“Do you believe in cheat days?” I was recently asked this question by a reader. He’d been encouraged to take a “cheat day” to eat whatever he wanted, and as much as he wanted, to better his metabolism.
I prefaced my response with two thoughts: First, if cheat days are working for you, and your blood tests are great, don’t change a thing. Second, consider questioning anything that is really appealing.
What do I mean by that?
Our minds are easily convinced of things we want to be convinced of.
There’s a story of an ice cream peddler who came upon a man giving a political speech. He joined the group of listeners. The speaker was saying, “Down with fascism! Down with communism!” The listeners were cheering and waving their hands. The ice cream peddler joined in their enthusiasm until he heard the man say, “Down with ice cream!” Hearing this, the peddler walked away.
Our minds are like this. We believe easily in the things we want to believe in. When there is something we don’t want to believe, we want more evidence in order to be convinced. For instance, it may not take strong evidence to convince you that eating a plate of pie is good. That would be an appealing belief! However, I’ve not seen strong evidence for it.
Many patients tell me of books they read, like THE 4-HOUR BODY, by Tim Ferriss. I’m a fan of Ferriss’ work and there is great information in the book. However, many have tried the cheat days he encourages and found that they lost a lot of momentum: They gained more weight on the cheat days than they could lose on the others.
For many of us, food is like an addiction, especially when it comes to sweets and certain types of junk food. Do you know these foods actually change your taste buds? If you’re eating clean, good food, your taste adapts, shifting your taste buds in helpful ways. Your cravings for unhealthy food ceases. If you start eating poorly again, your taste buds change, throwing you back into a cycle of food cravings.
You feel like you’re starting over again.
If you’re questioning whether cheat days are helpful, don’t do them. Instead, think more deeply and ask yourself, “Why are cheat days needed?” Many times, when we want or feel the need for more food, we’re actually experiencing cravings and not true hunger.