From the moment we take our first meal after birth, we begin our relationship with food. Yes, we all have a relationship with food and we have the power to break unhealthy cycles or maintain them. Like any relationship, sometimes we need to take a step back and redefine boundaries. Your relationship with food is no different. One way we shoot ourselves in the foot when trying to get our health under control is when we reward ourselves with food.
You’ve likely heard of many fitness “gurus” displaying big, juicy burgers on “cheat day,” one day a week where they eat whatever they want. The idea is that you spend six days on a very restricted diet with one off day per week. The logic behind cheat days varies depending on who you speak to, but most often, the purpose of indulging for one day a week is for one or two reasons. One, as a reward for your good behavior; it takes a lot of willpower and effort to hold fast to a regimen for six days. And two, as a means to satiate any feelings of deprivation.
The concept of having a “cheat day” or “cheat meal” as part of one’s wellness program has practically become canonized in the online world of fitness and that has had an impact even though many of these fitness advisors are not professionals or nutritionists. As with any health routine, one should speak to their healthcare provider first, as opposed to taking advice from an Instagrammer or fitness model. (Not to mention, many of your favorite bodybuilders are definitely on the “juice,” or steroids–which can be identified through drug testing.)
Here are 3 Reasons Why You Should Rethink Having ‘Cheat Day’ as Part of Your Fitness Plan:
1. Stop rewarding your health accomplishments with food. You’re not a dog.
Like a dog, you’re training yourself to expect a treat for good behavior! Except dogs that are being rewarded with a treat have likely just run two miles more than you have that day to earn that biscuit and news flash: their biscuit isn’t a 2,700 calorie, greasy meal. Cheat day has become some twisted version of Pavlov’s dog experiment, but instead of conditioning oneself for healthier habits, the result is conditioning oneself to over-indulge in unhealthy habits. You’re not a dog, not Pavlov’s or otherwise, so stop rewarding yourself with food.
2. You’re only encouraging emotional eating.
Food is fuel, not a friendship! As stated before, from birth we start developing our relationship with food. When we grieve, we eat. When we meet up with friends, we meet up over food. When we celebrate birthdays, promotions, anything, we celebrate with food. What this does is connect us emotionally to food. It conditions us to turn to food whenever we’re having moments that trigger our emotions, good or bad. So that is to say, a cheat day makes sense when we consider how we are culturally conditioned to connect social events and accomplishments with food.
3. You’re sabotaging your progress.
The two previous points only highlight how having a cheat day can sabotage your progress. Because you’re trying to break a cycle of unhealthy habits, turning to those habits as a reward only works against you. By re-introducing yourself to unhealthy foods in the pursuit of creating a healthier lifestyle overall, you are stunting your progress. You don’t allow yourself to develop the healthy habits before you’re reverting back to old ones, as a reward no less! Aside from this, having a cheat day is not the most effective or efficient use of your body’s system of metabolism.
So, what can you do instead of rewarding yourself with food? Here are some suggestions:
- Every day you successfully fulfill your wellness plan, add money to a jar and at the end of the month, buy yourself a new outfit. (You might NEED to anyway, right?)
- Get a massage, pedicure, fresh line-up, or beard trim.
- Put aside money and purchase a personal training session or class you wouldn’t pay for otherwise. Your local healthcare provider probably offers biometric screenings as well.
- Get acupuncture, which can help your wellness goals.
- Arrange your schedule or work with your family to allow yourself a nap or hot bath with aromatherapy.
- Take a cooking class that teaches you how to make healthy food options.
- Buy a new piece of exercise equipment. Need a new yoga mat? Reward!
- Treat yourself to a movie at the theater (sans the greasy popcorn).
Next time you think about rewarding yourself with food because you feel you’ve “earned this,” take a minute to consider healthier alternatives. Write down your new rewards system so that you’re more likely to stick to it. Watch yourself feeling better and seeing more consistent health and wellness results!
This is a featured post by sister site partners E7 Health and US Drug Test Centers.
Photo: Getty Images