STOP Cheating on Your Diet: How to Enjoy Food Without Sabotaging Your HealthApr 15, 2023
Cheat days and cheat meals:
If you search for ways to make a diet enjoyable online, you will quickly stumble upon them.
Some YouTubers get millions of clicks on their videos, eating meals with several thousand calories.
The idea behind cheat days is simple:
You indulge in your favorite foods without any limits for one day after sticking to a strict diet for a week.
If you think that this is a great strategy, I get you.
You want to get in shape, but you also want to enjoy your food.
Despite the popularity of these videos, however, it’s the worst approach you can take - for both of these goals.
In this newsletter, you will learn why “cheating” doesn’t work and how to enjoy food instead – even while you’re losing weight.
The 3 problems with cheat days:
Before we dive into how you can enjoy food, even if you’re trying to lose weight, we have to talk about why cheat days are terrible for you.
There are three ways how cheat days sabotage your goals and relationship with food:
1 – Destroying your calorie balance
If you want to get rid of body fat, you need a calorie deficit.
This doesn’t mean you have to count every calorie, but you need structure in your daily eating habits to maintain it.
Cheat days can easily sabotage this, without you even realizing:
A large pizza, dessert, and some calorie-dense drinks can quickly add up to 4000 calories, or even more - and that’s just one meal.
Source of image: https://www.macabolic.com.au/blog/2020/2/5/respect-average-weekly-calorie-intake-aim-for-the-logical-enjoyment-range-on-the-weekends
I’m not saying that you can never have these types of foods, but you have to account for them.
If you don't, it might ruin your calorie deficit for the entire week and as a result, your weight comes to a stand-still.
Or, you might even gain weight, despite sticking to your diet for the rest of the week.
2 – Extremes and unhealthy habits
Cheat-days create a cycle of deprivation and indulgence:
You eat “clean” for six days, only to splurge on the seventh and eat whatever comes in front of you.
These extremes can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and frustration because it’s hard to get back to a caloric deficit after splurging for an entire day.
You will likely experience massive food cravings after a cheat day, especially if you’re on a restrictive diet (which you shouldn’t do).
And even if you manage to get back on track after your cheat day, you might just be waiting for the next one, which damages your relationship towards food.
To get in shape long-term, you need to establish healthy and sustainable eating habits.
Cheating on your diets with no structure makes this impossible.
3 – Reinforcing unhealthy beliefs about food
The third and biggest problem with cheat days is that they reinforce the disempowering belief that you need to "cheat" on your diet to enjoy it.
A common belief, which you might hold as well, is that you can either have results and be fit or enjoy your foods.
As a result, you might start to resent the process of getting in shape because enjoying great food is an important part of life.
This is one of the main reasons why 92% of those who do restrictive diets regain their weight, and many of them pack on more compared to when they started.
The reality is that this belief is straight up bullshit.
Enjoyment is one of the three pillars of ANY well-designed diet.
Without that, it won’t work (which, unfortunately, applies to 90% of popular fad diets).
If I could give you one thing with this newsletter, it would be to erase this limiting belief.
You CAN enjoy food, even while you’re losing weight, and in the next section, I will show you how.
How to enjoy food, even while losing weight
The first step is to realize why you eat certain types of foods.
While you might think it's because you love them, that's probably not true.
Researchers found that there are 15 reasons why people eat certain foods, with taste being only one of them.
Other reasons include:
- To indulge or reward oneself
- Because something is quick and easy
- Because you are sad, frustrated, or lonely
- Because something is trendy or others like it
- Because it would be impolite to not eat something
- What you are accustomed to or familiar with eating
- Spending time with others or to make social gatherings comfortable
There are many other factors besides enjoyment and there’s a good chance that you don’t actually enjoy many of the foods you think you do.
Get clear on those you really enjoy:
What are the foods that make you truly feel good and satisfied?
Are there any foods you think you enjoy, but you really eat them for a different reason?
Make a list of the foods you would eat if everything around you was ideal.
Next, it’s important to realize that you don’t have to eat 100% “clean”
To understand this, it’s helpful to drop the idea that certain foods are “good” or “bad”.
If you resent your diet, you won’t follow it for long, even if it’s perfectly healthy for you.
Categorizing foods as good or bad will enforce that, especially if one (or more) of your favorites fall into the “bad” category.
A better approach is to think of foods as nutritious and less nutritious.
You want to make sure that the majority of your diet is composed of nutritious foods.
You might be able to lose weight eating any food, as long as you stick to a calorie deficit, but it’s not the healthiest and most sustainable approach.
Here are five baseline habits that you can implement anywhere – whether you cook at home, eat at restaurants, even if you’re traveling:
Drink 2-3 liters of water per day to stay properly hydrated.
Dehydration will not only wreck your energy levels, it’s also a major cause for food cravings.
2) Vegetables for micronutrients:
Include a variety of colorful vegetables in your meals to ensure you're getting all the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs.
One pound per day is a good guideline.
2) Protein for muscle and reducing hunger:
Incorporate protein-rich foods such as chicken, fish, eggs, or beans into your meals to keep you feeling full and satisfied.
If you eat enough vegetables, drink plenty of water and get a good amount of protein, most of your cravings will disappear.
4) Eat mostly unprocessed foods:
Choose whole, nutrient-dense foods over processed and packaged options.
Science clearly shows that a reduction of processed foods leads to better health, longevity and quality of life.
While - in theory - you could lose weight eating whatever you want, as long as you stay in a calorie deficit, it’s not the best and most sustainable approach.
5) Avoid „empty“ meals:
These are meals that have a lot of calories, but few nutrients.
An example is a popular breakfast consisting of cereal, bread, butter, and jam.
This won’t provide you with nutrients and sets you up for more cravings and energy crashes later in the day.
You can easily upgrade meals like that by adding vegetables and protein.
Plan your favorite meals into your routine
Yes, you can incorporate meals that don’t fit the criteria above in your plan AND lose weight.
However, you need to do it in a structured way.
For example, if you have a social gathering coming up, plan ahead for that by eating a lighter meal earlier in the day or choosing lower-calorie options at the event.
It‘s okay to indulge every now and then.
What matters is that you do it in a sustainable and structured way (which is contrary to what cheat days do).
The 80/20 rule offers a great guideline:
For every 10 meals, allow yourself two planned meals that don't fit your baseline habits.
In summary, the idea that you have to choose between enjoyment and results when it comes to losing weight is a myth.
By finding a balance between healthy, nutrient-dense foods and the ones you truly enjoy, you can create a sustainable eating plan that will help you reach your goals while still enjoying life.
That’s it for today!
If you want to learn more about how to implement this for you, click HERE to jump on a free 30-minute breakthrough call with me.
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