Cheat days. We all have them. It’s a relief from a stringent eating plan, recovery from a late night out or just a craving satisfied. Veering off the path of healthy eating for a day or two isn’t the end of the world. But make it a habit, and you could end up in a cycle of unhealthy food choices.
These days of indulgence can leave your body reeling. If you’ve been eschewing sugar, a sudden spike in your blood sugar levels after half a tub of ice cream will leave you feeling emotional, bloated and demotivated. This usually goes hand-in-hand with headaches and lethargy. And getting back onto whole foods the next day seems an even more daunting task than before.
The cure? Avoid cheat days altogether. Find ways to work healthy treats into your eating on a day to day basis, so you don’t end up bingeing. But if the cheat bug bites, here are some useful ways to detox and get back on track:
- Wake up with a detox tonic. Start the day with hot water with slices of lemon and fresh ginger. This tonic is soothing on the stomach, relieves indigestion and helps even out cravings for sweet and fatty foods. Follow up with a cup of green tea.
- Drink, drink, drink. Fill up a large water bottle and sip on it throughout the day. Not only will it help your body recover from excessive salt and sugar intake, the psychological effects of ‘flushing’ your digestive system can work wonders. If you struggle to drink water, try adding sliced cucumber, strawberries and mint to your bottle for a hint of flavouring.
- Get moving. Go for a 20 minute walk or a quick jog. Light exercise gets blood pumping and speeds up digestion. It also releases feel-good endorphins – an amazing pick-me-up if you’re feeling a little low after your cheat day. Better yet, try a yoga or pilates class – both exercises have been known to speed up digestion.
- Don’t skip meals. Although fasting might seem the answer to your post-binge woes, skipping meals does more harm than good to your metabolism. Eat small meals throughout the day to keep your metabolism going. Your binge might leave you feeling hungry the following day – manage this hunger with small, healthy snacks.
- Avoid sugar at all costs. If your cheat day has sparked a craving, try drinking herbal tea sweetened with a sugar alternative like Canderel Crunch granules with Stevia or Sucralose. These sweeteners have no effect on blood sugar, zero kilojoules and are low in carbohydrates. They’re also beneficial for managing high blood pressure – perfect for worry-free sweetness the day after a binge. Snacking on sugary foods will only perpetuate cravings.
- Go green. Fill up on vegetables. The fibre, vitamins and minerals will help your body recover and keep blood sugar levels stable. Dark green, cruciferous veggies are the best for detoxifying: broccoli, spinach, kale and cabbage.
- Get spicy. There are a number of naturally anti-inflammatory herbs and spices, so try working these into your meals for a week after your cheat day. They include cinnamon, turmeric, sage, cloves, rosemary and cayenne.
- Feel-good bubbles. At the end of the day, reward yourself with some me-time – a hot detox bath. Add Epsom Salts, lavender and tea-tree oil to your bath to draw toxins from the skin and get circulation going.
- Treat your body with sleep. The most effective, economical and natural way to recover from a bad day of eating is an early night and deep, uninterrupted sleep. Exercise and a cup of hot chamomile or peppermint tea will help you fall into a deep, restoring slumber.
- Plan ahead. Avoid another cheat day by planning your meals for the week ahead. Write down your exercise goals, write up a healthy, sugar-free eating plan and stock your fridge and pantry with all the foods you need to stay on track. No one’s perfect. Don’t beat yourself up. Give yourself a chance to recover, then get inspired to do better tomorrow, and the day after that.
Instead of depriving yourself of all things sweet and delicious – only to bounce back with a binge – try sugar alternatives that are low in kilojoules like Canderel Crunch granules with Stevia and Sucralose in your snacks. Work these treats into your eating plan on an ongoing basis to satisfy sweet cravings, without the guilt.