The most effective way to lose weight is calorie restriction. Depending on your height, weight, and goals, you can calculate your weight loss calories and if you spend every day eating at or slightly below that number, you will lose weight. Easy math! But is it easy to do? The answer is: mostly.
You could be strong willed and motivated and still be tripped up by the redundancy of food tracking and staying on task. Let’s face it, doing the same thing day in and day out becomes a monotonous task and before you know it that hungry little devil shows up on your shoulder, whispering in your ear to have some cake. Tsk tsk.
Those who are most successful in weight loss (in my humble opinion) are those who balance their diet with all of the food groups in moderation, and enjoy a treat from time to time. But how do you enjoy something that’s off-plan without, well… screwing up your plan? You plan for it. There are a couple of ways to factor in a cheat meal once a week or once a fortnight.
Intermittent Fasting: This is a method I have used before and while it’s not my favorite, it is effective! Essentially, you fast for a period of time before indulging in a larger than usual meal. For example; if I really want a couple of giant New York style cheesy slices of pizza that I know will set me back 1,000 calories, I can try to only take in 400-500 calories during the day leading up to the pizza. This method allows you to enjoy some of the ‘bad’ foods without blowing your calories for the day. I would recommend keeping your cheat meal under 1,000 calories so that you can spread out small portions of protein leading up to it so you don’t actually have to starve.
IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros): This is my favorite method of eating in general, and for cheating. Essentially, you can eat whatever you like, as long as it fits your macronutrient goals for the day. For example, my base macros are usually something like: 165g protein, 150g carbs, and 45g fat. Well, if my cheat meal happens to be pretty high in fat then I want to make sure that I eat no fat/low fat foods prior to ingesting my high fat treat, ensuring that whatever it is I’m eating still fits the boundaries of my macronutrient goals for the day. Same with anything high in carbs.
Save Your Calories / Weekly Calories: There is probably a more technical term for this, but essentially, you would track your calories over a week rather than a day. You’re looking for a trend over time – you want to see your weight loss chart making a steady decline and that happens over time. So, if you have a date night planned for Saturday night and you want to have a big slice of cheesecake after dinner, you can save up some calories throughout the week and cash them out for date night. If you generally follow a 1,500 calorie per day diet, then perhaps aim for 1,400 calories a day Monday through Friday, allowing you at least 500 extra calories to use for your Saturday night. Just remember to go back to your normal routine on Sunday.
Calorie Cycling / Refeed: I was very recently introduced to the ‘refeed’ and it is a favorite of mine! Calorie cycling simply means that you have cycles of low calorie days mixed with cycles of high calorie days. Bodybuilders often use this method to factor in a refeed, which usually is an influx of carbs for one day during a routine when you would normally be in a’cut’ and eating mostly at a heavy calorie deficit. Refeeds can help boost your energy as those low calorie days start to compound and leave you feeling lacking. An example of this would be that you maintain a low calorie diet for a few days, and then have one high calorie day (or refeed). Or you can schedule it by weeks. Whatever works for you.
The cheat meal doesn’t have to be a scary thing! You can cheat without really cheating, but still allow yourself and your body to benefit from a little food induced pleasure every now and then. All of the methods I listed above allow you to indulge in a meal or treat that you wouldn’t normally have in your diet without actually impacting your goals for the day or week.
Cheat Meal Tips:
• Choose your meal or treat ahead of time
• Decide which method you’ll use to fit it in
• Stick to the correct portion size even though it’s a cheat!
• Be aware of when you’re full and don’t overeat
• Try to choose something that is still trackable
• Note how you feel afterwards – increased energy? Less muscle deflation?
• Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty for enjoying food.
So go ahead; plan your cheat!