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5 Reasons A Diet Cheat Day Is Dangerous for Weight Loss and Health

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diet cheat day 5 Reasons A Diet Cheat Day Is Dangerous for Weight Loss and Health

Here’s the game plan for Dieting’s Glorious Cheat Day:

We go 6 days following a restrictive diet to perfection, then the bell rings to start the 7th day and we “feed” all we want from the minute we wake up until we need our stomach pumped. Even after that, if the clock hasn’t struck midnight we try to cram a little more fun food down our throat before our next “week of purity” begins.

Sound good? It gets better! The best part of this day of gluttony? We can actually lose more weight than dieting 7 days a week!

Awesome – what could possibly go wrong with this once a week binge strategy?

Plenty.

Here are 5 reasons a diet cheat day is flat-out dangerous both for your weight loss efforts and your health in general. Note that I originally wrote 10 reasons but the article got too long, so I had to pull 5 out. I’m confident you’ll get the point, but feel free to write me if you want the other 5 reasons, I’ll be happy to send them to you.

cheat meal1 5 Reasons A Diet Cheat Day Is Dangerous for Weight Loss and Health

1. No Moderation or Control on Cheat days Carries Far More Risk Than Benefits to Your Physical and Mental Health.

If we buy into the notion that any extreme behavior proven to offer a benefit is good without considering the risks, why stop at fat loss? Let’s improve our lives further by adding:

  • Alcohol or Drug Cheat Days –Indulging in your favorite drugs  or alcohol all day once a week. You’ll control your addiction 6 days a week!
  • Workout Cheat Days – Rest 6 days a week then work out all day for 1 day.   Less stress and no risk of injury 6 days a week!
  • Sleep Cheat Days – Stay awake 6 days then sleep 24 hours in a row.  Think of all you’ll get done!

These examples are far more extreme and risky than a huge once a week eating binge, right? Ummmmm,

Fatal outcome from extreme acute gastric dilation after an eating binge

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Jon Pearlstone, aka Mr. EET, is an International Fitness Consultant, Certified Personal Trainer and the Founder of the Eating and Exercise Timing (EET) Fitness Plan. EET is a diet and exercise plan that focuses on improving your metabolism through proper Eating, Activity and Exercise TIMING to match your body's natural metabolic cycle. EET allows you to eat without food restrictions or calorie counting, and to exercise less than 30 minutes per session, while achieving significant weight loss and improved fitness. The goal of EET is to end yo-yo dieting and short term exercise success by focusing on helping you build a sustainable plan for your lifestyle. This creates PERMANENT weight loss and fitness for people rather than the short term hype of "hot" plans like P90x or The Insanity Workout. Any questions can be sent to [email protected]
  • fitinthemiddle

    from the name
    itself. Cheating can do no good for anybody. It always harms, and its always
    dangerous.

  • http://belly-fat-loser.com/ Steve Faber

    While I understand where you’re coming from on eschewing a cheat day, I have had good luck using one over the years. I agree using Ferris’ “eat till you want to puke” evokes a bit too much aversion therapy for my liking. I prefer moderation.

    I lost 35 pounds of fat about 10 years ago, and at about 195lbs, have kept the weight off. Unfortunately, the same can not be said about the fat. Body composition’s a real bitch!

    I woke up a few weeks ago and realized that although I’d successfully kept off the weight for the last decade, my midsection would be more at home on the Michelin Man. I look like Belly Fat Bill.

    I am going to lose the fat again, and document the whole thing for posterity. Maybe I can motivate others, too.

    Yes, I am going to throw some cheat days in there, but I’m pretty sure it’ll turn out well in the end.

    One more thing…There is also some scientific evidence that eating a boat load of simple carbs every so often helps reset the hormone leptin, facilitating fat loss.

  • Amer Sarhan

    I don’t really agree with you, I’ve lost 15 K.G in three months using the Cheat day diet, I have my cheat day by the end of the week and I never ever cheat during the week because i know that i have a day to eat all the junk i want, but even on my free day i eat two cheat meals, and my diet continues after the second meal.

    My body is great now, and i have asked my coach as well.

    I do agree with you in one point only, cheat days are bad for you if you spend all the day eating like an animal, do not do it like you have never seen food before !!

  • saba

    I think you are wrong, when you are dieting you need a cheat day to look forward to for me my cheat day is always at the end of the week in which i reward my self with a bar of chocolate and a double choca mocha or maybe a chicken biryani and for me these treats get me through the week and stop me from cheating through the rest of the week and so far i have continued to lose weight

  • Kirin Olsen

    I lost 33lbs. On this very diet. The cheat days start off huge. We’re talking 3500-4000 calories that day. Over time though, the discipline you have been following in the previous 4-6 weeks starts to leak into your cheat day. Also, your stomach starts hurting if you keep eating that much so you may actually stop eating around 6PM.

  • http://www.kblocksdorf.com Katherine Blocksdorf

    I don’t normally respond to articles like this but I feel compelled in this case. Your first point and examples does not make sense. No one would argue that an all day alcohol or cheat day is acceptable. The dangers of using these substances, including binge drinking is well documented, as is Weekend Warrior syndrome. Numerous sleep studies have documented the effects of sleep deprivation. Really, would anyone even try to do this? These examples are pure hyperbole and if thought through, do not support your claim.

    The abstract to which you refer discusses a female who had previously been diagnosed as bulimic. If you read the conclusion to the abstract it states “Acute gastric dilatation is very uncommon” and such extreme complications ‘are rare’. This subject of this abstract is not someone who simply had a craving for pizza and fudge. And bulimia is not a diet issue—it is a mental health issue. The article does not actually support your point in any way.

    Your second point is unsubstantiated. This may be your opinion. But having an opinion does not make you right. My opinion is if a person is sitting down to a cheat day meal after substantial weight loss, it may actually be more motivational for those looking on. At least that’s what happened at my house.

    Your third point needs more research. Do you know with certainty that a cheat day is going to leave you wanting more? I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but after almost two years on the Slow Carb Diet I leave cheat day behind with gratitude, knowing that I will eat well all week, while planning a few treats for the next cheat day. Now, having lost the weight I wanted to, I can occasionally cheat throughout the week if there’s a very special occasion. I surprise myself frequently by saying no to sweets that I would formerly have scarfed down simply because I no longer have the desire for them. I actually care less about cheat day now, then when I started.

    Fourth Point—there is no diet out there that fully supports our lifestyles. Not one. They all require a change in our lifestyle. Each and every one, including one that requires careful timing of exercise and eating. And to your claim that you increase your risk of digestive disorders, I can tell you that since changing to the Slow Carb Diet along with a Cheat Day at the age of 48, my IBS symptoms are gone, arthritic symptoms are almost entirely gone and I have more energy—no more afternoon slumps. Again, this is only personal experience.

    Your reference to the information showing the incidences of digestive diseases only demonstrates that these diseases increase with age on a ‘normal’ North American diet. Perhaps if North Americans altered their typical grain/sugar/dairy based diet these statistics would be quite different? You’re suggesting that overloading your digestive and endocrine systems once a week is a problem, but I don’t see any data to substantiate this.

    Fifth Point-I’m not sure where you got the idea that a cheat day could trigger an eating disorder. Eating disorders have very little to do with food. They are mental health issues.

    If this article does anything, it demonstrates how words can be manipulated and why critical thinking skills are so essential.

  • anna

    i didn’t believe in the necessity of a cheat day. that was before my week-long :-) (triggered by pms but still) now i indulge on sundays. i think eating disorders are more often caused by Not having cheat days,,,

    • anna

      sorry, week-long binge

  • Blah

    This is all mental reasons why you shouldnt have a cheat day every week. I saw allow yourself a cheat day once a month but dont look soooooooo foward to it, train hard and eat right and youll be fine.

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  • meadeskelton1

    This is totally false. A “cheat day” doenst mean eat till you cant eat any more or eat the worst kinds of junk food til you drop. It means you can enjoy eating out at your favorite restaurant, having a cookie or dessert, or having a coke or sweet tea. You look forward to that one day when you can have something that you shouldnt have every day- its like a special occassion. You still eat healthy, you just allow to treat yourself. Its actually quite beneficial and makes eating “forbidden foods” in a way that makes you not crave them all the time, but look forward to a simple treat. A “cheat day” still requires calorie counting and making sure you get enoug protein, but allowing yourself to have something. The body can handle a small amount of junk food one day of the week. Its not that fragile. Its when we have our “cheat days’ every day, that it becomes a problem.

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  • MK

    The problem here is not the cheat day or adherence. The notion of Self control and discipline are also a myth. What it comes down to is choices. Either you consistantly eat that Junk food and become obese,diabetic,at risk of heart diseases or you make the healthy chices more often and live a disease free life. People complain too much now and forget that it all comes down to chices you make. I stay at 8% BF year round and I eat junk food now and again,knowing what will happen if I over indulge, CHIOCES!!

  • Skippy

    …But binge eating and cheat days aren’t the same thing at all. And why would the people who think that having a cheat day is part of their diet feel shame and/or guilt?

    Also, going to have to ask to see evidence on that ‘cheat days cause eating disorders’ thing. Sounds like pure rubbish to me.

    • Seanstr

      I agree, Skippy. My cheat days are used to avoid shame and guilt. They allow me to defer any cravings to my cheat day, so I only wait a handful of days instead of some kind of never.

      I, too, find this article painfully short on facts and evidence.

  • Ted

    This article is almost hyperbolic. The first “reason” includes scare tactics that not only have nothing to do with dieting, but are simply anecdotal and seemingly only there to cause an emotional response. Seeing that immediately put the rest of the article into question. Your case study involves a girl with a history of bulimia that resulted in needing treatment for her eating disorder. I’m sure I don’t have to explain that bulimia has plenty of medical risks, but I assure you, many dieters are not bulimic or anorexic. On a side note, the sarcastic “benefits” of a cheat day actually made me predisposed to disagree with the rest of the article. Whether or not you have more proof, the one thing I can be sure of is that you need to take a persuasive writing course.

  • Bob

    Wow.

    This is possibly the single worst article I have ever read.

    Drawing parallels with a “drug binge day” without any explanation and claiming bingeing will make you bulimic without a single bit of evidence is ridiculous.

    Must try harder

  • Shayla

    It depends on the person. I’m on Tim Ferriss’ diet, and I like the results I’ve seen so far. Except, instead of a cheat day, I have a cheat weekend. However, I don’t eat until I get sick… I didn’t do that before I changed my eating habits, and I’m not going to start now. You acknowledged that it’s only bad if you do it the way some people do it, which makes the title of this article misleading. I refuse to completely give up foods and drinks that I enjoy. It’s not happening, period. The key is moderation. Eat healthy food most of the time, but if you want to eat some ice cream every now and then, then do so. Life’s too short to totally avoid something you enjoy.

  • C

    This is the stupidest thing ever. According to you, it’s so unhealthy to have a cheat day once in a while that in no way should I eat cake and ice cream on my birthday. And Halloween? Forget it, you must sit there in front of your friends and resist all the Butterfingers and Twix you just collected! I don’t think so. Besides, who has a cheat day once a week? Every diet plan I’ve ever looked at says once every TWO weeks. Sorry to leave such an angry comment, but there is no way I’m sitting down on October 31st and ignoring a giant bag of candy, or watching all my friends eat my birthday cake while I sit there poking at a salad. But unlike you, I know how to do a cheat day right.

  • http://www.hivehealthmedia.com/diet-cheat-day-dangerous-weight-loss-health/ Jordan

    This article is hardcore. Anyone would agree that stuffing your face from the moment you wake up to the moment you sleep is unhealthy. I don’t mean that literally, but overeating the wrong kinds of food all day is obviously unhealthy. This “cheat day” isn’t a bad thing at all and in fact it is very good (raises your metabolism). We’re not talking about eating a bunch of greasy food. Just about 500-1000 calories more than the usual diet day. You need one day to get away from being a dieting robot and enjoy yourself. Dieting is a way to live, but don’t let it control your life. If you just diet every freaking day, you’ll burn out. If you allow one cheat day, I’m sure you can go through with the diet for the rest of your life and actually enjoy it!

    • http://[email protected] Mr. EET

      Jordan

      thanks for the comment — your moderate approach seems sensible (although completely unnecessary for weight loss and fitness from EET’s perspective where we can have moderate treats every day) but I wrote the post because of issues like this I mentioned above

      “In his new best-selling book The 4 hour Diet, author Tim Ferriss highly recommends cheat days to all interested dieters. Ferris says he eats all his vices on his cheat day until he’s sick and then has no desire for junk food the rest of the week. Question for Tim, what if you don’t want to experience the “pleasure” of eating your vices until you’re sick?”

      Not saying a cheat day can’t work long term (although MANY major studies say that it cannot–see EET’s Webinar Life Changing Weight Loss Studies (go to http://metabolicmemory.wordpress.com/) for details, but I am saying they can be dangerous in the way many people follow them.

      Thanks again for writing and good luck with your diet efforts!

      Jon
      EET Fitness

    • Ted

      I agree. I’ve never been prone to eating greasy food, but I’ve always been a big eater. It didn’t affect me until I got older. Now the cheat day allows me to have that extra helping of Indian take-out, go for seconds at Thanksgiving dinner, and let it all slosh around in my gut while I lie back and watch TV, guilt free. Having one day where you can have a BBQ, or not, go to a chili cookout, or not, go for a bike ride, or not; it’s the only way I’ve been able to keep pushing for so long.

  • Antony

    I’ve had cheat days as part of a successful fitness program for several years. For me, its nice to KNOW that I’ll have a day in the near future that I can let go and have some junk food. I don’t stuff my face, but knowing I’ll have cheat day, prevents me from daily cheating and motivates me to work hard during the week.

  • nathan

    what a lot of nonsensical rambling.

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  • http://www.watchmyweightloss.com Watch My Weight Loss

    Interesting post. I have had good success with cheat days in the past, but recently I have been struggling to control myself. Cheat days have been turning into weekends, and I have been thinking a lot more about what kinds of junk I ingest on a cheat day.

    I’ve decided to try going without for a while and see how things progress. I think for those who don’t have the control over their cravings to have just a small cheat, cheat days can definitely be dangerous.

  • Deric

    I appreciate your concern for the mental health of individuals that are trying to diet, but besides the POTENTIAL mental dangers of attempting to lose weight and maintain proper health, I would say that a cheat day isn’t necessarily a bad thing for people with certain body types. With that said, the typical person that I assume is being noted in this article is what we would call an endomorph, a person that has hips that are naturally wide etc. or what we call “obese” I don’t think that the same potential dangers would apply to someone whos got an athletic build or a thin frame, or in this case, a mesomorph and an ectomorph. With all 3 of these common body types, come many similiar and different reactions to a caloric deficit. All 3 will experience some sort of drop in leptin levels (a crucial fat-burning hormone) but all that can be fixed with a proper spike in the carbohydrate department. I think the most important thing to remember is that, depending on the body-type, a cheat day isn’t bad if you’ve had more calories in than out that week, if anything, it’ll provide as a metabolic shock and an insulin spike should occur, I hope this clears up some of the disagreements on this article.

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  • Andrew rahman

    This all seems very psychological. I’ve been on my diet with the cheat day for 19 weeks starting tomorrow and knowing that it is just a day to check off cravings instead of indulge until death us obvious. If you tell me that mathematically I can gain weight by strictly following a zig zag diet with a cheat day and working out 3-5 times a week for 45 mins maybe I’ll buy cheat days being bad…

    • http://www.eetfit.com Mr. EET

      Hey Andrew:

      Thanks for the comment. However, you really should be writing the comment to Timothy Ferriss and not me — it’s his 4 hour body book that states he likes to eat on his cheat day “until he feels sick”. And Ferriss is far from alone in this approach.

      I have many people who have joined EET Fitness after trying a cheat day diet with all kinds of problems coming from it (as noted I have 10 reasons and only listed 5 in this article) — it’s just not a sensible way to diet, and despite your nearly 5 month success which I applaud, the statistics on deprivation based diets (restricting your food choices 6 days a week is deprivation, i assume you agree with that) are horrible — a 95-98% failure rate over the first year, so is that worth the risk to even try it?

      Also, i look at it this way: Shouldn’t a sensible diet be safe for ANYONE to try? I work regularly with Diabetics — should they have a day of binging on anything they please to the point of feeling sick? I certainly would never recommend it–EVEN IF IT PRODUCED WEIGHT LOSS!

      Bottom line is no one has to die of a cheat day for them to be dangerous, and many people run into some fairly serious problems because of it. The fact that you can show self control and discipline on a cheat day AND stay on this sort of diet for 19 weeks puts you in the BIG minority of dieters to begin with–but, even then you cannot be counted as a true success story with a cheat day in my book till you reach one year successfully (and I sincerely hope you are as it seems to fit your lifestyle)– because if you are not on the plan after a year–does any of this really matter?

      Again thanks for reading and commenting — I am always interested in other’s views.

      Jon
      EET Fitness

      • Karen

        I have maintained a 100 pound weight loss since 1995 using a modified “cheat weekend” strategy. However, unbridled eating on the weekends or even for one day sounds like a recipe for disaster to me as well.

        Since the first of the year, I’ve been following an intermittent fasting regimen per leangains.com. Actually, my fasting is more 19/5 than 16/8 but I am a fit 53 year old female without body-builder goals.

        I’m really loving the intermittent fasting. I’m doing it mostly for maintenance, but it will be my lifestyle from here on out. I find that I am more alert during my fasting periods and really enjoy being able to eat real meals in my eating window. I tend to eat less than maintenance during the work week, then maintenance to a little above on weekends. I’ve lost a few pounds without really trying and it is so easy…

        As anyone who has maintained a large weight loss knows, the real battle is in maintenance. I just wanted to bring this up because it works great for me!

  • Rob

    I think that this is a great article and I agree with most of it. I myself have been on cheat days to some success, until I felt that food started to rule my life and I couldn’t wait for the six days to fly by so I can have another day of gluttony.

    Being disciplined all week takes a toll and I am currently experimenting with something more sustainable. Before I was extremely anal about my calorie intake throughout the week. Making sure that I never went over a certain number. And it was quite low in order to make up for that “beautiful” day. By the end of the week I had low energy and I was cranky as hell. The nights before the big day, I had trouble sleeping because I was so excited for tomorrow! You can’t tell me that this is normal! It was great for the first few months but I don’t want to live like that for the rest of my life! Even with all the benefits people claim cheat days have I don’t think it’s worth the mental burden.

    Again, I am currently trying something I feel is more sustainable. I’ve brought my daily calories up and I’ve given myself a treat, a healthy snack, to look forward to every night as opposed to waiting a whole week to enjoy food. So far, I feel that this is more natural. Isn’t that what eating should feel like? natural?

    I am a pretty damn fit guy. I maintain about 10% body fat. And I feel like in the long-term, cheat days will do a lot more damage than good. When I was starting to get in shape (I was probably at about 20% body fat) I just started to make healthier food choices and I wasn’t so occupied with how many calories I was consuming. I wasn’t counting calories or macros but I still got down to 10%. I was just eating sensibly. AND THEN I became obsessed. I started to count calories and made sure I never ate anything “bad”. Because of the restriction, the heavy cravings came and the cheat days began.

    I want something I can live with for the rest of my life. I want to eat to live and not live to eat. I think that a few smaller treats throughout the week as opposed to one giant day of overeating is a lot better in the long-run. In my experience, an extremely restrictive diet plan is bad for you. Just be sensible.

    • http://www.eetfit.com Mr. EET

      Rob

      Thanks for the comment – I wish I had the discipline you do to eat just a “healthy snack” every day or night — but I don’t have that kind of discipline or willpower.

      Fortunately, I do have a pretty good handle on eating and exercise timing (EET), so I have pretty much gotten away with murder for the last 3 years with all kinds of fun treats and high calorie days throughout the week while losing over 30 pounds and maintaining my weight below my high school weight (I’m 48 now) and seeing more muscle tone than I ever have.

      I wish I could find a sustainable reason to want to be more fit and get down to the 10% body fat you have — that’s really impressive — but, for now, it definitely works for me to just keep eating my properly timed donuts, pizza and ice cream, maintain my weight, and really enjoy my EETing. I’ll let you studs take care of the modeling and bodybuilding layouts :-)

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment. Maybe you should write the next article about the problem with cheat days!

      Jon
      EET Fitness

  • http://mattcromie.com Matt C

    Thanks for the helpful article I am currently doing the 4HB diet in the UK for the past 3 weeks.

    Having a cheat day could be dangerous for some but for me losing 13lbs by eating protein and slow carbs has been amazing. Not only has it made me lose fat but also my blood pressure and cholestrol has drastically lowered to a healthy zone.

    My cheat days do make me feel tired and my first cheat day I went mad eating all the things I miss. It was great to measure myself two days later and find I still lost 4lbs that week.

    Like all diets you just need to find one that works for you. I cannot see anything but positives for the 4HB diet for me personally.

  • http://fiftyfirmfit.blogspot.com/ Darvis Simms

    Balance and moderation has worked for me for over 30 years in maintaining my weight and fitness level. The key for me was finding a healthy eating plan that I could stick with for the long-term.

  • Sean

    Hey there I just read the article I understand of what you are saying in the dangers of excessive cheat days and how tempting it could be to just keep on stuffing yourself until the day is done. but I have also experienced as you keep on doing the cheat day that eventually the cravings you get starts to slow down and it almost seems like you naturally decrease your overall consumption of bad cheats and instead turn to more natural carbs etc. { considering if your on a low-carb resticted diet for 6 days out of the week}. The one thing though that I do caution with people of what I have experienced from doing a cheat day for one day is I am tired some of the day when I am doing it and it still even affects me the next day. Sometimes it was taking me two days just to get back on track from all the carbs etc. It just hits the body big big time that one day. So a word of caution go slow don’t just eat everything in sight even though it is your one day cheat day.

    Sean

    • http://www.eetfit.com Jon

      Sean

      Thanks for reading

      This is an excellent comment! I never said no one could succeed using a cheat day, I just wrote this to make sure people understand they are risky, and need to have some control and management. My plan EET Fitness has developed a way to include a “treat meal” EVERY DAY, and having tried the weekly cheat day and finding it almost impossible to sustain (as well as getting acid reflux in the process) felt it was worth covering this topic to help others.

      I wish more people like you would comment–it’s all about finding a plan you can succeed on long term and your chances of doing that using a no control binge oriented cheat day are very slim and carry a lot of risk as well.

      Thanks again for commenting–really appreciate it!

      Jon
      EET Fitness

  • Jessie

    :) At least you seem to really care about people. Wish there was more of that in the world.

  • http://www.eetfit.com/ Jon Pearlstone

    Jessie

    Thanks for reading and commenting. It’s helpful to see how others interpret things.

    I think clients who have experienced all of the above dangers (and more) constitutes evidence. I think a case study that shows at least ONE person has DIED from a binge is evidence (again no one mentions this when they say I provide not evidence — how is that not COMPELLING evidence?? What am I missing?

    Anyway, let me put the ball back in your court — tell me how this huge study below is not PROOF of reason #’s 2 and 3 and even 4 above.

    Let’s see how far apart we are in our definition of the word proof.

    Massive Research Review Concludes—Prescribing Weight Loss is Ineffective and Unethical
    http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/01/prweb4979324.htm

    • Jessie

      Odd. Your article does not address the comment that I critiqued even slightly. This is like claiming that a Blue Bird is yellow and showing me a canary for proof.

      True that the article and EET may coincide, but this has positively nothing to do with the fact that your “cheat day is risky” claim has no evidence to show for it in your article.

      Saying that 1 person… out of the whole world… died from bingeing is not the same thing as saying that 1 person died from a cheat-day diet. I understand that your response would probably be that such a person could have binged on their cheat day (but it doesn’t mean that they did), so I’ll address that.

      If you now state that 1 person died, it would be nice to know that you’re not making it up. Readers like citations because they can see for themselves. It helps them trust you.

      Most importantly, though, 1 person dying is correlative, not causal. Unfortunately, it just means that your claim “lacks teeth.” I’m not saying that it isn’t true. I don’t know that. And, frankly, I don’t care for the purposes of this discussion. The point is that if you’re going to say something like [blank] is risky or dangerous, you should have some evidence to go along with it… IN your article, not afterwards in the comments (and even so, as I explained, the article that you placed above is evidence of a completely different claim than the one at issue in this conversation).

      • http://www.eetfit.com/ Jon Pearlstone

        Jesse

        I certainly see your point(s)

        Good thing for me recent research is proving more and more of my anecdotal evidence as accurate.

        I’ll try to provide more evidence to the skeptical in future posts, but as you probably know, most people won’t read anything past a couple of paragraphs so I have to balance my key points with the level of detail I provide to support each point.

        Fortunately for me, I’ve been very lucky that most (if not all) of my claims about weight loss and fitness for the last 3 years seem to keep popping up with proof that is starting to sway even the most dubious skeptic. I have a lot of confidence this luck will continue.

        Thanks again for your comments. It does help me to become better at what I am trying to do!

  • Jessie

    I think your heart may be in the right place, meaning that you want people to approach weight loss in a healthy manner. I respect that.

    However, that does not take away from the notion that your claims are not backed by evidence. I’m not talking about abstract or emotional “evidence.” I’m talking about scientific evidence.

    You mentioned in your reply to someone else that you stand behind your article (which is cool; most people do stand behind their own stuff) in that it “proves” your claim that “the fact is [cheat-day diets] are far more risky than they are fun.”

    Well, the “risk” claim is what needs evidence. Your article does not have that. Therefore, as others have mentioned, your article fails to “prove” anything.

    Although you make some interesting comments and have some good thoughts and criticisms regarding cheat-day diets, these things do not constitute evidence.

    Your point, however, is well taken. People should be careful and approach their health in a positive fashion–both physically and psychologically.

    Take care.

  • http://www.fithuman.net/ Patrick

    The EODD diet plan (Every Other Day Diet) by Jon Benson is getting many attention lately. Even though it continues to be about for numerous a long time, it seems that this diet has become significantly a lot more common in recent months!

  • PJ

    I admire your caution against the dangers of binging, but this post really doesn’t address the science behind the Slow Carb diet. I’ve been doing this for five weeks now, with pretty great results. 21 pounds of fat lost, and 6 pounds of muscle gained coupled with 2 sessions per week of weight training, I’ve increased my strength more than I have in the past in similar time periods of weightlifting.

    I was a little skeptical of the cheat days, and I fear that Mr. Ferriss has done himself a disservice by encouraging people to eat two pizzas in a row just because you can. I’ve taken a more cautious approach. Instead of gourging myself, I enjoy a couple of bowls of ice cream and eat a burger and fries. I figure that adds an additional 2500 calories to my “cheat day” and still give me the satisfaction of a job well done during the week. The results speak for themselves as well.

    Anyway, I was hoping on reading something in this post about the problems of a cheat day except empty warnings that they’re “DANGEROUS,” but there’s not much of substance.

    Maybe I’m just more disciplined than most, who knows?

    • http://www.eetfit.com/ Jon Pearlstone

      PJ

      Thank you for your comment.

      The article is about the Diet Cheat Day, NOT the Slow Carb Diet. Diet cheat days are used in numerous diets, and I simply mentioned Tim Ferriss approach to cheat days because I see people raving about how “fun” cheat days can be, when the fact is they are far more risky than they are fun, which my article more than proves in my humble opinion.

      You are not the first commenter who has picked on my choice of the work “DANGEROUS”. This does not have to mean life threatening in order to be justified. Let me review why I said Cheat Days are DANGEROUS for WEIGHT LOSS and HEALTH.

      1) People have DIED binging — I’m sure it’s rare but it’s happened. That is a danger most other diets do not have.

      2) Many people have developed life long health problems while on cheat day diets (I’m one of them with Acid Reflux, but I work with others who now have chronic indigestion, irritiable bowel and chron’s disease they did not have before their cheat day diet) — That is a dangerous risk of a cheat day that is far less risk in other diets.

      3) Cheat days are very very hard to sustain — oh sure, you keep your cheat day, but most cannot stay on any diet where you are restricted 6 days a week for any length of time, When you fall off a diet cheat day, most people FALL HARD, because they have deprived and restricted themselves so much the other 6 days that their body overcompensates with additional cravings and a desire to store more fat to protect itself against any further deprivation.

      Far more so than someone on say weight watchers who are eating a more balanced level of nutrition each day so their body does not have as strong of a “knee jerk” reaction when the pattern is stopped. Even though weight watchers comes with its own share of problems, but that’s for another article!

      I saw no reason to provide case studies for this article (except for DYING which I did–why do you commenters keep ignoring that when you say cheat days shouldn’t be called Dangerous?).

      Anyone using a cheat day should acknowledge these above risks and more are clear dangers from a WEIGHT LOSS and health perspective.

      And, finally, while I congratulate you on your success for 5 weeks on your diet, most dieters lose a lot of weight from a sound diet plan for some period of weeks or even months. The problem with the slow carb diet, and all other conventional diets, even with a cheat day, is CAN YOU STAY ON THEM!

      The standard I use is to be on your diet after 1 year and at or below your goal weight. 98% of dieters fail at this standard. Adding a risky cheat day does not increase the success rate from all available research.

      As I told Rob above, I hope you are the exception and prove me completely wrong — I know how hard sustained weight loss is and I am a huge fan of people losing weight and keeping it off so if the cheat day ultimately works for you, that would be great!

      But if you are not so fortunate, and you gain all your lost weight back plus another 10 pounds, will you be writing back commenting on how great the slow carb diet is and how the cheat day helped you control yourself after you could no longer sustain the other 6 days?

      I only ask because that’s EXACTLY what happened to ME 12 years ago when I succeeded in losing 15 pounds on a protein power/cheat day diet for 6 WEEKS!

      Don’t forget I have 5 more reasons cheat days are dangerous too — maybe I’ll write a follow up article because dieters who have been using cheat days for such a short time clearly cannot see just how UNSUSTAINABLE cheat days are for nearly everyone. Starting a diet plan you can’t stay with for the LONG LONG TERM is dangerous enough–Cheat days dangers go much further and dieters should be very cautious of them.

  • Rob Stevens

    I fail to see any proof that a cheat day is “dangerous” as the article claims. You say it increases your risk of eating disorders … without a shred of evidence. Show me a study. Shame and guilt aren’t “dangerous”, and there’s no proof offered that either come with the slow-carb diet. Increasing the need for willpower and discipline is not a bad thing, in fact, it’s something most people could stand to build! “Can hurt health in the long term” is another accusation that doesn’t have any fact to back it up, aside from the suggestion that you might have health problems to begin with.

    I get that this was written from the viewpoint of a competing diet plan, and 4HB is getting a lot of positive buzz, but come on … at least have some facts to back up your assertions.

    The fact of the matter is this: BEING FAT IS HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH. Doctors say all the time that losing weight too fast isn’t healthy. NEITHER IS BEING FAT. Dieting well six days a week, and having a structured cheat day (it’s not as hog-wild as most suggest, if you do it as outlined in the book) is no more harmful than being obese.

    Let’s all get on the RIGHT side, promote people losing weight, and leave these schoolyard ad hominem attacks out of it.

    • http://www.eetfit.com Jon

      Rob

      Thanks for the note. We already discussed this on twitter but I wanted to reply for others who might read this.

      I have clients who have experienced all of the above dangers of a cheat day (except the DYING one thank god!) and that’s what I based my article on — real people with real experiences.

      I cite studies when I have them to support a position, but just as Bruce Lee said “Boards Don’t Hit Back” in my favorite scene of Enter the Dragon… I have adapted it to say

      Studies don’t create weight loss!

      Weight loss is about a variety of physical and mental aspects that are as diverse as each person’s personality. Studies simply cannot capture the real world element of weight loss, and should always be looked at very skeptically–just as you are looking at my article.

      If a good study was all it took to create weight loss – we would all be at our goal weights.

      But we have study after study after study after study — and where are we? WORSE THAN EVER BEFORE.

      So I’ll stand behind my article as 100% true and accurate proving that Cheat Days are DANGEROUS, and I’ll respect your opinion to disagree. But even if you could show me a study that shows cheat days are risk free, I know what’s going on in the real world, with real people.

      For me, that’s all I need to know.

      Thanks for writing and best of luck to you!

      Jon

  • Pingback: Diet Cheat Days – 5 Reasons they are Dangerous « The EET Fitness Plan: EET's Blog

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  • http://www.eetfit.com/ Jon Pearlstone

    Here’s an article I just found that just was published TODAY – very strange–anyhow– more info on cheat days that all should consider:

    http://www.thatsfit.com/2011/01/10/why-i-dont-believe-in-cheat-days/

  • http://mattjon332.wordpress.com/ Matt

    I am doing a cheat day in my current plan. So far it seems to be working for me, I am averaging about 5-6lbs lost per week in my first two weeks. I am not yet a “success story” but I think the cheat day is helping me stay on track. In the past totally avoiding everything bad for me only led to uncontrollable urges to eat the bad things, and only sampling them lead to repeat samples until I blew the diet. However now that I get a good fill of some items once a week, it really helps to keep that at bay because I don’t feel deprived.

    I included this for several reasons:

    1) I have cut calories by a lot, am eating pretty low carb, and I am still working out very hard. Having one day a week I can eat anything helps me recover and get ready for the next week. Not having this “body” break would mean I would most likely need to take a week off every 4 weeks. Having one day off a week should let me continue to stay in my diet for much longer before needing a break, which means I can reach my goals sooner.
    2) I see this day as a “diet break” where I can mentally let go of the stress of dieting and be more “normal”, I think this reduces my stress overall and stress reduction helps weight loss.
    3) I also see this as a metabolism booster, I am not entirely convinced this is necessary but I lean more towards it then not. Bodybuilders zig zag calories with good results, similar concept IMHO.
    4) I am really good at holding a schedule during the work week, but weekends are much more difficult. Having one day on the weekend where I get my fill of food makes the other one easy, and then I am back in line on Sunday instead of having two days of eating a lot of food.
    5) As much as I want to eat healthy 100% of the time, at this point in my life I don’t think I can eat healthy 100% of the time. However I can eat healthy for 85% of the time (6 days out of 7), to get to 100% or even 95% I think I will need to start cooking meals at home, which I am learning how to do I am just not that good at it yet.

    Now, there is some uniqueness to my dieting however. I follow Martins 16hr fasting protocol, so that leaves me 8hrs to eat. When you fast your stomach shrinks, when you reduce calories your stomach shrinks, by my “free” day my stomach is pretty small. I still eat quite a lot of food but I can’t eat too much at once or I start to get very full very fast, the amount is nowhere near what I could have eaten back when I was not dieting or fasting, so there is some built in regulation. And finally I also train martial arts on my free day for usually ~2.5hrs in the fasted (BCAA assisted) state, not a bad day for a large post workout meal.

    My intended path with my cheat day is that I will start to clean it up in terms of being more healthy as my weight loss starts to plateau and I start to need every advantage I can get, but it will remain to be a day I can eat the foods I don’t think are as great for me as a stress break. Instead of a fast food burger and fries I will start to eat a grass feed steak and a baked potato, and then later on maybe salmon and a salad for example. Still a lot of calories and a lot of food compared to my diet during the week, but generally more healthy.

    So in my situation I don’t think a cheat day is bad. For others in more standard diet and exercise program, an entire cheat day is too much I think as you can eat a lot of calories in 12-14hrs that can negate the entire week of weight loss. Having a single cheat meal once a week should not be bad though, if you keep everything in perspective.

    • http://www.eetfit.com/ Jon Pearlstone

      Matt

      Great to hear from you! Glad your new program is showing some initial signs of success, I know you’ve put a lot of thought and research into developing it.

      Just like everything else in life, risk can bring rewards and it’s certainly possible for a cheat day to produce great results in terms of weight loss (Martin Berkhan certainly proves that as does Timothy Ferris).

      People just need to go into it knowing it’s pretty darn risky and does not have a high sustainability rate for most dieters — and, you sound like you have an “exit strategy” to take it down to a cheat meal approach which you know EET is a big fan of (we have them every day!) so at least you are going in with your eyes open and a clear plan — hard to argue with that!

      As always, I wish you the best of luck in your weight loss and fitness efforts and you are welcome to write with questions or comments any time. Thanks again for writing

      Jon

    • http://www.jarretmorrow.com Jarret

      Matt, during September, Doug published the “6 Million Dollar Matt” post. When are we going to get an update on your transformation working with Doug?

      Are you the same Matt from that post? If not, sorry about the mix up.

      http://www.hivehealthmedia.com/6-million-dollar-matt/

      • http://mattjon332.wordpress.com/ Matt

        Jarret,

        Yep it’s the same Matt. We had planned to do a series based on several of Doug’s key concepts, but unfortunately I am not the best person to work with on these things. Last year work was extremely chaotic for me, and during that September/October time frame I was just not in any situation to take on a routine like we wanted, so you can blame me (or my work!) for that series not completing out.

        However the November time frame came around and I was ready to take on a new challenge as I knew was facing a physical test in December. I asked Doug if he could help me get an exercise routine going, and after I told him what I thought I needed to accomplish he came up with this workout:

        http://www.healthhabits.ca/2010/11/04/attempt-workout/

        It is a very tough workout series, but it was worth it as I was able to achieve the greatest overall improvements in my performance and strength of any workout series in my adult life. To give you an idea what this 5 weeks did for me:

        http://mattjon332.wordpress.com/2010/12/07/health-habits-workout-look-back/

        Summary:
        • I nearly maxed out my home gym equipment in terms of weight (maxed my deadlift weight, come close to maxing bowflex for row weight, maxed my select-tech dumbbells for military presses, maxed my tower200 weight on freaks).
        • Broke numerous personal records in strength and cardio performance
        • Increased my endurance/cardio conditioning to the point that I was able to walk into a totally different exercise and hang in there with those that had been working it for a long time (BJJ grappling).
        • Lost 11lbs during this series, but I have little doubt that I also put on some muscle
        • Feel great, like superhuman, compared to my starting point

        As you can see it was a very productive series. I was not even dieting during this but still lost weight and no doubt put on muscle, and when it came to my gauntlet night everyone was really surprised at my conditioning and power. I was the only one of 4 that could have kept going when we ended the sparring, I think the guys I was sparring were worn out and they all were getting breaks between sparring whereas it was almost continuous for me! It was great.

        I am still running these same types of workouts now, but geared towards fat loss and my restricted calories, but for example they are so effective that I am still gaining strength with just one power workout a week!

        Currently with my diet I am using a mix and match of several ideas to achieve my fat loss, but I would give credit to Doug for helping me get to this point where I am making it work. He has helped me with some of the hurdles with planning it, and I believe my end game – when I finally get to my “ideal” weight and I start to focus on performance – my diet will shift more towards some of the concepts of Doug’s I am not using.

        On a final note I owe Doug so much I can’t even state it without it sounding sappy, he has not only helped me to form (and continue to evolve) my core of ideas for training and diet, but he has been a great friend along the way as well. Any success I am having now or will have in the future can directly be linked back to him.

        So we didn’t get that exact series done, but it’s still ongoing in a matter of speaking.

  • http://www.eetfit.com/ Jon Pearlstone

    Susan

    Thanks for the feedback. I am a big advocate of the cheat MEAL and support the notion of increased eating to improve metabolism. This article specificially addresses the “binge” type of cheat DAY that has been getting a lot of attention but no one seems to want to talk about the risks.

    The fact someone has made millions off of a method is more of a negative than a positive imho. It’s the problem with the entire weight loss and fitness industry in fact — hot fads and new ideas with no accountability for successful sustained results.

    Show me the millions of people who have succeeded and sustained their weight loss with Joel Marions methods and I would be very interested. In any case I am very confident that controlled and managed cheat MEALS are a much better approach than cheat days — and that was one of the key points of this article.

    As for everyone being different–there’s no doubt about that–but writing that doesn’t offer any solutions to people who are looking for guidance–and not everyone can afford a personal trainer to take them step by step to the plan that best fits their needs–so I continue to try to write about the key elements of the hundreds of people I work with that seem to offer consistent, sustainable results over and over, and those that offer poor results with higher risk–like the no control cheat day.

    Again, always appreciate your feedback.

    Jon

    • Sahara

      I’ve read and followed both Joel’s Cheat to Lose and Tim’s 4 Hour Body. Most people find they don’t want to cheat on cheat day. They end up feeling sick, but there is no crazy bingeing involved.
      I think Tim, being a marketer more than anything else was trying to appeal to people that on one day a week, you can eat whatever you want. Once you get to that day though, you’ll find yourself craving fruit and the major bingers will attest to how awful they feel after their first cheat day. They take a much more moderate approach.
      It’s part behavior modification theory and part manipulation of leptin and insulin hormones.

  • http://workoutsforhome.com Susan@Home Workouts

    IDK, I think your reasons are pretty extreme. There are going to be those people who binge uncontrollably, but the cheat day was meant to naturally increase our leptin levels which is necessary for fat loss and which also declines after days of restriction and low carbs. The cheat day or cheat meal actually has scientific merit. Joel Marion has made millions off his Cheat Your Way Thin program and Xtreme Fat Loss plans.

    Maybe this diet method isn’t for every one. But what diet is? Or exercise program? Or pair of jeans? Or restaurant? Or method of learning? We are all different.