I believe the reason I’ve been successful at maintaining a healthy weight throughout my life is because I’m the one in charge when it comes to food, not my emotions or hunger. And it’s not about a strict structure or a rigid way of dieting. Here I share one of the reasons I’m in charge; I’ll share another later this week.
Plenty of people who are losing weight or trying to stick to a healthy eating lifestyle use “cheat days” (or cheat meals or weekends). If this is you, you exercise admirable self-control all week long while wishing for that one piece of fluffy white cake, a double scoop of ice cream, or a night out at the most decadent restaurant you know of. You might even schedule this indulgence into your calendar.
I’m not a believer in cheat days and I‘ll tell you why-
- It’s too easy to go overboard and undo all the calories you’ve avoided during the week. This is especially risky if you do cheat days or weekends and not just cheat meals. (But I also don’t believe in cheat meals.)
- In my experience, cheating perpetuates cravings. I found that when I stopped eating a piece of chocolate every day (my “indulgence”), my craving for chocolate disappeared. Did I feel deprived when I stopped? Yes – for about a week. Then my cravings disappeared, and I was able to stay lean more easily. It wasn’t until I stopped the chocolate habit that I realized I didn’t need it anymore.
- Having cheat days creates the mindset of deprivation instead of abundance. If you have cheat days (or however it manifests), you can feel like you’re sacrificing all week long without even realizing it. That’s no way to live in my book.
Looking forward to a certain food for days and days puts too much emphasis on eating. Having the image of an unhealthy or caloric food emblazoned in your mind all week long while you “sacrifice” by eating healthy is putting your energy into the wrong place. After all, using food as a reward may have helped you put on this extra weight, right?
And since you didn’t ask, I’ll tell you my approach. The only times I have ever gained weight in my life are when I (1) ate out frequently, (2) got pregnant, and (3) was trying to build muscle mass and deliberately consumed more calories.
I avoid sweets and fatty foods every day, indulging only on some special occasions. It’s not self-sacrifice, either; when those special occasions do roll around, I almost never want to indulge. The quick yum factor and emotional fix aren’t worth the stomach upset and extra weight – which takes a long time to get rid of. Plus I just don’t crave it anymore.
If I do want a treat (which is rare), I can have it, because I eat healthy 99% of the time. Because if you’re trying to lose weight, you really should be able to have fatty or sugary food without guilt or worry. Doesn’t it sound nice to be the one in charge – not the forbidden food?