The thing about cheat days is that the word cheat has negative connotations. It sounds like it’s a bad thing; like it’s something you shouldn’t be doing and that sends out the wrong message – especially to people who have problems with eating/disordered eating\an actual eating disorder.
But in the fitness game, a cheat day is merely a day you cheat on your diet, and a way to enable you to stick to your diet for the most part, but not completely cut out ‘bad foods,’ which, if eaten all the time, would hinder your progress.
Personally, I tend to have one cheat day/meal/snack a week. It differs from week to week: it may be chocolate, a meal out, or a day on the booze at the football. Some weeks I won’t feel the need to have any cheats, purely because I just don’t crave them anymore. I’ve been eating clean for a long time now, so my body doesn’t crave sugar or any ‘bad’ foods. It’s just the way I like it: some people do IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros – I will do a blog post about this if you’re thinking what is she going on about?!) and will fit chocolate and ice cream into their daily macros and that’s fine, but eating as clean as I can works for me and it’s something which my body responds well to.
Cheat meals also provide a balance which is the most important thing to remember. The problem with calorie restrictive diets which do not permit you to eat anything ‘bad,’ is that one day you end up caving and binging on all the things you’ve been avoiding.
But cheat meals allow you to balance your diet: it allows you to treat yourself to a nice meal, some (a lot of) chocolate, or a night out with copious amounts of alcohol, and then go back to your diet plan the next day. It omits the restrictive factor of your average diet, thereby giving you less chance of wanting to binge after weeks of resisting temptation. Balance is key to progress.