How Cheat Days Hurt You
Last updated: April 2023
There is no doubt, one of the hardest parts of being diabetic is sticking to the proper diet, or even finding a diet that works for our bodies. Once we do find it, sticking with it can be just as challenging. I am envious of people who can stick to their diet every snack and meal of the day.
Type 2 diabetes and cheat days
For those that want or need to have a cheat day to keep sanity, and even help stay on track the other days of the week, I wondered how often a cheat day might be safe. I did a few calculations and tried to see how frequently a cheat meal can affect an A1C reading.
Calculating the impact of cheat days on blood sugar levels
There are a few limitations to this. The first is the A1C chart I used. There are a few different charts on the internet and I used the one my doctor uses for A1C. The second is, the calculation assumes you have consistent blood sugar every day and that each cheat day spikes your blood sugar the same amount. I had to pick some numbers and keep them consistent just to show the effects. What you should focus on is how frequently cheat days, based on these numbers, can hurt your A1C. More importantly, how quickly you can push your blood sugar into the danger zone where damage to your body can occur.
I used even A1C numbers as my baseline for these calculations. If your A1C was 6%, your average blood sugar is 125, and let's say a cheat day spikes that day's average blood sugar to 240, your A1C for that day would be 10%. Again, these numbers aren’t perfect but they focus on the average blood sugar as that is what causes damage and complications to your body.
Cheat meals once or twice a week
First, I calculated the impact if you had a cheat day twice a week. If you did, your average blood sugar would go from 125 to 158, very much in the danger zone, and your A1C would raise from 6% to 7.1%. Let’s say you followed what many people do, and have a weekly cheat day. Your average blood sugar could raise from 125 to 141 which is still touching the danger zone, which I have been taught is anything above 140. Working so hard for six days can be ruined by one day of cheating.
Cheat meals every 2 weeks to once a quarter
Once every two weeks would raise your sugar to 133 or an A1C of 6.3%. One cheat meal every three weeks could increase your sugars to 130 or an A1C of 6.2%. Once a month your sugars would average 128 or 6.1%, once every two months sugars would be 127 or 6.1%, and finally just once every three months, or once every A1C check, would be an average sugar of 126 or 6%.
Are cheat meals worth it?
As you can see, it is pretty easy to increase your overall A1C and blood sugar levels by having too many cheat days. Of course, it is not recommended to ever have a cheat meal and keep your blood sugars under control every day. Even a cheat meal once every three months puts your blood sugar at dangerous levels four times a year. While this may not do any permanent damage, if you are only cheating four times a year, what’s the point? Hopefully, this helps those who have frequent cheat meals to see how quickly it can add up and damage your body. Of course, always speak with your care team before making decisions on diet and cheat days. This is just a simple reference to show the dangers of cheat meals.
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