Friday, August 17, 2012
Man.... I have a real problem with this whole "Cheat Meal", or worse yet, "Cheat Day" concept.
First of all, could we please stop using the word "cheat"? Cheat makes it sound like if you don't over-indulge in foods that are horrible for you, you've failed your mission. Do you really want to cheat yourself out of your healthy eating plan?
Additionally, for someone who is a recovering binge eater (like me), it's an open invitation to gorge. I can easily do 3,000 or more calories worth of damage in the span of just an hour or two. It's really not that hard. (Proof: At Applebees, 1/2 order of onion rings- 645 calories, Riblets platter- 1700 calories, 1/2 Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae- 775 calories. Total: 3120 calories, even when I shared the appetizer and dessert. And I was drinking un-sweet tea!)
One pound of fat is approximately 3500 calories. If I managed to eat 500 calories less than my daily caloric intake for a week, that should add up to about a pound of weight loss that week (500x7 days in the week=3500 calories). Which would be great, except I pretty much packed all of those calories into the above Applebees meal.
And people wonder why they aren't losing weight with cheat meals.
If we move into a bigger meal, or (God forbid!) an entire cheat day, it's easy to see how weight gain could actually occur, despite eating well 6 days out of 7.
Look, I don't mean to be Negative Nancy about enjoying a treat every once in a while. But I think we need to rethink the way we view foods in regards to how we are going to live our life from here on out. It all really DOES make a difference over the long haul.
In David Greenwalt's book The Leanness Lifestyle (which I have frequently referred to as my Fitness Bible), he purposes a Splurge Meal. This is a much better thing to call it, IMHO. You are not going off the rails with cheating, you are planning an indulgence. And it is going to factor into your weekly caloric intake.
How do you make this work? Personally, during the rest of the week I'd shave another 100 calories off of each day. This gives me 600 calories more out of my diet I can "play" with for my Splurge meal. That's step 1.
Next, I'd cut back on my carbs the day of the planned splurge. I'm taking it out of carbs, because, let's face it: people don't usually splurge on turkey breast.
Here's how I'd put it into action:
I'd bring my regular morning oatmeal from 1/2 C dry measure (before cooking) to 1/4 C. That's 75 calories. I'd probably also skip my fruit for my mid-morning or after-workout snack and have just protein powder. There's another 80 or so calories, all from carbs. Lunch would be reduced by about a single portion of carbs, for about another 80 carb calories. So right there, I've got 235 calories in the bank. Add it to the 600 I managed to cut back on during the week, and I'm 835 calories ahead. Plus, I still have my regular dinner calories to factor in, which is normally about 500 for me. Add that to the 835 I already saved and now I'm at 1335. This I can do.
Now, it's time to plan (not haphazardly wing) that splurge.
Before I go to Applebees, I decide what it is I most want to splurge on. For me, it's the cookie Sundae, which I am going to split with my teen daughter (she's skinny).
Knowing this, I look up the nutritional information online before I ever leave the house. Then when I get to the restaurant I order, according to plan, the 9-ounce house sirloin (I'm hungry!) for 310 calories with the garlic mashed potatoes for 250 calories and the seasonal veggies for about 40 calories. That's 600 calories for a very decent dinner that is still a splurge over what I would normally eat.
Dessert is another 775 for 1/2 of that Cookie Sundae. I'm at 1375 calories, just 40 over my 1335. No big deal.
The trick immediately AFTER the splurge is to stick to the plan. If you are anything like me, you tend to go a bit off of the rails once a splurge has occurred. For me, this means I still have my protein shake before bed, even if I don't feel particularly hungry, just to get myself RIGHT BACK on track.
And what's important is that I did NOT cheat, and I have nothing to feel guilty for.
The closer you get to goal, the more important honesty with yourself and planning like this will be. Fat doesn't take a vacation, so please don't believe it isn't going to show up if you invite it by eating with abandon.
And for Pete's sake, stop calling it a Cheat Meal. At least, in front of me.