My Thoughts On Diet And “Cheat Day” Shaming

Healthy eating

I’ve been putting off writing this post, to be honest. The idea to type down my thoughts on dieting came to me after seeing a string of retweets that were arguing that “cheat days” are stupid and that dieting is essentially wrong.

Sigh. When will people learn to let others live their lives?

To put across my point from the perspective of someone that has changed their diet for the better, and does occasionally have “cheat days”, I thought it would be good to give some context on my relationship with food.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a warped relationship with food. As a teen, I wasn’t really a fan of eating – it felt like a waste of time and I never really ate that much. I also hated eating in front of people, an issue that definitely doesn’t affect me any more!

As I got older, I started to get more of an appetite and eventually piled on the pounds. I’ve never been “fat”, but food became a much bigger part of my life – I would eat when I was sad, but equally to award myself with it for being happy. Chocolate was (and still is) my ultimate vice, but the unhappiness that crept in about my body was beginning to effect my life on a greater level.

I’d never really given much thought to diets in the traditional sense, and I’ve never tried a “fad” diet that cuts out any type of food completely, because I would cave in after about a day. Maybe less. Probably less. Plus, I don’t think they’re healthy, to be honest. But hey, that’s my opinion!

I later begun weighing up the possibility of joining Weight Watchers or Slimming World in late 2014. I ended up joining SW but had to leave after getting a bout of vertigo that had me out of work for a while. Of course, the comfort eating returned in full force.

To skip ahead to now, I am back on SW and one of the primary reasons I like it so much is that I have complete control. I’m a control freak, I won’t lie. I like to be able to have that level of power, and organisation that comes from being on SW.

Now, SW isn’t so much a diet as a lifestyle change. You can read about how it all works here, but for me the key message is everything in moderation. Good things like fruit and veg are “free” (so I can eat as much as I like), and other foods are measured. Recording my food intake every day might seem psychotic, but it means I know what I’ve eaten and how many “treats” I can allow myself without overindulging.

“Oh but you only live once!” I hear you cry – yes, you do. I want to know that in my lifetime I am looking after myself, am happy with my body and health in general. I have noticed that since I started SW, I have:

– Lost weight at a healthy speed
– Improved my immune system
– Felt less run down and stressed
– Had more energy
– Spent more time looking after my body at the gym

What’s more, after finding out that I am prone to vestibular migraines, I can now better manage the “triggers” by reducing my intake of foods such as chocolate, and better monitoring those triggers should the vertigo return.

So that’s really an overview of why I follow the “diet” that I follow – so what about those controversial “cheat days”?

When I have a cheat day, it isn’t because I “want time off” of “torturing myself”. I never feel like my healthy eating is torture – I’ve certainly loved finding short cuts to enjoy some more indulgent things using less sugar and fat.

My “cheat days” are few and far between, but when I do have them, it’s because I’m human. I want a day off of counting my “syns” or measuring food, but the best part is that I still don’t overindulge because I know how awful it feels when you binge, and how good it feels to stay on track. I usually “cheat” when having a meal out, and on special occasions. It actually helps to keep me on track by having the odd day of more indulgent cuisine ;).

TL;DR
I like moderating what I eat, and I equally like having some time off of that. However, I don’t judge people who don’t think the same way, I only judge those who keep their minds closed.

I’d love to know you thoughts on dieting and cheat days, so feel free to comment below!

Comments

  1. Sarah

    Yeah, I think there's a big difference between fad diets (which I completely 100% disagree with) and teaching yourself a healthier eating routine (which seems to be what Slimming World etc are all about). If you eat healthily most of the time, there's no harm in having something indulgent now and then and I guess that's what "cheat days" are supposed to teach you – there's room in a healthy diet for birthday cake and big meals out. I don't like the word "syns", though – too many connotations of food being a bad thing.

  2. Leanne Winters

    i feel ive tried to cut out foods in the past and tried eating healthier, but i find it difficult. unless you are obese or gain weight rapidly i dont think you should put pressure on yourself. Once more i think it boils down to if you are happy with yourself, if youre unhappy and its because you are bigger than you want to be i think you should go to a doctor or health professional for advice. Ive heard a lot of good things about slimming world 🙂

    I think cheat days are a strange concept, i dont think they should be called cheat days, but instead be called something like reward day or snack or whatever, because the word 'cheat' is quite negative.

    xx

  3. Amy Amynmore

    I don't know what the best way is for me. I eat because I'm bored, lazy or to fill the time that I should be out there living. I only hear great things about SW and it may be something I consider in the future. I think first and foremost routine is so important, I'm gradually getting one having gone from shift working seven days a week to working the standard Monday to Friday with weekend day off. One thing at a time! X

  4. Cat Fyson

    Absolutely agree Sarah! I think it's much healthier to allow yourself the occasional treat than to binge or to completely avoid. I guess everyone is different though.

    The "syns" name is meant to stand for "synergy" as it ties up the plan, but I agree it does have negative connotations! x

  5. Cat Fyson

    Definitely agree with you Leanne – it's up to the person to make that choice and how to do it, which is why I wrote this post after seeing retweets that were so strongly against what some choose to live their life by.

    I tend to alternate between calling them treat days and cheat days, I don't really think about is as a negative or that I'm actually cheating! x

  6. Cat Fyson

    I used to be the same with eating, especially the boredom thing. SW really is good, but I do know and understand it isn't for everyone. Worth giving a go if it's something you want to try out. Routine definitely helps. x

  7. duck in a dress

    I think Sarah above has nailed it, a good healthy approach to eating is the whole 'everything in moderation (including moderation)' line meaning that of course, it's absolutely fine to have cheat days. That's how I think about food anyway, I can have that slice of cake if I want, just not every day. To me, it sounds like you have perfectly normal and healthy approach to food! 🙂 xx

  8. Milly Youngman

    You seem to have the same approach to Slimming World as me! I've managed a great loss yet still had 'days off', where I'll have a meal without counting Syns. I feel that if I'm sticking to the plan the vast majority of the time and get right back to Food Optimising the day after a rare 'cheat', I'm happy.

    Before SW, I used to eat a bacon and ham croissant for breakfast, shop bought sandwiches for lunch, snack on crisps and chocolate, drink full sugar fizzy drinks and eat ready meals, huge pizzas and all kinds of rubbish for dinner, followed by a sugary dessert.

    Now, I'll have Weetabix and a banana for breakfast, something salad-y for lunch, fruit for snacks and only ever really drink sugar-free (still fizzy but eh) drinks. The huge change I've made to the way I eat the majority of the time is amazing, and now habit – so if I do have an evening off for a special occasion I'm not going to beat myself up about it. And like you said – when I do stop counting Syns, I naturally don't find myself overindulging as much as I would have done pre-SW.

    Sorry for the minor essay there – this post just definitely struck a chord with me!

    Milly // Mini Adventures

  9. Cat Fyson

    Hhah, thank you for leaving the essay! So glad you agree – I was really wound up that someone was essentially damning what works for others. Let 'em get on with it!

    I definitely agree about not overindulging – a cheat day to me is now what my every day was before I started SW (like, a whole easter egg instead of just a bit of it as a recent example!). I find it much, much easier to no longer beat myself up about my dietary habits.

    My breakky is usually fat free yoghurt with banana (so filling!), pasta or sandwich for lunch, and meat and a load of veg for dinner (maybe the occasional potatoes), with snacks being hi fi bars or fruit…and I'm pretty routine with it really! One of the things I love the most is finding out how to make healthier syn-friendly versions of things like pancakes!

    x

  10. Cat Fyson

    Thank you! Honestly, that last line is what came to my head first when I saw these cheat day-shamers on twitter. Cheat days *prevent* me from binging, so it's got to be a good thing! x

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