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How to Win at “Cheat Days”

By July 9, 2020Nutrition
Reading Time: 3 minutes
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There’s a concept in the diet and nutrition world that’s been around for a while (it probably came along the moment after the “diet” was invented)—the concept of the “cheat.” The “cheat meal” or “cheat day” is when you eat however you want, regardless of your diet’s prescriptions. It’s something that’s meant to be good for your soul rather than necessarily the best thing for your body.

While eating a healthy diet doesn’t necessarily mean eating foods we hate, it often means not eating our favorite indulgences as often as our pleasure centers would like us to. Including room for those indulgences and allowing the pressure release of some official time “off” can be the key to maintaining a healthy approach to nutrition in the long run.

Never allowing yourself to have any fun or entertainment with food can be a recipe not only for actual cheating, but potential failure to adhere to your long-term plans.

The Whole Life Challenge is a unique system for letting yourself get just enough of what you really want to allow you to stay committed to what you really need. By adhering to your nutrition rules for short periods of time, you earn the “right” to indulge in your favorite treats without “cheating” or losing any points in the game. We call them “indulgence” bonuses and they are a way to “have it all” by being accountable to your daily choices and actions—and we track it for you.

Think about it. The better you are at sticking to a plan, the more you should be able to confidently grant yourself some leeway. It would seem a bit unreasonable if as you got better and more committed you lost more latitude in your choices. The Whole Life Challenge recognizes that if you’re firmly committed 80–90% of the time, you can indulge in some eating-as-entertainment without worrying about suffering dire consequences.

Making indulgences work

The most important thing about your “indulgence” or “cheat” is that it is part of the plan. Whether you have an agreement with yourself to take every Saturday off, just Saturday night, or Sunday morning at the donut shop, it’s important that you stick to that agreement when other delicious opportunities arise.

The ethos of the cheat meal is that it is not an in-the-moment negotiation. If that were the case, there’d be little point to having a cheat plan. If we give ourselves the ability to negotiate every indulgence, we run the risk of justifying ourselves into them whenever they come up. The clarity of the plan offers the accountability we need to be confident about the indulgences we take.

While it can feel like we’re sacrificing something really important when some unexpected pleasure opportunity arises, we gain so much more in the long run from re-enforcing our strength of will than we do from the momentary indulgence. Those moments where we keep the promises we make to ourselves don’t just strengthen some will power “muscle,” they teach us what we’re capable of and they build trust that when we give ourselves our word, we’ll actually live up to it.

The Whole Life Challenge gives you the structure to be able to see and alter the patterns of food choices you make and holds you accountable to taking simple actions in other daily habits like exercise, stretching, hydration, sleep, and well-being—everything you need to live a healthy and well-balanced life.

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Michael Stanwyck
Michael Stanwyck is the co-founder of The Whole Life Challenge, an idea that developed during his seven years as a coach and gym manager at CrossFit Los Angeles.

He graduated from UCLA with a BA in philosophy as well as a degree from the Southern California School of Culinary Arts, and feels food is one of the most important parts of a life - it can nourish, heal, and bring people together.

Michael believes health and well-being are as much a state of mind as they are a state of the body, and when it comes to fitness, food, and life in general, he thinks slow is much better than fast (most of the time). Stopping regularly to examine things is the surest way to put down roots and grow.

He knows he will never be done with his own work, and believes the best thing you can do for your well-being starts with loving and working from what you’ve got right now.