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What is the real deal about cheat days?

‘Cheat days’ ,as we call them, are days when we liberate ourselves from our health and fitness consciousness. We take a full day rest and just eat whatever our hearts’ desire. We ask Nick Jack, owner of No Regrets Personal Training, What is the real deal about cheat days? Is this a good reward system? Read his full answer below.

This is a great question and one I am confronted with all the time. Many people think that because I am a Personal Trainer I am 100% perfect with my health and fitness regime. I am human, and like everyone I make mistakes, and at times eat the wrong foods, do a crazy workout or exercise I would normally not recommend doing. I explain to them the difference between me and you is I have built up enough reserves in my system to cope with some stress from poor food, excessive exercise, going to bed late or whatever I decide to do. For over 80% of my day, week, month or year I am completely in harmony with my body by providing the optimal nutrition, movement, rest and repair necessary for me to live a healthy life. I will use the analogy of money to explain. I have saved up to buy an expensive car and go on a few holidays, whereas the person needing to lose weight does not have enough money to spend. Meaning they must be more strict with their nutrition and lifestyle habits until they have enough saved! However you must not become obsessed and try to be perfect.

The person who is 100% perfect all the time with their food I would argue is unhealthy! Sure their nutrition is great, however their obsessive relationship they have with food creates an unhealthy psychological approach to eating that in turn creates a social behaviour that will alienate them from relationships with other people. It is all about a finding a balance. Eating too much is equally as bad as not eating enough.

You see I have found that in order to be healthy you cannot ignore all of the necessary factors that affect the entire system. Nutrition is just one part of the puzzle. Exercise, reducing your stress and getting a good night sleep would be some of the others. To just have great food and never exercise does not make a healthy person. Just as exercising without eating good nutrition is pointless, as you will end up in the same place. You must have balance.

I like the 80/20 rule however I do also believe it needs to be adjusted depending on your current status. The more you need to change in terms of weight, injury, fitness, the more strict you need to be with your food. A cheat meal here or there will not break the bank as long as you get back on track straight away. A rule of thumb would be
1. 90% of the time for great results
2. 85% of the time when you have achieved results and stayed in shape for longer than 1 year.
3. 80% of the time for a person who has stayed in shape for longer than 2 years

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