Archive for the tag - cheating

Turn “Cheat Days” in “Treat Days”…

Today’s guest post is by Davey Wavey’s good friend and spiritual weight release coach, Diane Petrella. Diane is also one of the contributors to The Davey Wavey Weight Loss Program.

4-hour-body-cheat-day-chocolate-fondant-e1330344637290I sometimes hear people say they eat a healthy diet most every day and then designate a “cheat” day to eat foods they normally avoid. If this applies to you, I really want you to reconsider this practice.

Why? Cheating suggests dishonesty and getting away with something you know is wrong. Losing weight permanently requires a consistent lifestyle change. It’s not a trial you’re enduring with cheat days to get you through. When you get rid of the “cheating” label, you free yourself from judgmental thinking that only sabotages you.

Create Balance with Treats (not Cheats)

As you intend to lose weight, you don’t need to cheat at anything because a healthy, balanced lifestyle allows for occasional sweets, French fries or pasta… if that’s what you want. If you choose to eat a piece of cake—or whatever food you desire—simply give yourself permission to do so as if it’s no big deal. Eating what you want mindfully and in moderation—any day of the week— keeps everything in balance.

Watch Your Words

Your words are powerful and define your actions. Cheating means to reward yourself for being dishonest. By designating a cheat day, you give those foods unhealthy power over you because you’re labeling them as wrong. This adds unnecessary guilt or shame. Even if you don’t feel this way on a conscious level, using the word cheat nevertheless erodes your integrity for empowered change.

Think about it…

Would you take a cheat day from wearing your seatbelt?
Would you take a cheat day from brushing your teeth??
Would you take a cheat day from taking your vitamins?

My point is that using the word “cheat”—and telling yourself your lifestyle change is something you need to take a break from—goes against everything you’re creating: healthy habits for not only losing weight but for life-long optimal physical and emotional well-being.

Normalize Special Occasions

You do have a life and there may be occasions that involve foods you especially enjoy and look forward to eating. For example, Aunt Sally’s white chocolate coconut cake at Easter or the Friday night pizza special at your favorite Italian restaurant. If you want these foods, eat them… and enjoy them. Instead of thinking you’re cheating, view them as special holiday treats you eat only occasionally or favorite restaurant dishes you order from time to time. Eating healthfully doesn’t mean you’re cheating when you eat the cake or pizza. The thing is to normalize these foods so they have a place in your nutritional plan while not feeling obsessed by them.

Regain your Power over Food

Along with the notion of cheat days comes the question of whether it’s best to avoid certain foods altogether. If certain foods trigger binge eating episodes, perhaps you need to make a decision to stop eating them. I know that may feel hard—or impossible—to do, but when certain foods hold that much power over you, you regain your own power by letting them go.

If your relationship with food feels addictive, you may have a hard time eating certain foods in moderation—and having a cheat day may make you continue to obsess about that food. Just as it’s best for someone trying to stop smoking not to have a cheat day to smoke a cigarette, or an alcoholic not to have a cheat day with a glass of wine, it’s in your best interest to avoid eating the trigger foods you know will set you up for out-of-control eating. To learn more, read breaking up with your trigger foods.

Give Yourself a Real Reward?

While a balanced life has room for occasional treats, consider giving yourself a reward that makes you feel great instead. Getting a massage, taking a walk in a place you love, or buying a luscious skin-care product usually feels better in the long run than risking an episode of overeating, or just feeling guilty or lousy after eating food that’s not healthy for you.

You’re doing your best to be healthy, feel good and enjoy your life. Why would you want to cheat on that?

Will you end the cheat days?

Good Form Versus More Weight?

Dear Davey,

As part of my leg routine, I perform squats. I know that in a traditional squat, I should squat down until my thighs are parallel to the floor. However, I can squat a lot more weight if I stop short of parallel. Is it more important to follow proper form with less resistance or to cheat a bit and use more resistance?


barbell-squat-weight-loss-muscle-31032011Hey Chris,

This is really an age-old question and one that a lot of people have.

I always stick with better form over more resistance for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, if you have good form, you’ll soon be able to add more resistance – and eventually you’ll reach (and surpass) the amount of weight with which you cheated. And you’ll do it all with good form which means better results.

Second, improper form can increase injury risk. Though stopping your squats short of parallel isn’t particularly dangerous, cheating on other exercises – like barbell bicep curls, for example – can be very dangerous. Too many exercisers throw out their backs or dislocate a shoulders due to improper form.

However, there was recently a study in The Journal of Strength Training & Conditioning on the very question you just asked. For the study, researchers recruited healthy but untrained participants and divided them into two groups. In one group, the exercisers stopped their squats at a 50 degree knee angle. In simpler terms, this group cheated. For the other group, exercisers performed full squats until they reached a knee angle of 90 degrees.

After evaluating the data, researchers did see muscle gains in both groups – but the largest differences were in strength. For the cheating group, strength gains were limited to a small range of motion. Moreover, for calculations of external torque, researchers found a 7% increase for participants in the 90 degree group versus external torque in the 50 degree group.

Based on the findings, researchers recommend proper form – even if it means less weight. And it’s a recommendation that I’m happy to endorse.


When it Comes to Fitness: Don’t Cut Corners.

I heard a great fitness quote today:

If you start cutting corners, you’ll end up going in circles.

A few weeks ago, we talked about how you can use an occasional cheat rep to break through a workout plateau. Used sparingly, cheat reps should only be employed to make an exercise harder – not easier.

Cutting corners, on the other hand, makes your workout less intense and, ultimately, less effective. For example, you might ease up on that last sprint interval. Or perform 6 repetitions of an exercise instead of 8. You might even skip a muscle group and leave the gym early. Indeed, cutting corners is easy to do.

We tell ourselves it won’t matter if we take it easy… just this once. And it’s true. The impact of any one workout is negligible. The problem is that it sets a bad precedent – and that when we lower the bar for ourselves, we put ourselves on a downward trajectory of reduced standards and reduced results.

To illustrate this point, let’s take a look at muscle mass. Muscle requires a tremendous amount of energy to maintain. Your body, by default, is programmed to be efficient with its energy expenditures, and so it won’t maintain or build unnecessary muscle mass. If you want to build additional muscle, you need to demonstrate to your body that your current muscle mass is insufficient for the tasks at hand. This is accomplished not by cutting corners, but rather by pushing yourself beyond your current limitations.

If you want to transform your body or your performance, you have to give it all that you’ve got. Literally. Push yourself. Push yourself. Push yourself.

Do Cheat Reps Work?

If you’ve spent any time around serious bodybuilders or powerlifters, you’ve probably heard the term cheat rep. A cheat rep occurs when, after muscle fatigue sets in, a lifter employs improper form to assist in the movement. This improper form often involves engaging additional muscles or using momentum.

Cheat reps can be performed to extend a set or to work against greater resistance. For example, you might perform two or three additional cheat reps to extend a set once your muscle have fatigued. Or, you might use a set of cheat reps to push yourself through a new, higher level of resistance.

Proper form is crucially important, especially for new exercisers. It helps guard against injury and sets you up on a pathway for success. Having said that, for seasoned exercisers, a little cheating may not always be a bad thing. Strict form makes it difficult to overload muscles and push through plateaus.

Here are my rules for the occasional cheat:

  1. Cheat reps should only be used to make an exercise harder – not easier. In other words, you shouldn’t cheat for an amount of weight that you can already lift or to complete a number of repetitions that you are already capable of completing.
  2. Cheat sparingly. Cheating should be the exception – not the backbone – of your workout regime. And it should only be used as a pathway to proper form. 95% of your workout should be performed with good, solid form.
  3. Consider your injury history.

    Dorian Yates (left) is known for his great form. Ronnie Coleman (right), on the other hand, built his body occasionally using momentum to break through plateaus.

    Because cheating increases the risk of injury, take your personal medical and injury history into consideration. If you have back issues, for example, don’t cheat on back exercises. Period. It’s not worth the risk.
  4. Consider the exercise. Some exercises are better suited for cheating than others. Using a little momentum to extend a set of dumbbell bicep curls, for example, could work. Lifting your butt and arching your back to get in an extra bench press rep, on the other hand, is too risky.
  5. If you’re new to lifting, stick to proper form. Newbies can experience great gains without resorting to cheating – and proper form builds a strong lifting foundation. Cheating should really only be used by seasoned lifters that are trying to break through a wall.
  6. If you have a training partner, use forced reps instead. Forced reps are a much safer alternative to cheat reps, but you’ll need the assistance of a spotter or training partner. The partner assists in the movement without compromising form.

For the vast majority of your workout, be in control; don’t twist, swing or use additional muscles to complete your reps or sets. However, every now and then, a little cheat can help to break through a plateau or to bring your workout to the next level.

It’s Called Balance – Not Cheating!

An equally delicious country boy special of a different sort.

Yesterday, before filming a BlogTV show with my friend Mike, we hit up one of the local diners. The menu was pretty much devoid of healthy options – and I decided to embrace it. I opted for the “Country Boy Special” complete with 2 eggs, 2 slices of toast, 2 strips of bacon, 2 sausages, 2 pancakes and home fries. I think it might more appropriately have been called the the “Coronary Carbohydrate Conundrum.”

As someone who generally eats healthy – and does my best to adhere to a lower carbohydrate nutrition plan – some might think that my indulgence was cheating. I hear people use that term all the time when talking about their diets. Every cupcake or milkshake or bacon cheeseburger is viewed as a deep betrayal. And while I understand where the idea comes from, I have to disagree.

When I eat something that’s unhealthy, I don’t look at it as cheating. For me, it’s balance.

And truth be told, when it comes to nutrition and fitness, no one individual choice has much of an impact. It’s the cumulative effect of many choices – made over and over again – that add up. Like going to the gym every other day for a year. Or eliminating ice cream as a dessert for six month. One “Country Boy Special” every now and again isn’t going to have much of a measurable impact.

Moreover, balance makes nutrition sustainable. If I had to go through life without ever eating a pancake, I’d be a very miserable and cranky human being. I don’t need a pancake every day, and when I do eat one, I don’t need to consume six. But a pancake every now and then – if that’s why you crave and enjoy – can be a very good thing. Especially if helps make your larger nutrition plan more sustainable, and helps keep you on track.

I refuse to feel guilt or shame about my eating choices and I encourage you to do the same. I think those negative emotions drag down our bodies and our spirits, and tend to backfire. I’m quite content with my “Country Boy Special” and the balance that it helped me strike.

Losing Weight with “Cheat Days”: Do They Work?

I’ve often heard people say that, when dieting, it’s good to have a “cheat day” or “binge day” where you can eat whatever you want. This helps to shock your metabolism.

I’m just wondering, do you have a cheat day? And if so, what types of things do you allow yourself to eat on those days? I don’t want to eat something that will ruin my progress entirely (I’ve lost 47lbs as of Monday when I last checked my weight!), but the idea of having a cheat day sounds great to me.


Brad, first off – congratulations on releasing 47 lbs of weight. I hope you’re enjoying the journey and delighting in the benefits of a healthier you!

For people unfamiliar with cheat days, the general concept is eating healthy 6 days of the week. On the 7th day, less-healthy choices are allowed. It’s not about eating everything in sight, but it is about maybe eating a piece of grandma’s famous fried chicken, or getting an order of fries with your sandwich.

To answer your question: I don’t have a cheat “day”, though I do something a bit similar. I follow the 80/20 rule. In a nutshell, the 80/20 rule is about eating healthy 80% of the time. During the 80%, I eat lean meats, berries, unsalted nuts, fruits, etc., etc. But every fifth meal falls into the 20% category. This is when I allow myself to “cheat”, though I prefer to call it balance. I don’t appreciate the guilt associated with the term “cheat” – it implies that you’re doing something wrong. At any rate, I’m not religious about practicing the 80/20 rule, but I do try to keep a mental note of the healthiness of recent meals.

I have read numerous articles and pieces of research that conclude cheat days do help boost metabolism, thus staving off weight-loss plateaus. And for a lot of people, cheat days give relief in an otherwise restrictive diet. So there can be some real benefits.

But I also think there’s a psychological downside to cheat days, and I don’t think they’re for everyone. I think cheat days can create a mentality of 6 days of suffering through dieting and 1 day of satisfaction. In actuality, eating healthy and satisfaction need not be mutually exclusive. Rather than focusing on what you can eat, I think it’s much wiser to focus on all the healthy, delicious and enjoyable options available. Moreover, by bringing attention to the way your body reacts to your food choices (healthy foods make the body feel good!), loading up on cheese fries starts to lose its appeal.

I hope that helps!

But what about you? Do you have a cheat day? Do you follow the 80/20 rule? Or do you eat healthy foods 24/7?