Have You Ever Considered A Cheat Day?

I was talking to one of the trainers at my gym the other day, and he was telling me about something in fitness called a “cheat day.”

A cheat day is basically for people who are on some kind of diet, and the idea is that they can pick one day out of the week to ‘cheat’ and eat pretty much anything they want.

He told me that doing something like this has a lot of benefits not only psychologically but can be great for staying healthy.

It got me thinking. Could having something like a ‘cheat day’ be healthy for our own lives, and somehow improve them?

Applying Cheat Days Into Your Own Life

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I don’t feel like cheat days should be limited to just people who are on diets. I actually see a ton of value coming from something like this, and the best part is: we probably already have a cheat day set for ourselves.

But we can be better at it.

Take me for example, I like to be a little lazy on Sundays. I wake up a little later than normal, skip the gym, go out all day and try to catch some football with a big plate of hot wings later. Oh, and I generally do not work at all on Sundays.

Basically, I break all of my habits and routines I set for myself through the other 6 days of the week. Just for this one day.

And yes, something this crazy — something every “self-development guru” will swear against, helps me in a few different ways:

  • I get a break and switch things up on this day
  • I get to rest my mind and body more than I do on other days of the week
  • Gives me time to look back on what I accomplished over the past week
  • Helps me get mentally prepared for the start of the new week
  • It really does help me achieve my goals

It’s not that we create cheat days because we’re lazy, or so we can find excuses to not do what we’re supposed to. It’s to give us some time off from the regular routine and allow ourselves to break it, without feeling bad about it.

Kind of like a reward, to keep us sane. And just for one day.

You may think it’s crazy to want to break off from your regular habits. I couldn’t blame you for thinking that having a cheat day would help you develop bad habits more than good ones.

As long as you can discipline yourself and remain consistent throughout the week, you can easily learn how to apply a non-destructive cheat day into your week.

Here are some tips for doing just that:

1. The Day You Pick Is Important

You can’t have a cheat day without picking the right day. Try to pick a day where you don’t usually have too much going on. You’re off from work, you don’t have many comittments, and can easily have a more flexible schedule.

Sunday is pretty much dubbed as a “lazy day” (at least around here it is), but maybe that’s not for you. The only thing that matters about the day you pick is what works best for you. Whether it’s right in the middle of the week, or at the end.

2. Plan Some, Forget Some

On some cheat days, maybe you want to plan a party with some friends or plan a day trip somewhere. Then there are others, where you don’t necessarily have to make plans, but just “go with it.”

Sometimes, the only thing I end up planning is the cheat day itself, not what I’ll actually be doing on the cheat day. And that’s fine. Everyone loves a little advanture right?

3. Don’t Let it Dictate Your Whole Week

Having a cheat day is great, but it’s not something that you should ever live by.

If you find that you’re getting more excited by your cheat day than you are the other days of the week, then it may start interfering with those days. That’s when you know your cheat day is becoming destructive, and you need to consider limiting it or removing it for a while.

That, and you may need to reconsider what you’re doing on your non-cheat days because they should generally be more exciting and fulfilling.

4. Let it Set the Tone for Your Week

A successful cheat day, I feel, is one that will get you ready to take on the rest of the week. You’ll not only be more well-rested, but will have had time to enjoy life and all things you have in it.

That’s really the biggest thing I gain from these days: is that I can really look back and see all that I’ve accomplished and get a sense of pride. Naturally, it will just get you pumped up for the rest of your week.

5. Maybe, A Cheat Day Isn’t For You

We’re all different. Maybe you already have implemented a schedule into your life that you’re happy with. And that’s totally fine. I didn’t write this post to force you to change your routines, just to give you a perspective on something a little different.


What’s Your Cheat Day Look Like?

Think back through the last couple of weeks. Do you remember making any day your cheat day, and sort of breaking away from the norm? Maybe you’ve already established a cheat day, and I’d love to know how it has helped improve yourself. Share your thoughts, opinions and own routines in the comments below!

About the author: Alex Mangini is an 18-year-old web designer, blogger and founder of Life Notion. He has been helping people online since the age of 14, and hopes to inspire even more through the blog. Follow him on Twitter →

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Thomas Frank December 13, 2011 at 11:08 am

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The fact that you mention the health-based “cheat day” argument is interesting. I read the 4-Hour Body last year, and according to Mr. Ferriss’ research, having a cheat day for your diet can actually improve your results by giving you a metabolic reset. This basically prevents your body from adapting to the low-carb diet you’re doing so it can’t become fat-loss resistant. Plus, you get to eat mounds of donuts for a day :)

In my productive life, I’ve found that taking an entire day is too much unless I’ve got something really special planned. Usually, just taking a few hours to chill with my friends and play some Marvel vs. Capcom will give me the reset I need (yeah, I know that’s not really a “de-stressing” game, but it’s still awesome).

If I try to take a whole day, I’ll actually start to get really bored. Luckily, I tend to do my best work at night, so I can take the day to chill out before hitting it hard until the early morning hours.
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Alex Mangini December 13, 2011 at 12:21 pm

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I guess he sort of coined the phrase? Whenever I do research on ‘cheat days,’ I always find myself back at the 4 Hour Body. Which is awesome. :-D

But hey, whatever works for you. There are some times where I want to cut my cheat day short since I love what I do, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting a little more work done! Plus, I’m like you — easy to reset. All I need to do is eat or work out, and I’m set haha.

It’s weird — some days I’m better working in the day time and others at night. I guess it all depends on your mood man.

On that note, you me and Derek should try to get a work night together soon…and actually do it haha.

Thomas Frank December 13, 2011 at 7:30 pm

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For sure, man. I’ll be online tonight if you’re not doing anything. Maybe I’ll text Derek and see what he’s doing.
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Ray December 13, 2011 at 12:13 pm

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I love cheat days. I first heard of it from a personal trainer as well, and I immediately loved the concept. Much like you, Sunday’s been my cheat day for years. For me it’s the best day of the week to just relax and not think about the previous week or the upcoming week….especially during football season.

Alex Mangini December 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm

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I think it is an awesome concept. It’s so…devious but sometimes very much needed.

And dude, I don’t know what I’m going to do after football season. :-( NBA shouldn’t be too bad this season, even at the reduced games I guess.

Go Pats. :-D

Adrienne December 13, 2011 at 7:08 pm

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Hey Alex,

Never heard this term before but I’m familiar with splurging occasionally.

I’m actually kind of surprised that the personal trainers help people stay on their “diets” instead of instructing them that this should be a lifestyle change. I’m sure we all know that diets don’t work because people just revert back to their old lifestyles once they’ve lost the weight.

Personally, I don’t deprive myself of anything but I am cautious of what I eat all the time. So for me I don’t splurge everyday. Instead, I eat very healthy so that if I want something I eat it. It’s sticking to a better eating schedule that will help you maintain your weight.

As far as a “cheat day”, I usually slack off more on the weekends. Very seldom will I actually take the entire day as a slack day, maybe half of it. I usually still have some type of work I know I need to get done, I usually leave those days for extra tasks that are on my plate I don’t have time to do during the week. But I do try my best to at least take the afternoons off. We all need a break! :-)
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Sean Davis December 13, 2011 at 9:08 pm

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I think I cheat a little bit with the whole cheat day thing. I don’t really pick a certain day to cheat. I do it based on how I feel.

You can kind of tell when it’s time to step away and do whatever the hell you feel like doing. Honestly, I get there once every 4 or 5 days. But that might be because I work like 15 hour days online.

Maybe I’ll conduct an experiment to see if picking a certain day of the week and sticking to it will make things even better.
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Deeone December 14, 2011 at 6:53 pm

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Another great one here, Alex.

For me my “cheat day” is Saturday. It’s one of the two day’s that me and my significant other are able to enjoy one another’s company. I usually do the same thing it sounds like you do, which is little to nothing at all.

There are those times when we get out of the house and venture out into the city of Atlanta, but for the most part; we usually stay in and watch movies, talk, eat, and enjoy a completely “Lazy day”. Yeah, I usually play Bruno Mars, “Lazy Song” on Saturday, just so that I can fully get totally in lazy mode.

I’m with you… that one day does wonders! It brings clarity, clears up the fog of the week, and just allows everything that has happened over the week period to wash over me. I totally let go of any and everything on that day. At the very least, I may respond to a comment on the website, but emails, social media platforms, and anything else causing me to crack open the laptop; goes undone until Sunday morning.

To be completely honest with you though, there are times when I have to be made to close shop; especially when there’s something pressing that I need to get done. Those Saturday’s in particular are the worse! :D

Awesome post, Alex. :)
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KenWert December 15, 2011 at 11:27 am

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Such an interesting post, Alex.

Life can be like a pressure cooker where all the little stresses and challenges can start to mount and build pressure that can start to affect the way we interact with others, our moods, health or perception. Having something like a Cheat Day is a great way to let off some of that pressure, a sort of release valve. I use Friday nights to pop in a movie, grab a handful of chips or some ice cream and cuddle up on the couch with my wife. No blog. No calls. No email. No productivity. No guilt.

Thanks for this insightful post, Steve. I guess I do have a Cheat Day of sorts, just never connected the dots to see I was cheating! :)
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Claudia December 20, 2011 at 1:15 pm

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Hi Alex,
Well, I would say that, after looking around here, you are wise beyond your years…there are a LOT of adults that could really learn something from your wisdom. That said, cheat days ARE incredibly healthy, in my opinion. They rejuvenate, reinspire and aid in refocusing. Some of my best “ideas” come on days when I am “cheating” from my usual routine. Too much of anything is never a good idea and that definitely translates into too much of work as well. For me, a long hike with my dogs can turn my day and my focus around in a very short amount of time. Hopping in the car and finding a great place to do some photography takes me out of myself and allows me a vacation in my brain…a very important thing to do.
I am glad to have stopped by here Alex. I look forward to reading your “wise beyond your years” posts!
Claudia
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