Cheat Day… a concept we can live without

Ok… I have already established my concern around diet terms like ‘clean’ eating (where the opposite is … ‘dirty’) and ‘guilt-free’ (where the opposite is …’guilt-laden’)…. but the one which seems to be on everyone’s lips (😂) is allowing yourself a weekly ‘cheat day‘.

I know I may get cut down for this post – cos I know plenty of people are trying this new ‘rule’ – but I kinda wanna say…. OK… I’m just gonna say it… seriously…. WTF!!!!

We should now schedule food? Really? Life has got so complicated…. I thought my diary was just for meetings and reminders … but no… now Apple can help me schedule my food intake as well…. what did I ever do without them!! 🙏🏽🍎

I get the principle behind this … it’s trying to encourage us to eat ‘healthy’ most of the time, but allow us treats, so we don’t feel deprived. Isn’t this what we should be learning to do all the time? rather than by schedule?

The anomaly is, it doesn’t really mean this. To a lot of people following this concept, it means highly restricted eating 6 days a week and then going all out, f**king mental on the 7th!!! It has to be highly restrictive for 6 days to allow this unknown calorie overload on day 7.

It encourages a cycle of deprivation and binge eating in most people and this is damaging. Can we really not manage balance and moderation on our own?

I just don’t agree with what this does to the psyche. Again – it’s focused on the physical, not the mental. How do you honestly feel on the 6 days of the week when your food is planned out to within an inch of its life, you’re not really eating anything you feel like eating and only ingesting what your diet plan tells you to? I’m not imagining particularly happy and probably really bloody miserable to be around by day 5!! But then – on the 7th day…. when you get to eat anything you want…. that’s total pleasure cos you gorge on everything that’s considered ‘bad’ but tastes so good! Remind me only to catch up with you on day 7!!!

The meaning of the word ‘cheat’ is : to act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage … hell… that’s pretty harsh on myself just to enjoy some fries! Thank goodness for the other 6 days where I get to be the patron saint of virtuosity!

In all seriousness, the big issue with this concept is that it encourages a detrimental  relationship with food and body image. One that is almost impossible to maintain for a long period of time. What concerns me most is the longevity of eating this way –  as a longterm, healthy eating plan that is good for the mind, body and soul.

We need to encourage healthy, flexible eating that supports and enriches our lives – we are giving food too much power and control. It sounds so all-consuming. Its supposed to be one of life’s pleasures. It’s nourishment.

I talk a lot about the social aspects of food. Food brings people together and we need so much more of this. We have so lost our sense of community and this is affecting all of us, and our youth so badly. It has created a very unstable environment for mental health – but I will talk about that on another day.

Meeting friends for brunch, visiting someone’s house for supper , putting on a spread for friends, cooking or baking for someone you love – these are such rewarding aspects of life which contribute to our emotional wellbeing. If we become so rigid in our life’s planning, we will not be able to enjoy these occasions unless they coincide with our food calendar… then that’s just ridiculous! Sometimes these events around food are spontaneous too- are we meant to decline eating at them as they don’t fit with our cheat day principles?! Bollocks to that!

I like the way the Australian blogger/nutritionist Jessica Stepel puts it – that we need to move away from this “All or nothing mentality and strike for balance and moderation”.

I totally know what it’s like to have a day when you eat and drink all the wrong things and feel rubbish at the end of it. All I do, is tighten (well actually loosen!) my belt for the next few days – do some decent workouts and eat healthy to get back on track. If you’ve really overdone it for more than a few days – say a holiday and you know you’ve gained a few pounds and need to lose them and get fit again  – then just be sensible for a few weeks. We ALL do this and its completely normal.

We’ve got to learn to STOP bingeing – its really unhealthy for the mind, as much as it is the body. If it happens with food then it can enter our lives with other things, like alcohol too.

We absolutely know that adopting a culture of not drinking for 6 days and then going utterly nuts and drinking like a maniac on the 7th day – is binge drinking and extremely damaging. Damaging to our health and damaging to society. We are worried about what it’s doing to ourselves and also our youth. Its a terrible cultural norm that affects NZ, Australia, the US and the UK more than most. It’s something that the French, Spanish and Italians don’t suffer from as their culture encourages a healthy approach to alcohol where they drink smaller amounts, nearly always with food,  and it is savoured.

We just need to have the same approach with food.

No extremes – just balance and moderation.

I mean… I came home to my daughter’s homemade cupcakes (in pic) this morning… post the gym … with a desperate plea from her to try one … it was my duty as a mother to honour her hard work, show glowing pride and eat one (😇) … the second one was just for me!!!!!!!!!!! 😋




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