By: Hannah Dentry ’17, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator
With over 1.2 millions posts to this Instagram hashtag, you have probably heard about the concept of cheat days. This is the day (once a week or once a month) that you allow yourself to “cheat” on your diet and feast on whatever indulgences you choose. I love that this idea celebrates our favorite foods. What I don’t love is the mindset that can result from it. Let’s take a bite out of this hashtag and learn how to incorporate your favorite treats in a healthy diet.
I see the point! Let’s not forget that fueling our bodies is not food’s only purpose; food also brings us enjoyment. When we try to deny ourselves of that enjoyment, we are destined for failure. That is why diets often fail. They are too restrictive and not sustainable for a lifetime.
Cheat Days have the potential to get a little out of hand. When we stick to a restrictive diet 6 days out of the week, we make it very easy to overeat fun foods on the seventh day. You may find that you are eating foods that you may not love, just because it is your cheat day and anything goes!
Enjoy the foods that you love throughout your week in moderation. In the nutrition world, we call this the 80-20 Rule: If 80% of the foods that you eat fulfill your nutrition needs, 20% of what you eat can be the fun foods that you love.
Instead of overindulging on your cheat day, we challenge you to try these techniques, from the authors of Intuitive Eating:
- Think about what you really want to eat. Do you actually want the doughnut because you like the taste, or because it is one of your forbidden foods?
- If the answer to question number 1 is “YES! I love the taste of doughnuts!” then enjoy but try a smaller portion, eating it slowly and thinking about how it tastes. If you hear that voice in your head asking for the other half, remind yourself of the 80-20 rule; that means fun foods have a happy home in your diet and you can enjoy that doughnut whenever you want. This may make it easier to practice restraint.
- Remember to honor your health and your hunger signals. Put the foods that meet your nutritional needs first! If having your fun food after you are already full will make you feel uncomfortably full, then it probably isn’t necessary to indulge in that today.
Remember “The Good?” Celebrating food enjoyment! There are plenty of additional hints to eating the foods you enjoy in a healthful way. Can you think of any hashtags that embrace an overall healthy diet? We would love to see your ideas in the comments below!
To learn more about maintaining a healthy weight while enjoying your favorite foods, reserve your session with a Nutrition Coach today by calling 301-314-5664 or emailing UHC-Nutrition@umd.edu.