When I was a kid, I never thought about eating that piece of cake as cheating on my diet, because, well, I was a kid and kids should never have to actually count calories or diet. In my adulthood, as I tried to eat a little more healthy, I would still eat a bunch of garbage: ramen in college, pizza and cookies, flavored coffee with loads of sugar, fast food on my way home from work, etc. When I got really serious about my health about 2 years ago, I knocked all processed food, all added sugar, and all unhealthy food out of my diet for a good month or so. I was a rockstar when it came to sticking to my plan at first, ignoring the muffin at the team breakfast on Fridays, choosing only the healthiest option in the healthiest restaurant we could find. Then I started to slip. I’d have a snack size candy bar almost every day at school or I just wouldn’t log in MyFitnessPal a lil cheat that I had that day.
I also saw that I was plateauing with my weight loss around this time. Yes, weight loss does come down to calories in/calories out, but we also need to figure in the addictiveness of the sugar we eat, the fiber in the food we eat, and how satisfied our body is after we eat that food, because this will all either cause us to still feel hungry and want to eat more, or feel full. I had tried the Body for Life program back in college and I remember it having a full day devoted to eating the foods I wanted to eat, as long as the other 6 days I remained faithful to my diet. With the amount of weight I had already lost, I was pretty nervous to take on a full day of cheat meals. I didn’t want an ounce of that weight to come back on as I had worked so hard to keep it off. I did a little research (of which there is tons online, all giving different views making it hard to find one true answer, particularly with weight loss) and decided to have a “cheat meal” once per week. I would not cheat at all for the other meals of the week. If I was craving something before my cheat meal, I would just remind myself that for that one meal, I can eat whatever I wanted. From my research, I found out that by spiking my calorie intake once per week, my metabolism might notice the excess and rev up a bit more. Why not give it a try?
Yeah, it was pretty awesome, and still is. By having just one cheat meal in a week, I’m able to keep on track with my healthy eating the rest of the week, but still eat something I’m craving for that one meal. Also, it really made me think about what foods I actually wanted for my cheat meal. Heck, there were even weeks when I didn’t care what my cheat meal was. My husband and I will plan ahead (it’s all about the planning, yo) about where we want to go for my cheat meal. I get to choose whatever I want. If I want a burger, I’m having my burger. Sometimes we go out for ice cream afterwards even. It does, however, always come back to this: If I’m going to cheat on some food, it better be the best of the best food. If we go for ice cream, we go to the best ice cream place we know (psst…Sweet Cow on Old South Pearl St.). If I want pancakes, we go to Snooze for some amazing pineapple upside-down pancakes. If I’m going to calorie-bomb my cheat meal, it’s gotta taste worth it – no McDonald’s grossness.
I bet you’re wondering, “Aye! Jo! Is this wacky cheat meal you speak of actually working?” My reply to you is, well, it keeps me sane. I still get to occasionally have a food I crave, but it’s been a rad practice on self-control. As long as I remain at my 1600 calories the other 6 days a week, I keep gradually losing weight (GRADUALLY). If I have a work dinner or a planned night out or anything like that, I will make that my cheat meal so that I don’t end up having 3 different cheat meals a week. It gets sometimes tricky to maneuver. Also, it has helped me really appreciate the taste of good food. When we go out to a new restaurant, my husband and I are so picky. If the food is just “OK”, we won’t go back. BOOM! CHEAT MEAL.
In all honesty, this week I’ve been a little sneaky. I’m not going to go all Alicia Silverstone on you from “Clueless” (“I feel like such a heifer…5 peanut butter M&Ms and like 3 pieces of licorice”) and tell you what I cheated on. It wasn’t anything big, just maybe a piece of chocolate here and there, or half a cookie, or some processed white bread – nothing big, but I want to knock it out before it starts to snowball into me cheating every day. In the past, if I screwed up my diet, I’d use that as an excuse to just stop the diet altogether, like I was a failure. Not this time. I’ve come way too far. I’m never going back to my 240 lbs ever again. So tonight, we are planning a romantic dinner with maybe some steak and wine at a lovely (but not too expensive as we are cheap) restaurant, then some Sweet Cow ice cream, and a movie. It’s our weekly date night/cheat meal in one. I’m also planning on going to the gym after writing this blog to do 20 minutes of cardio and 40 minutes of full-body strength training circuits. This will help soften the blow of my calorie bomb meal. Something to note, with my cheat meal, because my body is now used to not eating as much food as I used to, I don’t gorge and overstuff myself. I no longer like the feeling of being grossly full. I eat until I’m content and satisfied. When we go for ice cream after, I don’t get a huge sundae, I get a one-scooper in a cake cone. Just because it’s my cheat meal, doesn’t mean I pig out. It just means I get to eat the foods I normally don’t eat. Even on cheat meals, I try to keep myself in check.
It’s like that old saying that I used to cringe at every time I heard it: “Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels”. Even though, I’m by no means thin, I kind of agree with this. Is my health really worth the convenience and comfort of a Burger King Chicken Sandwich (it used to be my kryptonite)? Is living a longer life worth a Pumpkin Spice Latte a couple times a week (whoa!)? No f-ing way! I just gave myself a wee pep talk there. Feels gooooood.
Thanks all for your continued support! Feel free to leave comments and share with others! My goal is to move my teaching towards family nutrition and healthy living within the next few years. Feedback and suggestions are always welcome! Happy Saturday!