Why Cheat Days and Weekends are a Bad Idea

Most urban young professionals are pretty health conscious in an attempt not only to look our best (which requires more work than it did at 20) but also as part of an enriched, balanced lifestyle. We watch what we put into our bodies, food and drink alike. We do, however, like to indulge from time to time and there is nothing wrong with that – we don’t want to deprive ourselves, after all. Especially in the summer months, we notice many YPs making exceptions to their otherwise healthy lifestyle in the form of “cheat days” or (especially with cottage weekends) “cheat weekends.” In theory the concept seems great, however it usually does more harm than good…and here’s why: 

Potential for a Free-for-All Mentality
With some YPs who designate “cheat days” or “cheat weekends,” they see the possibilities as endless and develop a free-for-all mentality, which may mean excessive behavior like indulging in deep-fried, greasy or buttery food at every meal, and snacking in between on sweet and salty goods that deviate far from your typical almonds and apple. In terms of the YP who tries to moderate his or her alcohol consumption, and is dead sober with the exception of cheat days and weekends, the exception for the “cheat” may lend itself to excessive binge drinking – going from zero to hero in the booze department. For YPs in this category, the cheat time marks a polar contrast to their otherwise controlled and healthy lifestyle. 

You Will Feel the After-Effects
You will feel the effects the next day, or maybe even for a few days. If the cheat time involves drinking, you can bet you are not going to wake up your typical energized self and your hangover could be worse than in college. A cheat day or weekend of eating will result in you feeling sluggish, bloated and less energized.

You May Feel Guilty
That sluggish, bloated or less-than-productive hungover feeling may produce feelings of guilt and regret. Even if you make it into the gym the next day, the sight of your bloated tummy through your workout gear may cause you to mentally beat yourself up about all the snacks and high-calorie meals you indulged in. If you drank too much, you may rack your brain, inspired by that always-horrible feeling of wondering whether you said or did anything inappropriate. If you did (very possible), it makes the whole situation seem that much worse. You’ll likely be disappointed in yourself, succumbing to the mentality of “I was doing so well until…” 

It’s Not As “Balanced” As You Think
Cheat days and cheat weekends may seem like essential elements in “balanced living,” especially if you are living healthy, active and stone sober the rest of the time. A balanced lifestyle, however, is more effective if the indulgences don’t come in excessive bursts and sprouts. Balanced living may mean you enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, no matter what day it is, or a slice of that pizza at the office when your boss orders lunch for everyone, especially if the rest of your day is healthy. Rather than “balanced,” cheat days and weekends almost erratic and out of whack.

It Requires Less Self-Control
Cheat times actually require less self-control than peppering indulgences moderately into your life. The problem with many young professionals is that they can’t just have one glass of wine, scotch or cocktail at an event or at dinner. The same can be said for “just one cookie.” It is easier for many to decline altogether or to go all out.

Always mindful of our bodies, especially as we approach our late 20s and early 30s, we should come to realize that the key to successful living is all about balance. Of course, we will inevitably have nights of multiple cocktails here and there and days where, for some reason or another, we didn’t eat healthy at all. But it is better to stay away from cheat days and the subsequent “cheat mentality” that can lead to feeling worse, screwing up our routine and, in some cases, feeling like we have to start all over again.