Thanks for welcoming me back, I know it has been far too long. LOL
"Cheating" is the act of being dishonest or deceiving others. This word conjures up all sorts of images, cheating on a math quiz, fudging your taxes, counting cards. Needless to say, it does not breed positive thoughts. So I asked myself does, the same negative connotation with this word apply when I use it in regards to my eating.
Can cheating on your healthful choices when it comes to food be beneficial in the long run or even better-----fun? Or is it simply setting the stage for failure.
I think most ask this question out of desperation. They become exhausted from counting calories day in and day out. I hear people often say "I want a cheat day once a week, where I can eating anything that I want without worrying about counting calories!" But will this cheat day hurt my efforts in losing weight? In other examples some eat so "clean" that it is difficult to maintain it day in and day out. They feel they need this cheat day to maintain or keep them accountable to their strict "diet" days.
I think everyone of us would agree, that even though it has been documented to help us lose weight, that counting calories is a big pain in the butt. You have to read labels, measure portions, and keep track of so many details that food selection is constantly on your mind. Focusing so much on calories makes it easy to get into the trap of "good food" versus "bad food". You eat the good stuff so much that you fall off the wagon and over indulge on the bad stuff because you felt deprived. Our vocabularies and thoughts are consumed with the extremes: good foods vs bad foods, cheating vs being good, restricting vs over indulging. It is pretty easy to see why you would want to cheat with a system like this. But is cheating really the answer?
Scientifically speaking, cheating has not been studied enough to glean any clear cut answers on whether or not it works or not when trying to lose weight. However, the science of calories in vs calories out, and the psychological implications of counting calories and cutting them has been studied extensively. So let's explore what we do know and apply it to the idea of "Cheat Days."
Calories in vs. calories out is called the "golden rule of effective weight loss." To lose weight we must burn more calories than we consume. This seems so simple to me, but we all know it is not. Let's assume that you are cutting a total of 3,500 calories over the course of a week to lose one pound. Since one pound is equivalent to 3500 calories approximately. In this example your daily calorie intake would be 1,200 - 1,500 calories. Say you choose to eat right in the middle of your recommended range: 1,350 calories per day. How would an innocent cheat day effect your efforts?
- Scenario #1 - On your cheat day, you indulge in a few extra sweets or treats and take in 2,500 calories total. This brings your daily average to 1,514, which is still within your weight loss range. Therefore you should still lose weight for the week.
- Scenario #2 - On your cheat day you eat anything and everything that you have been craving - a fast food meal, potato chips, a milk shake and some buttery popcorn. You take in 4,000 calories. This brings your daily average to 1,729, which is over your weight loss calorie range. Therefore you will probably maintain your current weight for the week.
This simple example exhibits how a cheat day can derail your weight loss effort. If you eat with reckless abandon with no real plan, or calorie counting, as in scenario #2, you will stall your weight loss. But scenario #1 shows how an occasional higher calorie day can can still fit into a weight loss plan when it is properly planned and somewhat controlled. Planning for that little indulgence on occasion is easier than you might think. It uses the weight loss technique of calorie banking.
This works similarly as you checking account or debit card. If you plan to go to dinner and a movie on Sat, then you must conserve your funds during the week, so you will have enough in the bank to cover your outing on the weekend. Same goes for your calories. By eating at the lower end of your calorie range through the week you have a few more calories to spend on your night out on the town. This still requires planning on your part. This works because a single day of higher or lower calories will not break your weight loss efforts. It is the overall trend of weekly average of calories that effects changes in your body.
I have found something better than cheating: I have begun to embrace all foods, and not look at any as off limits.
If you feel the desire to "cheat on your diet" it may not be your fault. The "diet" or your view of how you "should" or need to eat to lose weight or be healthier is the real culprit. If you are being so restrictive, plain, boring, tedious, or perfect that you cannot stick with it forever, then you should try one of these ideas to help bring your eating habits back to normal:
Embrace all foods - remember not one food or food group causes weight gain. Weight is based on total calorie intake, not the restriction of certain foods, ingredients or food groups. All foods can fit into a healthy eating plan. We need to change our food language. Instead of thinking of good or bad food try this:
This food has a lot of calories, do I really want it right now? If the answer is yes, then follow it with "I will have it in moderation!!"
Instead of saying "I cheated" try saying "I ate more than I intended to, but that happens to everyone once in a while and I refuse to beat myself up over it!"
Instead of saying "I was bad" try saying "I ate more calories than I intended, but I am in control now!"
Slowly incorporate those bad foods into your eating plan. Start with small portions, never eat anything out of the bag. Use a bowl or cup. Make your snack last 15 minutes, and your meals at least 30. Make the food special by placing it on a plate and using utensils. Limit distractions, do not watch TV or use your computer.
Enjoy your "off limits" foods in the company of others. This can often help you keep from over indulging as you might do if alone. When you are out with companions order what you want not what you "should" have. Savor every bite and eat slowly. Stop eating when you feel the first signs of being full. Do not listen to your mom and "Clean your plate!"
I have a dear friend who quit smoking after 30 years, and I ran into him recently. I said Steve I hear you quit smoking, and he sternly looked at me and replied. "I did not quite smoking, as I am not a quitter. I simply chose not to smoke!"
What a powerful statement, that you can apply to your weight loss journey. You are not a "quitter" or a "cheater"! If you are feeling the desire to cheat, I strongly recommend that you examine your relationship with food, and whether you are actually taking steps to leave dieting behind forever, in favor of adopting a healthful eating plan that you can live with for life. To ditch the "diet mentality" can greatly reduce your stress, anxiety and obsession you have with food. This can help you avoid out of control binges that derail your weight loss efforts.
BOOBS 3.0 in 22 days I am so excited!