I've never been one to divide my diet into "good" days and "deceptive" days. For me, food – even sweet, salty, greasy food – is one of life's greatest pleasures. Fighting back a bacon cheeseburger is my favorite method of dating, and I'm not ashamed to steal all Twix bars from my kids' Halloween candy.
In general, "cheating" is not my main language for food because my nutritional philosophy is to focus on a general pattern of nutritious choices.
Occasionally, however, this requires or at least prudently suggests my religious practice. I temporarily change what and when I eat. One such occasion is Lent. This year, I have committed myself to saving sweets and alcohol for a mindful victim in the 40 days leading up to Easter.
As a devout Catholic, I follow the "rule" that Sundays are no festive days technically part of Lent. Translation: I have a built-in cheat tag that sits at the beginning of each week.
I have not had a problem with this routine in the past, but in the last 12 months I've been more focused on my physical signs of hunger, fullness and cravings. When I grabbed the biscuits and the chardonnay one Sunday this year, something unexpected happened.
Even though I did not really want a cookie or a glass of wine, I knew that Sundays were my chance to have it. I thought I should wrap up all my indulgences at once or keep my peace forever. (OK, maybe not forever but at least for the next seven days.)
Forced by such a thing as conscientiousness, I went down cakes, chocolates, and cocktails every Sunday – and ended up regretting it.
Instead of condemning us for "cheating" with a piece of cake, it may be better to celebrate our enjoyment of it.
The whole experience made me think. Although I did not use them myself, fraudulent days seemed harmless when I advised others on weight issues.
We are all human, right? Can not we shake off the limits of a hard to follow diet and enjoy our favorite foods? Do not you give in to a desire one day a week to prevent a more serious mistake later on?
The more I thought about fraudulent days within an intuitive meal, the less I was sure they could be part of it. Here is the reason:
As I myself have experienced, a cheat day sets its own rules for food. On a fraudulent day, we can take a donut as a matter of urgency instead of simply doing so because a combination of fluffy cake and creamy glaze sounds amazing.
When the fleeting time window for enjoying treats closes quickly, it can spur a now-or-never mentality. The day of cheating can make us eat much more than we would like, or choose foods we do not really want.
Worse, it can trigger our brain's appetite (interest in food because we see it or know it's available) and may override the actual hunger (the physical need for food). This can lead us to a path of disordered eating.
"The concept of cheating days prepares people for a cycle of limitation and shame, rigidity, guilt and shame," says registered dietician Annie Goldsmith, RDN. LDN specializing in the treatment of eating disorders. "It sets up an external rule system that dictates when, what and how much we eat – the opposite of intuitive eating." After enjoying it, we tend to make moral statements about our food. Confessions like "I was naughty" or "I dropped out of the car" encourage the belief that enjoying food is a bad thing.
But eating food is one of the hallmarks of mindful and intuitive eating. Many experts believe that enjoying delicious flavors and pleasing textures helps us to consume the right amount – not too little and not too much.
Instead of condemning us for "cheating" with a piece of cake, perhaps it's the better way to celebrate our pleasures. That does not give us a license to peel a whole 9-inch lemon meringue pie. It simply allows us to appreciate our true feelings of delight in something delicious.
From then on we can continue eating without the weight of guilt.
The subtext about "cheating" implies how we eat On "normal" days it is a burden and we find more pleasure when we deviate from it. But eating well does not have to be all misery – and relying on fraudulent days is probably not helpful.
"I use the evidence-based model of intuitive eating as the foundation of my practice philosophy," says Goldsmith. "This means I help clients cultivate the permission to eat all foods whenever they want, without labeling them as wholesome or unhealthy."
Instead of voicing beliefs about food in terms of drudgery versus freedom , An Intuitive Dining Approach gives you the freedom to do your own decisions at any time.
While this may not be intuitive, Goldsmith generally helps people make nutritional choices that make them feel comfortable and ultimately beneficial to their health. Some research even supports the idea that planned cheating days could lead to better self-regulation and longer-term weight loss success.
If you are the type who is good with rules and feels like having a day off "Keeps you up to date, do what works for you.
However, it may be helpful about the language thinking of using them for pampering, you could try recreating it as a celebration of food rather than as an example of breaking the rules, and remember that what looks like "cheating" to you, may be a normal day for others – we're all on our own diet and health travels.
However, if cheat days do more harm than good to your psyche (and your eating habits), try a more generous, intuitive eating approach
This 10-Principle Philosophy Encourages Recognition The needs and desires of your body, as soon as they set, allow for physical evidence of what and when you are eating.
We can always determine what needs we have – physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually – and just ask ourselves, without judging what might nourish us best, "says Goldsmith. "Our body has the wisdom to lead us to what we really need and to promote holistic health."
Sarah Garone is a nutritionist, freelance writer and food blogger. Find her on A Love Letter to Food or follow her on Twitter .