Does the title of this blog post sound like an oxymoron? Well, I have news for you. It may sound counter-intuitive to hear that “cheating” on your “diet” is helpful in regards to you reaching your weight loss goal- but it is so true.
So let me tell you a bit about what I have been doing with my weight loss. And, I am going to do that before I get into the nitty gritty of why you should “cheat” once a week when you are on a weight loss journey.
The fact of the matter is, I had been battling depression for years, more like for decades. For the last decade (more than that) I have been struggling with my mental health while raising two young kids, and one of them has both autism and ADHD. My needs were always being put on the backburner while I tended to everyone else. That is a common issue that every mom has dealt with- whether they have been raising kids with special needs or not. Additionally, I had other personal issues going on that was worsening my depression.
During that time, the weight kept piling on and on. I wanted to lose weight as I was disgusted with myself. And I would make an attempt to lose weight here and there but would sabotage myself if I had lost 10 lbs. It was quite sad actually.
Fast forward to last September when my son with autism and ADHD had moved to a residential school, which is helping him reach his potential- which I could not do no matter how hard I tried, I was decompressing. I was decompressing after dealing with severe stress and struggles over the last decade and a bit. What did I do to deal with all of that stress? I ate. I ate, and I ate. And, the weight gain I am sure was also caused by high cortisol levels which again is caused by stress.
And, when you are mixing situational and clinical depression together, things do get ugly. And, they did for me. Thank heavens that is all behind me. So let’s now go to this past January, which is when I had enough of being obese. And, no, it had nothing to do with those silly New Year’s resolutions. I had been decompressing for four months at the time, and I felt like I was ready to actually once and for all do something about my weight.
Yes, I was about 80 to 90 pounds overweight, and I was having issues with frequent reflux and I am quite sure I had some episodes of sleep apnea. The weight had to go! And, there was nothing holding me back. So what did I do?
I still ate carbs, I still ate cheese, I still enjoyed sweet snacks- on those days that were not designated cheat days. In other words, I ate that for 6 days a week. However, I made sure that I varied my foods, and stuck to consuming 1500 good-quality calories per day. And let me tell you, I have been going strong with this ever since I made that bold decision in January, and I have lost 40 lbs so far.
Therefore, I am half way there- give or take! I already feel great but I am obviously not done. I haven’t had issues with sleep apnea since, well, not long after I started. I have not had an issue with reflux since the early spring. My energy levels are higher, and I can go up and down flights of stairs without being winded. My knees are not so sore either. And, it has been said that if you lose 5 to 10 percent of your weight, your health improves drastically. I don’t doubt that at all.
Oh and about exercise? Well, I don’t go to the gym or work out heavily. But I do stay moderately active, and I am on my feet often. I also utilize calorie-burning hacks like parking far away from the store or being fidgety on purpose. It adds up.
However, I am also sure about one thing as well. If I did not designate one day of the week for me to splurge- for me to eat whatever I wanted without counting calories- I may have quit this journey a while ago.
Now, let me tell you why having a cheat day is important while you are on a weight loss journey:
1. You don’t feel deprived at all. This is huge. One reason that many people don’t stick to their lifestyle changes and throw in the towel while losing weight is that they believe that they have to say goodbye to their favorite foods. That is not true! I still enjoy my nachos once a week. I still enjoy my burgers and onion rings once a week. I still indulge in a decadent dessert like a sundae or a piece of chocolate cake once a week. Of course, not all in the same day! But you get what I mean. I designate every Saturday to splurge, and then I get back on track every Sunday, right away. That is when the magic happens.
2. Confusing your metabolism is a good thing. The reason that many people that are on a weight loss journey hit plateaus is that they are only sticking to eating a certain caloric amount each day and don’t vary it up. Even though at this point my weight loss is slowing down, as expected, I have not hit a plateau and I shouldn’t either as I continue. And I am quite sure that the reason for that is because of having that cheat day. I eat what I want on Saturdays, and then on Sundays, I get back onto 1500 calories for the day.
That confuses things in your body, and then that keeps the metabolism working. I have heard different reasons for why this is the case. I have heard that when you restrict your caloric intake the day after you splurge, you end up burning calories twice as fast. Now, as I said, this is what I have heard. I am not making any claims. However, I will say, it sure makes sense.
I mean, think about it. If you are taking a leisurely walk (which represents the 6 days when I am on track), and then all of a sudden a group of seagulls starts circling around you, or someone has thrown a ball at you by accident (the shock, which is what Saturdays in my case represent), you are going to get the fuck away! You are not going to stick around. You will run, you will exert lots of energy by getting away (the metabolism’s response) – and then take your leisurely walk somewhere else (the rest of the week until Friday). So again, it would make sense that a cheat day would benefit you in that way as well, which would prevent you from plateauing completely.
3. You feel in control and you can have an appreciation for high-caloric delicious foods. I also find this to be quite true. I know that it is beneficial for me to splurge once a week, and as a result, I enjoy it without feeling out of control. Not to mention, there is zero guilt considering incorporating a cheat day is part of my weight loss plan! And it is working beautifully.
Now, here are things that you must realize as well. As soon as your cheat day has ended, it is critical to get back on track right away. In my case, that is every Sunday morning. Otherwise, you will not reap the benefits, and if you keep indulging for more than two days in a row, then that will kill your weight loss efforts. That will only defeat the purpose. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure that out.
So now you know that “cheating” on your “diet” (I hate that word, by the way, it is a lifestyle change) is not taboo. In fact, if you Google the benefits of having a cheat day, you will see that there are other articles about this echoing pretty much everything that I am saying. It is so nice to know that I can have my cake, and eat it too- on any Saturday!