The “Cheat Day” Explained

You’ve most likely heard about “cheat days” (or “cheat meals”) before, but what exactly is a cheat day and what does it mean for your health and fitness routine?

Generally speaking, a cheat day is an entire day (cheat meal = one meal) where you are allowed to veer off-track from the regular fitness and healthy eating routine you may be on. To give you an idea of what this may look like, if you are following a Paleo-inspired diet then on cheat days, you may feel free to indulge a bit in grains and other off-limit items.

Although usually cheat days refer to meal-related cheating, it can also refer to your fitness routine. If you’re exercising 3-5 days per week with at least 2 rest days, for example, you can use a cheat day to choose to forgo your planned fitness routine and instead do something else and then pick up where you left off the following day.

Like most things in life, there are pros and cons to the cheat day, or cheat meal.


  • You have something to look forward to, light at the end of the tunnel knowing that in X days you’re allowed to give in a little bit to your favorite off-limits meal or time off from your fitness regimen.
  • It helps to avoid the bingeing that is more likely to happen when you completely give up something that you absolutely love. Are you a cookie monster? Giving up cookies completely may just lead to an end-of-the-week binge session when a friend brings a plate over of fresh-baked goods. Oops.
  • By indulging a bit, or allowing a day of grace from a scheduled workout session, may help you stick to a healthy lifestyle in the long-term versus becoming overwhelmed by all the “no’s” and “can’t haves” that make any healthy lifestyle seem impossible, or boring. 
  • It can lead to getting completely off-track, if you’re not careful. Indulging on a little bit is is key. Don’t eat an entire plate of cookies, you cookie monster. Give yourself a reasonable limit that will satisfy that sweet tooth and then allow you to move on without going overboard. Moderation is key.
  • If you’re on an extremely strict detox diet, for example, eating something that is off-limits may give you a really bad stomach ache or other adverse side effects that will leave you feeling sick and unhappy about your cheating decision.

A few tips to help keep you on track through cheat days and cheat meals:

  • Moderation is key. Don’t go overboard on your cheat day or cheat meal, just give into your indulgence only enough to satisfy and then get right back on track.
  • Talk to your California Family Fitness personal trainer about what cheat days would make the most sense for your lifestyle depending on what eating plan and fitness regimen you are on.
  • Give yourself some grace, not guilt. It’s ok to take a cheat day or cheat meal every now and then, don’t beat yourself up.
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