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For most people, dieting is simply not fun. One favorite thing that many dieters do is use the coveted “cheat day.” These scheduled cheats are days (or meals) that allow dieters to eat anything and everything they want to during that time. While many who are trying to shed pounds fear a cheat day will offset much of the work they’ve done, cheat meals can actually provide many benefits. We’ve complied some of our favorite reasons why you should let yourself enjoy having the occasional cheat day:
No matter how healthy you eat, when you restrict your calories you begin to create an energy deficit. Over time your body will begin to adjust to the lower number of calories you are eating and your metabolism will drop. Cheat days help trick your body into think it’s going to be receiving a large number of calories again soon and your metabolism will speed back up.
Leptin is a key protein that regulates both your appetite and your energy balance. It is the force behind whether or not you feel hungry, it is what decides how quickly you are burning calories and it is in charge of regulating your body weight and fat mass. When you fast, Leptin levels decrease and cause an increased appetite (making it harder to continue your diet) and decreased energy levels (making it hard to continue exercising regularly).
Ghrelin – a peptide hormone that signals the release of growth hormones – tends to increase with low-calorie diets, also leading to increased food take, and therefore body weight.
Thyroid hormones are also affected by caloric restrictions. These hormones play many roles within your body, including helping regulate your metabolic rate and growth throughout your body (like bone growth). Low calorie diets can cause lower thyroid levels, resulting in a lower metabolic rate. Weekly cheat days help our body re-balance and re-energize.
You’re More Likely to Stick with Your Diet
When you allow yourself cheat meals, it no longer means there are certain foods that are completely off limits. Instead, there are only specific times when it’s appropriate to eat them. Mentally, this makes dieting much easier for most people. Because results take time to see, it’s important you allow yourself regular breaks and rewards for sticking with your plans. Planning cheat days allows you to enjoy your indulgences rather than feel guilty about them.
Remember: cheat days are useful and enjoyable when they are scheduled and occasional. Too many cheat days (or too much overindulgence on your cheat days) will likely hurt your weight loss and muscle building efforts. For some people, regular cheat days may do more harm than good. If you find you have trouble sticking to your diet after a cheat day, try to limit your cheat days and set strict boundaries for your cheat meals so you can still enjoy the benefits of a cheat day without the adverse effects.