I never thought a well-known trainer would be pushing their clients to take part in cheat days.
However, I recently finished reading an article about Chris and Heidi Powell who were the celebrity trainers on Extreme Weight Loss. I didn’t initially know who they were which might surprise you, given my profession, but I didn’t watch the show. And after reading the article, I’m glad I didn’t, due in part to their philosophy on eating, but specifically their view of diet cheat days. It concerns me a great deal that viewers of the show are now applying this same philosophy to their lives.
It’s a short article (click here to read it), but by the time I was about 1/3 of the way through, I found myself rolling my eyes and shaking my head. My nostrils might have been flaring too. While I’m sure their Nielsen rating is high, the information they are sharing is disconcerting because I think viewers are going to blindly follow it and then wonder why they are gaining weight instead of losing it. This is how trainers get a bad rep!
Cheat Days – Where do I begin?
1 – The concept of REWARD DAYS.
The philosophy that you should stuff your face with food that isn’t good for you as a REWARD for working so hard in the gym and in the kitchen all week is not a good one. I don’t think teaching this to clients is in their best interest.
2 – Cheat DAYS. An entire day? To tell your clients that eating whatever they want over the course of 24 hours is not only acceptable, but encouraged, is a bad idea. They could easily eat 3000+ calories without realizing it.
3 – Then they start to confuse me. According to them, a cheat day is when a client can eat 1000 calories that is not on plan. That’s not a day. That is a meal.
Let me put this into perspective. What is 1000 calories?
Applebee’s Boneless Wings have 1030 calories or more, depending on the sauce or dressing you choose.
Longhorn Steakhouse’s Chili Cheese Fries – 1020 calories.
Olive Garden’s Spaghetti with Chicken Meatballs – 1010 calories.
P.F. Chang’s The Wall of Chocolate – 1540 calories.
4 – A little later, the Powells again try to define a cheat day. They say their clients are allowed to have “up to 1000 extra calories of whatever kind of food they want,” but they tell their clients they are not permitted to choose trigger foods for these 1000 calories. They define a trigger food as one that is usually high in calories, carbs, and sugar. Hmmm….either your client CAN eat whatever they want, or they CAN NOT eat whatever they want. Which is it?
What do I recommend to my clients? I believe in cheat meals, not cheat days. A cheat meal is for you to eat something that you’ve been craving while you have dutifully followed your meal plan. These generally are programmed to occur once a week and should be planned. It could be pizza, beer, blueberry muffins, whatever. If you want it, eat it. If your body has been in a calorie deficit for several days, then eating an occasional cheat meal, positively affects your metabolism which helps you from plateauing when trying to lose weight. It also helps you mentally by giving you a meal to target during the week when you may be tempted to go off plan. Your next meal gets you right back on track.
If you want to lose fat or build muscle, find a trainer whose philosophy marries up with yours, and one that you believe in. By doing so, your chances of success, both short-term and long-term will skyrocket!