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Cheat Days - Help or Hinder Efforts to Stay on Track?

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  • Cheat Days - Help or Hinder Efforts to Stay on Track?

    Many of the nutritional/diet gurus out there allow for a cheat day in their weekly meal plans. My boyfriend notably was a big believer in the Abs Diet series before we made the decision to try going primal. The author of the Abs Diet (his name escapes me at the moment) calls for allowing yourself entire cheat days, while others opt for the lesser cheat meal.

    In my experience, there is evidence that cheat days can be both helpful and harmful. Cheat days can alleviate the fatigue and cravings from a dramatic change in diet for someone who is just starting out, as well as being a nice compromise when holidays or festive celebrations come around. On the other hand, cheat days or cheat meals can open the door for falling off the horse. This is especially likely for those of us who have a tendency for black and white thinking (I already screwed up lunch, the day's wasted, let's splurge on dinner!; I already screwed up the last two days, might as well start again next Monday).

    So what are your opinions? Are cheat days helpful or harmful? What about in the beginning of a change in diet versus someone who has largely acclimated and has been staying on track? Are there any of you who do not need or crave cheat days? Does anyone experience any noticeable difference in their energy or other bodily attributes after a cheat day?

  • #2
    For me personally, I can't allow myself to have any cheats. It starts out in my head as a cheat meal. Then cheat day. Then cheat weekend etc... Its to easy for me to fall completely off the wagon all from one meal or snack. I think however for me, a better option is to use primal approved "cheats" such as whip cream and berries, or the primal bread. Treat those as "cheats" even though they aren't really.

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    • #3
      I can't do cheats either. Every single cheat meal has lead to a binge, so I don't do it anymore!

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      • #4
        Can't cheat. I fall off the wagon - I fall off HARD. It lasts.
        A Post-Primal PrimalPat

        Do not allow yourself to become wrapped up in a food 'lifestyle'. That is ego, and you are not that.

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        • #5
          I'm starting to realize that a little cheat leads to a lot of cheat for me.
          Happy Wifey and NEW MOM!
          Pre-preg weight: 130
          Current: 145 (eek!)
          Goal: ??? <-- whatever it takes to get rid of this tire!
          Started Primal in May '12.
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          • #6
            Primal is a life style, not a diet. There is no reason to cheat on your life. If you want to eat a Snickers bar, for godshakes eat it and move on. It is about you, you don't need our permission.
            I Kettlebell therefore I am.

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            • #7
              I used to "cheat" every now and then, get some pizza, have some beer, pasta, sub ETC. Then I realized the longer I went between them, the worse they made me feel. I know now, if I eat 2-3 slices of pizza I am gassy,bloated and just feel like garbage all-around.

              The more I stay Primal, the more I WANT to stay primal.

              Now, Once a week instead of cheat I treat myself to a very expensive/decadent Primal meal. Lobster, Prime-rib ETC. So I don't have to feel like crap after I eat.

              I would say, get in tune with your body and find out how non-primal things affect you. Then decide if you still want to cheat.

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              • #8
                I think cheating (though I abhor that word in relation to food) is a good thing. Nothing like getting on the scale after a trip down shit food lane to knock some sense into you.

                There was a motivational guy in the 90s that used say that humans are motivated by basically two things: they pursue pleasure, and they avoid pain. When indulging in a "cheat," there is immediate pleasure. But if the scale pops up a couple of pounds and stays there for 5-10 days, that pleasure quickly turns into pain. Eventually that is learned, and the urge to eat old favorites subsides. If you're lucky, you even learn to dislike those old favorites because of the pain they bring.
                "Right is right, even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it." - St. Augustine

                B*tch-lite

                Who says back fat is a bad thing? Maybe on a hairy guy at the beach, but not on a crab.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by WeldingHank View Post
                  I used to "cheat" every now and then, get some pizza, have some beer, pasta, sub ETC. Then I realized the longer I went between them, the worse they made me feel. I know now, if I eat 2-3 slices of pizza I am gassy,bloated and just feel like garbage all-around.

                  The more I stay Primal, the more I WANT to stay primal.

                  Now, Once a week instead of cheat I treat myself to a very expensive/decadent Primal meal. Lobster, Prime-rib ETC. So I don't have to feel like crap after I eat.

                  I would say, get in tune with your body and find out how non-primal things affect you. Then decide if you still want to cheat.
                  I agree with this Hank. I have a friend who owns a meat market and once a month he prepares a huge USDA prime t-bone aged to perfection just for me(actually I think he prepares them for his family and includes one for me). They are melt in your mouth delicious, better than any cake, cookie or ice cream I have ever had. It is amazing the difference in off the shelf meat and what a butcher feeds his own family.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by JoanieL View Post
                    I think cheating (though I abhor that word in relation to food) is a good thing. Nothing like getting on the scale after a trip down shit food lane to knock some sense into you.

                    There was a motivational guy in the 90s that used say that humans are motivated by basically two things: they pursue pleasure, and they avoid pain. When indulging in a "cheat," there is immediate pleasure. But if the scale pops up a couple of pounds and stays there for 5-10 days, that pleasure quickly turns into pain. Eventually that is learned, and the urge to eat old favorites subsides. If you're lucky, you even learn to dislike those old favorites because of the pain they bring.
                    Unless you use the pleasure of food again to offset the pain of gaining weight....vicious cycle.

                    I agree with TorMag. Eat the damn thing you're craving and move on. I think you just need the right mindset of trying to eat as Primal as possible instead of avoiding non-Primal things as possible. The reduction in stress will make you eat less of the "cheat" (if at all) and will help to prevent the downward spiral that most of us know of too well by eliminating the "all-or-nothing" mindset.
                    My chocolatey Primal journey

                    Unusual food recipes (plus chocolate) blog

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                    • #11
                      I "cheat" but I think it's important that once you've changed your lifestyle, and really adapted primal, you no longer see it as a "cheat" or whatever, it's just something different, and then you're back to how it should be.

                      In the early days I couldn't do it because I'd fall off the wagon. But now I usually have a "cheat" item most weekends when socialising e.g. alcohol or a meal out, and I don't even care, I'm just back on autopilot primal eating when the next meal rolls round.

                      I know how much better I feel when I am 100% primal so it helps, I think. I usually make my choices because of social situations. I don't regret them, it's always nice at the time, but just reminds me why I don't eat like that all the time.
                      Current weight lost: 82.9lb (37.6kg)

                      Current PRs:
                      Bench: 45kg/99lb
                      Squat: 100kg/220lb
                      Deadlift: 120kg/265lb

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                      • #12
                        I abhor the word "cheat" as applied to my WOE. It implies some external force compelling me to eat a certain way and a need to 'escape' from that coercion by 'cheating.'

                        I eat primally because I believe it is the healthiest WOE for my body, so why would I want to compromise my health by eating things that I know are 'bad' for me? There may be situations in which my 'cost/benefit' analysis will tip in the favor of some not-ideal choice, but I make that choice fully aware of the issues involved. I am not 'cheating' but deciding that for this moment, I can afford this particular item.

                        And then I move on. I think the notion of 'cheating' prepetuates the notion that our WOE is restrictive and spartan, and we 'need' to have SAD foods, which will continue to hold an attraction for us.

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                        • #13
                          Depends on how you define cheat.

                          For me, I cheat with fermented dairy, nuts and fruit. A lot of it. The next day, I just go back to my regular eating without any repercussions (maybe a little gassy).

                          If I cheat with pizza and beer, I will fantasize about pizza and beer for the whole week and that'd lead me down a very slippery slope. It messes with my ability to prioritize health over taste.

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                          • #14
                            My problem is I cheat and then that's it. I'm off the wagon for a good few weeks =( I DID however eat a bite of Sizzler cheesy toast because everyone kept raving about it. It was delicious, cheesy and probably a bit too salty. But I only took 1 bite
                            "The first wealth is health."
                            - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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                            • #15
                              I can do a day a week. I still do for the most part. If I had higher goals (single digit BF, competing in the next olympics....ect.) then I would probably have to change my tune. Some people have real demons in terms of binge behavior and triggers. For those there is no safe "cheat", just like an alcoholic cant have just a drink.

                              Another point were a cheat day really impedes progress is for those attempting to become keto-adapted for athletic endeavors. If that is an end goal then you would have to skip cheat days all together as it takes a few weeks-months for full adaptation.

                              In terms of a "cheat day" I don't thing there is anything inherently helpful about it except possibly in terms of a carb refeed and even that is a bit dubious and only applies to individuals with a particularly high amount of glycolytic exercise regimen.

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