The way a warm pastry embraces your tastebuds with it’s loving arms. The way a milkshake perks up your emotions like a school crush. The way chocolate transcends into your very being as it melts away on your tongue. They might be bad, but they’re also so good! So how can someone imagine life without them? We all have our favorite junk food that makes unbearable – manageable, and manageable – great. Should we really have to give up our favorite foods to be healthy, or is there a way to get the best of both worlds (don’t dare accuse me of a Miley Cyrus reference!)?
As you can tell, this week we’re going to dive into everybody’s favorite part of dieting – cheat days. And this is totally apropos. Cheat days done wrong can be the end of a diet. Cheat days done right can be the reason you’re still dieting. Since cheat days are meant to liberate you, I’ll try to keep from making up a whole bunch of rules. But there are some excellent ideas on how to best enjoy your freedom, while not wasting all that hard work.
One thing I did want to bring out this week is that we’re all in this together. I love writing and giving all these suggestions, but I have to put in the work to follow them too. That’s why I want to introduce a new feature to my posts – the weekly update. This is my update on how I’ve done with my diet this week. Did I stay below calories? Did I avoid temptations? And of course, did I lose weight? Without further a do…
The Weekly Update:
I’m happy to report that I did stay on track this week! My goal is to eat 2000 calories or less every day(with the exception of my wonderful cheat day!). My other goal is to get 150g of protein a day( I know, it’s a lot). While I kept to my calorie limit, my protein intake fell short on a couple of days. So there’s room for improvement there. Now since we’re talking about cheat days, I’ll tell you about mine. Number-wise, I ate about 3500 calories. That’s a pretty normal number for me, and near my maintenance intake. Food-wise, I had baked spaghetti decked out in this tasty layer of cheese. Plus I had a ton of bread sticks(like, almost an embarrassing amount). Oh, and my grandfather had those truffle chocolates so….he has less of them now.
But all judgment comes down to the scale. It was disappointing to see that I only lost half a pound this week. With my caloric deficit, it should be two pounds a week. Recently, I have had a problem with water weight(yes, it’s a real thing!). You see, I’ll lose half a pound, or something like that. Then suddenly, I’ll drop four pounds one week. Since this is the first time in a couple weeks that my weight loss has tampered out, I’m going to attribute it to water weight. But if it doesn’t get better in a few weeks, that may be a sign that change is necessary. All right everyone, that’s my update for the week.
Let’s break down our topic today. There are some basic principles to cheat day that we can all keep in mind. I cannot emphasize enough: balance cheat day with your diet! You must have a deficit of 3500 calories to lose one pound. It’s that simple. So naturally, if you are only trying to lose one pound a week, and you eat 3500 calories over maintenance on cheat day, you won’t make any progress! Figure out how many calories you burn a day, and how many pounds you want to lose(we talked about this in my weight loss article). Use that number to plan your cheating. Obviously, if you’re only trying to lose one pound a week, you can’t afford to cheat like someone losing three pounds a week. On the flip side, since your diet is closer to what you would normally eat, it shouldn’t be as stressful as a stricter plan.
Down below, I’ve laid out a few common ways to splurge while dieting. Think about your goals, and decide what works for you. There are also a number of suggestions that we should all keep in mind for a successful diet.
- The Cheat Day. Probably the most basic(and the one I personally use), the cheat day simply means having a day where you eat whatever you want. It’s a nice thing, in a lot of ways. I save it for days when I go to visit my family, that way we can eat out and I don’t have to worry about counting calories. The downside, of course, is that it could set you too far back. The cheat day is generally the most-caloric splurge available.
- The Cheat Meal. Just like the cheat day, except you only have one unhealthy meal. For some, that may not be rewarding enough. However, if it works for you, it will generally not do as much damage as the cheat day.
- The Snacker. Personally, I’ve never employed this method. And that’s because I like to eat out and gorge every so often. With that said, this actually may be the best method for people who need a lot of reward. And it could even do the least damage of all the options. The snacker doesn’t have to wait a whole week to cheat. In fact, he may cheat every couple days. The key is, he’s not going way over his calorie limit for the day. Instead, he goes up a few hundred and has that donut, or sundae, or whatever. In the end, this can be just as effective as the other two methods, while possibly improving your motivation.
- Always see the big picture. Cheating is great. It really does help you get through the week. But remember, cheating is not the goal. That greasy pizza is not where you want to be. Your diet is all about you wanting to be healthy, and nothing (even a cheat day) should interfere with that. Stay focused on where you’re going, and view cheat days as an opportunity to take a break. Because if they become the thing your living for, what’s going to stop you from giving up on your diet altogether?
- Count your calories. Yes, it’s cheat day. But always, always count your calories! Why? Because we need to know how cheat day is impacting you. Facts are facts, and it’s a fact that cheat day is slowing down your weight loss. It’s just simple math. You’re eating more calories, and they don’t magically disappear on a certain day of the week. So know what your eating. If you stop seeing progress on the scale, it may be that cheat day needs to be adjusted to a cheat meal. Perhaps you need to not go so crazy going forward. But you’ll only be able to make those decisions if you have the calories in front of you to decide. (Always remember: 3500 kcal. less a week = 1 lb. lost).
- Don’t skip out on cheat day. Everyone diets differently, feels differently about their diet, and wants to lose weight at a different pace. But no matter what your diet is like, have these treats along the way. It doesn’t have to be excessive. Perhaps it’s just a cinnamon bun here or there, but have that special snack. After all, we love to eat. And if our life turns into never eating the things we enjoy, it starts to feel oppressive. Enjoy yourself, but stay balanced.
Hopefully, this article has helped you to know how to have an enjoyable cheat day without ruining your diet. Of course, these are generalizations. If you have a specific problem you would like help with, just shoot me an email or ask in the comment box below.
Next week, I want to talk about a real common diet technique – fasting. Many people believe in either not eating, or eating very low-calorie diets for days on end. Of course, the real question is: “can that be healthy?” The answer is definitely worth knowing for anyone trying to lose weight. Have a good week everyone, and keep working toward success!