Should Dancers Take a Cheat Day?: A Cool Take on a Hot Topic


Cheat Days. I remember the first time I heard the phrase in high school. It seemed like, all at once, every boy in school was getting into lifting and nutrition. I blame the wrestling team. I didn’t fully understand the concept of a cheat day back then. And, lately, I’ve been wondering if they are even good for us?


Should dancers be taking a “cheat day” each week?


Would that help us adhere to our nutrition plans?


In short, no. But as always at Dancers Who Lift, we are here to teach you the why.


Cheat Days Vs. Refeeds


To understand if cheat days are valuable, we first have to understand what they are and how they differ from refeeds. 


Refeeds are an intentionally planned day (or days) during which calorie intake is increased, but nutritional balance (carbs, fats, and proteins) are still front of mind. Refeeds help support  your body during a  period of eating in a deficit (reduced calories)  or to support the body for a pointedly challenging workout or performance.


Cheat days are set days within your nutrition plan where you can eat whatever you want with no tracking or mind to nutrition. 


Now, at first glance, a cheat day sounds awesome. In actuality, studies have shown that people who rely on cheat meals for food freedom are more likely to engage in binging, and other disordered eating behaviors and psychopathology. 


The healthier option is to build a healthy relationship for food. One where “good foods” and “bad foods” don’t exist and restriction is replaced with balance. 


Next, let’s talk about the word “Cheat.” 


Ask yourself, does this word have a good connotation or a bad one?


Generally, when we think of the word “cheat” it inherently means doing something dishonest or wrong. Therefore, whatever you might eat on a “cheat day” is inherently labeled as a “bad” or “indulgent” food. 


And let me say it loud and proud for you:



But more on that later!



personal training for dancers




Macros and Food Freedom

Okay, so the healthier option is a balanced diet that is sustainable. But what does sustainable look like when you are pursuing certain physical and physique goals?


Enter macros. 

Macros, or Macronutrients, are the main nutrients we need to survive:

Carbs, Fats, and Proteins. 


Learning how to balance these nutrients is the key to pursuing your goals while enjoying food freedom. 

Yes, at first you will have to track your macros. But what you’ll find is that you still will have plenty of room to enjoy your favorite foods in moderation. 

The best part? You won’t need to have a “cheat day” because you won’t need to “cheat.” You’ll be able to eat those foods whenever you want by simply budgeting them into your nutrition plan. 


Now, I know what you’re thinking, “But what about when those splurges don’t fit into my plan?” 


Well, I have great news for you. A meal, or two, or even three, “off your plan,” will not ruin your progress toward your goals. Especially if you’ve established healthy, balanced, eating habits prior to doing so.


Bonus? When certain foods are no longer “off limits except on my cheat day,” the need to consume them in massive amounts goes down. This is because you no longer have a scarcity mindset around these foods. This means you will naturally make more balanced decisions around these foods. 


Suddenly, you’re not having a cheat day or a cheat meal. You’re simply enjoying a nice meal.  


And sometimes, enjoying a high carb, high fat meal with a glass of wine and a good friend is exactly what your body needs to destress. That’s why, sometimes the healthy choice is saying no to the cookie, and other times, the healthy choice is saying yes. 

Now, when you do consume higher amounts of carbs, you might experience some bloating. However, this will go down when you return to your normal eating habits. 


The best part of macros is that tracking them teaches you about what your body needs. That way, you can eventually stop tracking and start listening to your body while utilizing the tools you learned from tracking your macros. 


What Does All This Mean?

This all means that no, dancers should not take a cheat day. And it’s not because dancer’s lives ar so strict they must adhere to their plan at all costs. It’s because dancers, eating in a way to fuel their bodies for performances don’t need to restrict themselves from their favorite foods. 


Studies have shown that people who assign “good and bad” values on food experience a great amount of food guilt. Furthermore, this food guilt is associated with a harder time achieving weight loss than those in the study who viewed the “bad foods” as celebratory.


So if you have the choice, why not celebrate your food? Why wait for a cheat day when you can eat pasta tonight and still reach your goals?


And listen, if this is all a bit overwhelming or if food tracking triggers disordered thoughts about food, we’d love to help you. Reach out to us at and ask about our Embodied Artist Academy or Body Mechanics programs. Each of them are designed to teach you how to train to reach your optimal fitness for performing as a dancer and they included not only personalized training, but nutritional guidance.


 So what are you waiting for? Find food freedom today and stop the cycle of dieting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *