Here’s some good news from the diet front: You CAN have a cheat day. Paul Arciero is a professor of health and exercise science at Skidmore College. And he put the diet cheat day to the test.

He had volunteers stick to a diet for 12 weeks. And one day a week, they could eat whatever they wanted. Burgers, fries, pizza, burritos. And it worked. On average, the volunteers lost 11 pounds and reduced their calorie intake by nearly 30% overall – even with the cheat day added in. And about halfway through the study, most people didn’t even want a FULL cheat day. They reduced it to a cheat MEAL, because that satisfied their cravings. 

So why does having an all-you-can-eat cheat day help with weight loss? Because it tells your body, “I’m not starving. You don’t need to horde every calorie.” Professor Arciero is still testing his theory – doing more long-term studies, but here’s what he knows so far: Strict all-or-nothing diets are linked to overeating, anxiety, and rebound weight gain. That’s according to research from Brown University. People on a more flexible plan have more success. 

  • Also, when you’re cutting back on fat and carbohydrates it makes your hunger hormones go up – and your satiety hormones go down. So eating some fat and carbs once a week can help re-set those hormones. 

  • So what’s the best day to cheat? Any day, Monday through Thursday. But NOT a weekend day. Because that can turn into an entire cheat weekend. And if you’re only having a cheat meal – make it dinner. That way a cheat meal doesn’t turn into an entire cheat day. 

  • Lastly, have your cheat day or meal the day before your toughest workout. The extra calories will fuel your workout, making it more productive.