They're the days where you can eat anything you want but is it smart or sabotage?
When it comes to losing weight, most experts agree that what you put in your mouth is more important than how much you exercise.
So how come everyone is talking up blowout days, when you're allowed to ditch healthy salads and lean protein and go nuts in the chocolate aisle of your local supermarket? And are these days, when you can eat whatever you want, a help or a hindrance?
While some call them "cheat meals", dietitian Melanie McGrice (health-kick.com.au) prefers to call them "treat days". How do they work? "It depends on your goals, but if you eat healthily the majority of the time and exercise, then you can have around 1,500 kilojoules a week in treat foods. Some people prefer to have a little treat every day, like a square of chocolate or half a glass of wine with dinner. Others like to save it all up and have a treat day once a week. Personally, I'm a saving-it-all-up type. I'd rather eat healthily during the week and indulge in my favourite foods on the weekend."
It's all in the mind
Emily Brabon, co-founder of Original Bootcamp, has seen this concept work successfully with the eating program she designed to help her clients lose weight, which includes a cheat meal every two weeks. "A cheat meal is just whatever you feel like eating. For some, it could be pasta with garlic bread, and for others, junk food at the movies.
Everyone is different," explains Brabon. "Cheat meals are mainly psychological. If you aren't used to a strict eating plan, a cheat meal gives you the tastes and energy you need to stay on track."
Megan, 22, agrees. "The cheat meal kept me sane, knowing I'd earned it and it was completely guilt-free. I could enjoy my dinner outings or veg out and know that I hadn't spoiled all my hard work."
For Rachel, 30, this free pass made her realise how eating healthily had changed her cravings. "The weird thing is, when it came time for my cheat meal, I couldn't think of what I wanted. I was feeling so good that the thought of blowing out didn't appeal. By my third cheat meal, I could really taste the fattiness in certain foods that used to be my favourites."
How to do it right
Blowout days are not binge days. You can indulge in your favourite foods, but within a framework (for example, no more than 1,500kj-worth a week), so that you still reach your goal. McGrice recommends seeing a dietitian to find out what's best for you.
"Everyone likes eating treats. That's the reality. You don't have to cut a certain food out of your diet altogether," she says. "You can still lose weight and have treat foods!" Amen to that.