Today is my weigh-in day. I am happy to say that I am a loser. A loser because I am down 1.8lbs. I have now lost 15.8 lbs! Only 20 - 30 lbs left to go. A cake walk. An effing cake walk.
This got me thinking about the notion of cheat days. I typically don't give myself "cheat days" but rather prescribe to the dieting style of "zig zag" eating (or calorie cycling). The idea behind zig zagging is that over the course of a week you eat a different amount of calories each day. Some days you eat in your high end of the range, and then the next day you eat low, and the day after you eat in the mid range.....lather, rinse, repeat. So long as you stay within your healthy calorie range (which depends on your weight and activity level) it can be a pretty effective method for weight loss and breaking a plateau. The reason why is because you are keeping your body guessing. Basically, you are figuratively keeping your body on its toes. If you only eat a certain number of calories everyday, your metabolism will become adjusted to this (whether there is a calorie deficit or not). This is why many people who have followed a strict low calorie diet will eventually come to a plateau where weight loss stops. Using calorie cycling, you are tricking your metabolism. This may seem counterintuitive, but by calorie cycling - and eating more calories some days will actually rev up your metabolism. I don't actively calorie zig zag. I just naturally eat more on somedays than on others.
I feel like "cheat days" - which you allow yourself to consume whatever foods, and in any amounts you want - can be a risky game. To put it in perspective, how easy is it to just forget about working out if you haven't done it for awhile? Too easy.
Well, I think it is the same idea with cheat days. Let's face it, most of us who have entered into some form of weight loss program have done so because our previous lifestyles were detrimental to our health. Our food consumption was probably above and beyond what was necessary. So let's be honest with ourselves - cheat days are simply days in which you allow yourself to revert back to those bad habits you have worked so hard to break. You can't just bite one nail, without biting the rest off. For me, the same theory applies to dieting. If I allow myself one day to eat whatever I want (and perhaps more importantly, however much of it I want), it certainly would be more challenging to get back on the spinach leaf salad.
Here's where zig zagging and weekly weigh ins come into play. When you know there are days in which you can eat more calories, but still stay within a healthy range, you are more likely to commit to an overall weight loss program for the long term.
Take Wednesday par example:
It was my weigh in (and I lost 1.8lbs - but you already knew that). I know that this is the longest amount of time I have until my next weigh in. Therefore, I make sure that I eat the most amount of calories on this day. While the benefits of calorie cycling (zig-zagging) aren't scientifically documented, I personally feel it works well for me. It is a bit liberating to know that on Wednesdays I can "treat" myself to a 12 inch veggie sub...however, I still have it sans cheese, mayo or sub sauce (oh sub sauce...how I miss thee). I don't even miss the cheese. But by not having those toppings I take what used to be an 870 calorie "healthy" option to a reasonable and enjoyable 430 calories. I load it up with veggies and use mustard. Tres delicioso. Even with eating this "indulgence" I still remain with in my healthy calorie range to lose weight - just on the higher end.
While moderation is key, I do believe that there are some foods that need to be eliminated from your diet altogether. There is absolutley no reason why you should look forward to your bucket of fried chicken come a successful weigh in. Furthermore, any foods that contain any amount of trans fat should be avoided like the bubonic plague.
I am not the picture of perfection (only when it comes to my diet - for everything else, yes. Yes, I am). But I am certainly getting better. (I have limited myself to just 2 buckets of fried chicken a day!)