray away from it unless you life depends on it, the next weight loss ninja advocates a cheat day every fifth day. So what muscle jock should you listen to?
The funny thing about most weight loss “rules” is that they are usually based on people’s own experience (either as a dieter or a trainer) and usually not backed up by any notion of science. I actually couldn’t find any research that has looked into the effects of a cheat day on a diet, but as a general rule in previous research I’ve looked into, the more strict a diet is, the harder it is for people to sustain that diet.
Therefor I would say, as with so much else regarding fat loss, the best way is the way that works for you. If you are more likely to quit your diet altogether if you don’t get your fix of fat and sugar, than you should let in, even if it means that your cheat day becomes a cheat weekend. It’s about mentality. If you set up with the fact that this might happen, you are not looking at it as a failure. The worst thing that can happen is if you “fail” and think that now it’s all over so you might as well stop any effort to lose weight. Before you know it you are back to eating Oreos for breakfast and ordering that extra Big Mac when eating out. This is what happens when people give up and stop dieting.
And believe me, as time goes by and your weight decreases, these cheat days start loosing their appeal. You don’t want to jeopordize your results by pigging out. You’ve done it thousands of times before and it comes to a point when you see that it’s just a short term pleasure and not worth it in the long run.
Many people start a very strict diet and just can’t do it anymore and then all bets are off and they start eating like they are contenders in a championship eating contest.
One of the best advice I can give regarding cheat days is to ALWAYS start your cheat day with an exercise session. Go to the gym, go for a run, play ball. Anything, just get a really good workout.
This results in two things:
1 – your appetite is suppressed by the exercise.
2 – once you’ve put an hour of sweat and tears you aren’t as willing to ruin it all with a day of debauchery.
And just a quickie about slowing down metabolism. If you eat less then your Calorie Maintenance Level: 1) it takes 3-4 days before your body starts to slow down metabolism and 2) you still keep burning fat, it just slows it down. People have been put on starvation diets (the Minnesota Starvation Experiment) and still kept losing weight even though they had almost nothing to eat.