I have not read Tim Ferriss’ latest book, The Four-Hour Body, yet, but I heard him on an interview yesterday discussing nutrition and fitness. He follows a “ketogenic” diet, which is similar to paleo, but allows for legumes. One thing that stood out for me is that he believes in one “cheat day” every week- where you completely abandon the diet and eat anything you want, as much as you want, for the entire day.
Here’s my quick analysis on cheat days:
1. By implementing a cheat day, you are automatically saying that you are “on a diet”, and have not simply changed your eating lifestyle (or your psychology around food). “Going on a diet” means that you have to follow this diet, and it is very easy to get off track and “fall off the wagon”- which can mean forgetting about the whole thing, or going into a roller coaster phase of jumping on and off the wagon, and never gaining any traction on your quest for your ideal weight and health.
2. It is easier to eat “generally healthy” than to be super strict 6 days a week and junk it up on the 7th day. Tim Ferriss says he “has to have his chocolate eclairs”, so he eats one or two of them on his cheat day. The “have to have” mentality sounds to me like an addiction- and the other 6 days he is literally sacrificing and depriving himself. By changing your eating lifestyle and your psychology (as we explain how to do in our book Healthy Mind Fit Body), addictions like this will fall away. Does that mean you will never have an eclair or other indulgence ever? Nope! You can easily have the occasional dessert or sweet treat following the 80/20 (or 90/10) principle, and you will not be falling off the wagon or damaging yourself!
3. Health-wise, your body is used to a clean diet for 6 days and then you hammer it with junk. Does this sound like the healthiest way to treat yourself? Not to me! Also, your body will likely have a recovery period after your cheat day- especially if you are loading up on carbs (and alcohol as I’ve heard others mention!). I know that in following a paleo/low carb diet, my body doesn’t do well with a lot of carbs at once. Also my alcohol tolerance is pretty low. I can imagine if I had a “binge on alcohol” day at this point, I would be hurting pretty bad the next day or two! Beyond that, by eating carbs or sugar, you are lowering your immunity- and that can equal unwanted colds and flus, especially in the winter.
4. Some people can certainly handle cheat days, just like some people can lose weight on a low fat, high carb diet. But for others, it could be like shooting yourself in the foot in the attempt to achieve your fitness goals. I’d rather go with the sure thing- and that would be changing the way you view food from a psychological perspective, so that eating healthy becomes easy…and what you desire!