Balancing Out a Cheat Day

“Cheater, cheater pumpkin eater.” The old adage that cheaters never prosper may be out the door when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  But, the truth is you can be healthy and achieve weight management goals – even if you indulge in a cheat meal every now and then.   Tweet This!  The key to overcoming a departure from your dietary routine is to not make it an everyday habit.

Leave nothing to chance, plan and be intentional.

Many times, we fall prey to making an impulsive decision and then feel guilty after making a non-beneficial food choice.  If you decide to have one day (or meal) where you are not as strict with your dietary choices, be intentional and plan it!   Tweet This! Planning allows you to stay in control.

Let’s talk strategy.

Decide when and what you will eat.

Will it be at a friend’s birthday party or at a gathering after work on a Friday?  Are you going to enjoy those coveted hot wings while watching your favorite sports team play or a slice of your grandmother’s homemade pie?

Once you have a plan, stick to it. Adjust your calorie budget to account for the extra calories consumed during your indulgence.   Tweet This! But, hey, make sure you enjoy the moment of indulgence!

The premise of a cheat day is to splurge – not binge.   Tweet This! Splurging, or indulging in moderation, allows you to enjoy a delicious treat while maintaining a vision for optimal health and keeping your goals in sight. Binging is the act of indulging in something to excess.

Even on a cheat day, practice moderation. Moderation adds balance to your life as a whole and enhances your ability to practice restraint, which may give you a sense of accomplishment – even when deviating from your normal routine.

Keep your eye on the prize and reach your goals.

Write down your daily and weekly goals, or try using a weight management app for your phone or smart device. Several calorie-tracking apps offer options to help manage your energy consumption, water intake and physical activity throughout the day.

Think about your calorie target. Are you incorporating the right combination of complex carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats into your dietary routine to meet your weight management goals? Consuming the recommended amount of fluids each day can help tremendously.  Many times thirst can be mistaken for hunger.   Tweet This! Before eating a meal, try drinking a glass of water.

As you practice making healthy food choices, incorporate physical activity into your routine. Working out helps to deplete glycogen (complex sugars that your body stores for energy).  When you deplete glycogen, your body has to replenish it before storing excess calories as fat.  The more calories you burn, the more calories you earn – and eat!

Cheat meals can serve as powerful incentives.

Working hard deserves a little reward from time to time and may actually boost your metabolism!   Tweet This!  The human body is a very efficient machine.  When the body is in a constant state of calorie deficit, leptin decreases.  Leptin is a special hormone that regulates energy expenditure by suppressing food intake, which ultimately slows your metabolism. When you incorporate cheat days or calorie rich foods periodically into your dietary routine, your body increases leptin, which gives your metabolism a little boost.

As you enjoy your reward for a job well done, make certain that your cheat meal does not push past the point of satiety. Consume the indulgent food choices you desire, but try not to eat to a point that you become uncomfortable.  A cheat meal is only a temporary deviation from your normal routine and should not take away from your overall progress towards your weight management goals.

One day will not undermine your progress. If you have a dietary slip up, it is okay.  Rome was not built in a day.  Forgive yourself and look onward and upward.  A great way to bounce back from a cheat meal is to reduce your calorie intake in subsequent days.   Tweet This! The secret to managing weight is to monitor the amount of calories consumed versus the calories used.  When you consume more calories than your body can use, your body eventually stores the excess energy as glycogen and eventually as fat, which usually results in weight gain.

The reverse is also true. If you consume less calories, the body breaks down stored energy like glycogen and fat and uses them as fuel.  It is important not to reduce your calorie intake below the recommended amount per day as suggested by the Food and Drug Administration, which is approximately 1,500 and 2,000 calories for women and men, respectively.

To cheat or not to cheat, that is the question.

For some, cheat days have been shown to increase the likelihood of long-term success. For others, a cheat day may completely derail your efforts.  Incorporating a cheat day is a very personal decision, but it is great to know that a little indulgence does not have to be the end of your amazing efforts towards living a healthy lifestyle.  In fact, it may be beneficial! So stay consistent and allow yourself a little wriggle room to cheat in moderation.