We’re all familiar with the term “cheat day”. You’ve been super healthy all week and it’s time to relax your strict regime and treat yourself to all the "bad" food you have been resisting.
It’s a pretty normal pattern. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a healthy one. And it’s certainly not something that should be reinforced.
So it is disappointing to see that a British retailer, New Look, deemed it appropriate to put the slogan “cheat day” on to a pyjama top, along with a cartoon picture of a slice of pizza.
New Look have insisted that the pyjamas are just a “tongue-in-cheek novelty item” (they are for women, not children) but the damaging message that they reinforce is nothing to joke about.
“It is reinforcing the idea that there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. Implying that pizza is part of a ‘cheat day’ implies that pizza is something that’s bad and you shouldn’t be having,” she explains.
Zoe notes that the concept is problematic because restricting food is a key risk factor for over eating or bingeing.
“People swing from being ‘good’ and being ‘bad’ and then often end up overeating,” she says.
The concept of a cheat day encourages people to overeat, which can leave them feeling physically uncomfortable. But on top of that, Zoe says that it can be emotionally damaging too.
“It leads to a cycle of guilt," she says.
Worse still, if we are ever to break away from the culture of “diets” we need to ensure that our children don’t inherit our warped ideas about food.
Zoe agrees, she says that kids start picking up on what their parents think about certain foods from a really early age. And the concept of “cheat day” is not something we want to pass on.
“It normalises diet culture – the idea that if we are good we can cheat,” she says.
“It’s something we need to move away from.”
And, if we are to move away from dieting culture then the last thing we need is “cheat day” pyjamas.