Proven: A Cheat Day Helps You Lose Weight

by Charlene Flanagan
You know that feeling of guilt after you've reached the bottom of that ice cream cup when you're on a diet? Well, let go of it. That's the problem with being on a 'diet'. You're not eating healthy; healthy would mean eating nutritious food, not counting your calories or starving. At Z Living, we're all about clean eating with a side of indulgence. Once every week, we have a planned no-holds-barred dessert party after lunch—cookies, churros, cake, ice cream, you name it!

Turns out, we're right on the money! According to a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, cheating on your weight-loss plan might just be the best way to jog your metabolism, burn fat faster, and stick with the program long enough to help you achieve your goal weight in due time. No, really. Simply put, the study explains how it works:
  1. Losing weight is not just a physical, but an emotional journey, too. Every time someone recognizes a roadblock (cheat day) as a failure, they get deterred from sticking to the path and may spiral into emotional overeating. You are bound to crave heartier foods once in a while so if you make cheat days a norm, they don't incite any negative feelings.
  2. With cheat days, the weight watcher enjoys the process as much as the goal attainment. You feel like it's well-deserved; you reap the benefits of your hardwork. Rewards for the efforts you're putting in will help you create a positive association with healthy eating.
  3. It's often seen that those who are trying to lose weight tend to overeat 'diet' or 'low-fat' foods whereas when they're indulging in what is considered 'fastfood', they are more conscious of their portions. The whole thing balances out and cheat days are given a bad rap for no reason.
  4. The whole 'good for you', 'bad for you', way of listing foods is unhealthy and leads to a slowdown in metabolism and may cause nutritional deficiencies, too. Often, those on Atkins or even vegans are forced to reverse their diets because their immunity gets compromised. Why not just eat everything in moderation?
  5. Lastly, the study reiterates that when you're eating to lose weight, the restricted meal plan can cause a dip in blood sugar levels which inhibits your ability to exercise control. Cheat days restore that control function and help you stick to your diet by making it flexible. This also reduces risk of developing eating disorders and having a fluctuating BMI (low lean muscle mass, high body fat).
Convinced? Here's a quick snapshot of how to have the perfect cheat day:
  • Plan To Cheat: Just like you pencil-in your workout routines, schedule not just your cheat day, but your cheat meals, too. It pays to have a strategy—what you’re going to eat, and when you’re going to eat it. Do you really have the appetite for pizza, a bucket of fried chicken and a triple cheese burger? Didn't think so. You'll soon realize you've chalked up more than you can eat because of greed and learn to slash off what you don't need.
  • Exercise Portion Control: Having calorie-rich food tricks your body into thinking food reserves are aplenty, thus burning through those fat reserves and kickstarting your metabolism. But, it’s easy to overboard. Make sure you don’t eat mindlessly, and pay attention to those signals. If you feel like you could have one more bite, but don’t really need to, that’s your cue to stop.
  • Take Your Time: This may throw you back to when your parents reprimanded you for chewing too fast, but taking your time to chew your food properly does mean you eat less and feel satisfied sooner. When indulging in those “off-limits” treats, we often get a little too excited and basically inhale our food mindlessly. What's the point? You aren't even giving yourself the time to truly enjoy and appreciate it?

On that note, we suggest you tune into this video of celebrity trainer and organic food expert Thomas DeLauer for a complete breakdown on how to cook and create the perfect cheat meal:


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