Let's be honest: Dieting can be extremely difficult. Being on a strict regime of "do eat this," and "don't eat that," is really frustrating sometimes, even for the most experienced healthy-eater. Whether you're just looking to lose a few pounds, detox your sugar addiction, or want a change of lifestyle, forcing yourself to think about what you're eating doesn't come naturally to everybody. Many people curb this difficult task by having "cheat days," or a day where they can take a break from their diet and eat what they've been craving. But before you go out and buy 10 packets of Oreos for your cheat day, here are some unspoken (and sometimes scary) truths about cheat days and dieting that everybody should be aware of.
Cheat days are totally fine! Once in a while, we need to give our body what it wants. Cheat meals help many people stick with their diet in the long run by encouraging healthy behavior through an occasional reward. In the past I've tried, failed, and succeeded with many diets. Strict diets intimidate me, and without cheat days I wouldn't be able to last a couple days (sorry not sorry, I LOVE food). However I can diet for longer, and slowly change my lifestyle if I take one day a week to have something I've really been craving. This keeps me going because I know I won't cry every time I go to lunch with my friends, watching them eat all the food they want to. After starting to eat healthy, once there is the opportunity to eat something sugary or fatty, a person really appreciates every bite of that food, and can learn a lot about themselves. Not to mention, I really can't live without pizza. However that does bring me to my next topic...
When I say cheat days, I mean "cheat meals." And when I say cheat meals, I don't mean eating an extra large Dominos supreme pizza, drinking a liter of Dr. Pepper, and finishing up with a tub of Half-Baked Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Binge eating will ruin your diet, and just make you feel bloated and terrible! It's so difficult to go back to making those healthy lifestyle choices when you're feeling groggy and lazy with a massive sugar hangover. Eating way too much in one sitting isn't healthy, period. It's tempting to pop down on the couch with a bag full of Taco Bell on your cheat days. Planning out exactly what you want to eat on your next cheat day can help you not go overboard. Follow serving sizes, think about how small amounts can be sufficient if you enjoy every bite of what you're eating and remember: substituting a slice of pizza for the whole pie is so much better for you. Learning to appreciate every bit of what you put into your body, will make you much more conscious about your food intake, make you feel better at the end of your cheat day, and is good practice for leading a long term healthy lifestyle.
There can be a really nasty side to not cheating and strict dieting can lead to something much more serious and sinister. According to GoodTherapy.org, somewhere between 80% and 90% of eating disorders begin with a strict diet. Eating disorders are not something people choose to develop, but rather severe mental illnesses that can lead to dehydration, hair loss, heart health issues, and even death, among many other horrible symptoms. About 30 million people suffer from Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder. Being healthy means having a balance between not eating enough, over eating, eating extremely healthy all the time, and only eating fatty foods. The most important thing anybody could do while dieting is to listen to their body and feed it when it's hungry! Just because you're trying to be healthier doesn't mean you should starve yourself. Many healthy food diets, such as Whole 30 encourage people participating to eat as much as they need to.
If you or someone you know struggles with with an eating disorder, know that you are not alone. Help is always out there. The National Eating Disorder Association has amazing resources to look to for help. Every person deserves a chance to have a healthy relationship with food, dieting or not!