Some diets and eating programmes recommend an eating ‘day off’ in which you can literally eat what you want. Why is this and is it benefi cial? – ELIZABETH
This is done more for psychological reasons than for physiological ones. Many people fi nd strict diets overwhelming and off-putting, especially when they think they have to keep it up for weeks, months or even a lifetime. With very stringent diets, people often give up before even trying or, if they do go slightly wrong, they are very quick to ’throw in the towel’. Going off and on diets can often be more detrimental to your weight and health.
Mentally knowing you only have to keep something up for six days and then looking forward to one day of relaxing, helps you maintain a diet. Dieting this way is often more successful because people are able to manage the diet, say for about 90% of the time as opposed to about 40% of the time when they keep going off and on it. A diet with one ‘cheat day’ a week may take a little longer to show results than one that is strictly adhered to seven days a week, but the long-term maintenance is more successful.
My opinion is that this type of diet can be beneficial, however the ’day off‘ should only comprise of one unhealthy meal/snack, and should not encompass the entire day! I personally try and teach people to eat healthily on a meal plan, taking the emphasis away from a ’diet‘. By doing this, people learn they can eat unhealthy foods whenever they feel like it, but always within reason and in balance. That way we avoid the ’all-or-nothing‘ attitude often associated with diets and binging.
Dietician at Sunninghill Medical Centre, Johannesburg. Member of Morningside Country Club with eight years running experience, including two finishes in the Two Oceans Marathon.