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Letting Go of the Cheat Day, and 3 Things Every Parent Must Know

One of my fellow RD’s, MaryAnn Tomovich Jacobsen, runs the blog Raise Healthy Eaters.  This blog is dedicated to providing credible nutrition advice to parents.  As a parent myself, I am focused on making sure I’m providing the best nutrition for my daughter.  A huge part of this is raising her to have a positive relationship with food and with herself. 

This week marks the beginning of MaryAnn’s new series:  Eating Disorder Prevention: 3 Things Every Parent Must Know.  The goal is to provide parents with the information we need to raise children who have a healthy relationship with food and their bodies.  I hope you will join me in reading along with this series and gain valuable information on raising a healthy eater.


This is week 9 of the 12 Weeks No Diets Series.

This week I wanted to talk about letting go of the cheat day.

There are thousands and thousands of diets out there that have a “cheat day”.  We are supposed to follow rigid guidelines all week and then have that one-day where we can eat whatever we want.  What this can do is eventually lead to an all out binge day (trust me, I’ve been there).  We feel we have to eat everything we can’t have during the week on that one-day.  This leads to a last supper mentality where we think to ourselves “tomorrow I’ll start over again”.  The problem is that this mentality can spread to days other than our “cheat day”.  If we go off our diet, it’s so easy to “just call it a cheat day”… which leads to a full on binge, which leads us back to the thinking “tomorrow I’ll start over again”.

Letting Go of the Cheat Day

Another common way of thinking is to eat healthy all week and “splurge” on the weekends.  I definitely went through a phase of thinking this way.  Don’t get me wrong… I enjoy a good splurge every now and again… it’s the quantity of the splurge that matters.  Eating healthy during the week and allowing ourselves to eat out more on the weekend is perfectly healthy, but what we need to watch is the amount of food we splurge on.  We still need to listen to our bodies, listen to our hunger, eat food we truly love, and stop eating when we’ve had enough.  Remember… it’s all about the portion sizes.   If it tastes so good you want to keep on eating, keep in mind that you can take the rest home to enjoy the next day. 

How to Splurge the Right Way

Be realistic in terms of the calorie content of your food.  I’m not going to encourage full on calorie counting, but think of calories in a very loose and realistic way. If we order a dish of fettuccine alfredo, we know that dish has upwards of 1,600 + calories.  Realistically, we do not need to be eating that much food.  Think about the bread, side salad, and wine we’ve already consumed prior to our dish arriving.  This can put us way over a 2,000-calorie dinner.  Have a game plan and assess the menu before you order.  If you really want the fettuccine, you can pass on the bread and/or wine, or, you can order it all and have a small taste of everything, but in reality, you’re not eating much food at all.  It’s the amount of food we eat that matters the most.

Never Deprive Yourself

If we let ourselves eat the foods we love whenever, we don’t need to have a designated day to enjoy them.  Eighty percent of your diet should be healthy, and 20% is whatever else you want (healthy or not).  As long as you are honoring your body, eating when you are truly physically hungry, and being mindful of your portion sizes, you can easily reach and maintain your healthy weight all while allowing yourself you daily “cheats”.

Don’t forget your workout of the week!

Click here for Jessica’s No More Resolutions Workout!

No More Resolutions will run for 12 weeks along with No Diets in the New Year

There are beginner, intermediate, and advanced workouts for everyone!

22 Responses

  1. Heather (Heather's Dish) said on March 2, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    i love this…you’re totally right, we shouldn’t deprive ourselves of anything unless it’s necessary for health purposes. food is such a blessing!

  2. Jessica @ How Sweet said on March 2, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    So true. It is hard to get out of the ‘splurge on the weekend’ mentality, but it is so much healthier to eat in moderation!

  3. Lu said on March 2, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    This was a great post. I love your tips, as always. I clicked the link to the other site and it is amazing to read all of the statistics. It has been a key for me to learn more about the intuitive eating aspects of food. I think it’s wonderful how you talk about that.

  4. MelissaNibbles said on March 2, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    When I did Body For Life, I ended up cutting out the allowed cheat day. It turned into an all day bingefest for me and I knew that wasn’t a healthy way to live. My boyfriend and I don’t go out to eat often so when we do I use that time to have an indulgent dish. It makes it that much more special. Otherwise, I just stick to eating the healthy foods I like.

  5. Kelly @ Healthy Living With Kelly said on March 2, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR POSTING THIS!!!! I can not tell you how many of my clients have “cheat days” and it just makes me cringe! There is NO reason to have a cheat day. EVER! Usually when people have a built in cheat day they go NUTS and eat far more than they ever would if they just allowed themselves small indulgences when they wanted them!

  6. eatingRD said on March 2, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    such great tips! It’s all about balance 🙂 Cheat days never worked for me either, just end up over doing it.

  7. Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday said on March 2, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    This is a great post!
    I’ve realized that a “cheat day” is not realistic for me. I do exactly what you said and binge– eating everything I craved all week long.

  8. Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said on March 2, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Thanks for the link for parents and EDs. I also agree with you about cheat days and 80% healthy, etc. Totally right on, great info!

  9. Emily (A Nutritionist Eats) said on March 2, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    I love the 80/20 ratio, that is how I generally eat (I think at least!!!)

  10. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman said on March 2, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    I totally agree about cheat days. If I allow myself to cheat, I go all out—and not in a good way. Instead, I just try to eat healthy all week long and allow myself splurges if they’re worth it. No need to cheat on weekends just for the sake of cheating.

  11. Nicole @ Making Good Choices said on March 2, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    I used to go with the splurge on the weekend and then i realized that the weekend is 3 out of 7 days (including Friday) and I couldn’t afford to splurge half the week. Now I try to do something once a week that I really really want to splurge on!

  12. Maryann @ Raise Healthy Eaters said on March 2, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    Thanks for ht mention. I really think there’s a lot we can do to raise childrento have a healthier relationship with food. I’ll be linking back here soon.

    In my twenties I used to eat “bad” on the weekend and “good” all week long. I felt so free to finally let go and eat the food I like all the time. To my surprise I ended up with that same ratio — about 80/20.

    Great post!

  13. lynn @ the actors diet said on March 2, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    i agree – gotta let go of the cheat day! i wrote a post about it transformed into a hardcore bingeing habit!

  14. The Candid RD said on March 2, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    I went to visit my friend in Chicago one year and her friend was doing Weight Watchers. We were at dinner and he friend was ordering TONS of food. I asked her why she was ordering all this “CRAP” ( I didn’t say it quite like that…) if she was on Weight Watchers. She said she saves her points all week so she can eat a ton on the weekends. AHHHH, that made me so sick. SO many people do this. I’m glad you brought the issue up, it’s important for people to know it’s not good to practice this type of “dieting”. Great post.

  15. katie said on March 2, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    i so agree about cheat day! people go CRAZY!! im so glad you posted about this. i feel like a terrible cheat day would cancel a GOOD 3 days!

  16. Stef said on March 2, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    AMEN! the “cheat day” was a hugeeee factor in my ED, and if there is one thing i can recommend to people is to never follow a diet, first of all, but also to never have “cheat days!” moderation is key, and we should all be entitled to treats–not cheats–often! such an important subject, thanks for sharing

  17. Nicole, RD said on March 2, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    I’ll have to check out MaryAnn’s blog — sounds great!

    I couldn’t agree more about the portions…even with a splurge! A little bit goes a long way when you slow down to enjoy it…or at least that’s what I find to be true 🙂

  18. Joanna Sutter (Fitness & Spice) said on March 3, 2010 at 8:24 am

    I’ve let go of cheat days and cheat meals. I eat clean 90% + of the time which has made me appreciate what I’m eating all the time anyway even more. I actually look forward to veggies and salmon!

  19. luvtoeat said on March 3, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Thank you so much for this post. Luv luv luv it! I totally agree with every said in the Never Deprive Yourself part. Allowing myself to a treat or two a day definitely works better for me than having a whole cheat day. Cheat day = disaster for me. Some people are able to do it but I know I would go into the deep end and never be able to get back.

  20. Sarena (The Non-Dairy Queen) said on March 3, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Oh thank you for saying that! I hate the splurge day. I have never followed that rule, but I know people who have. Seriously, why splurge on the weekend when you can have some cake in the middle of the week. It is all about balance. Just balance the good with the bad. Then you don’t have to deprive yourself only to splurge some other time!

  21. Jenn ( said on March 3, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    I lost a lot of weight while still including all out splurge days in my diet, but I toned them down some, and they’re not as planned anymore. I also indulged in small treats on regular days, too. I still have really big splurge days now and then, but it’s all about the balance. I agree that it’s important to not totally undo all of your progress from the rest of the week. Indulge but keep it in range. 🙂


  22. Danielle (Coffee Run) said on March 4, 2010 at 12:45 am

    I love your philosophy! I never really got “splurge days” either. I’ll splurge when I feel like splurging, ya know??

    I’m a very structured person (schedules, organization, etc.) but NOT when it comes to food. I think it being strict about your diet can lead to obsession