Ok so as a dietitian, I loathe the concept of the “cheat day”. It smacks of the idea that personal trainers, nutritionists and whomever you have helping you through your wellness journey have to function as some sort of accountability police. Spare me. But the concept, as much as I might hate to admit it, is the reason that some diets, like intermittent fasting etc, work.
So let’s break it down a bit.
So we now know that calorie deficits alone do not drive weight loss. It is so much more complicated than that, as body composition is managed by hormones, activity, intake, genetics and more. But, bear with me, for right now and let’s work with the concept that if you eat more energy than you need, you are going to end up storing some of that energy on your body for a rainy day as fat and associated tissues.
So math says that if we have a lower number, the majority of the time our average will be low; even if a bigger amount rears its ugly head from time to time. The lower values minimize the impact of the larger ones if there are mostly lower intakes. Same with healthy eating. It’s the long game that matters with nutrition. As I often tell the people I work with as a dietitian; no one died over thanksgiving or Christmas. But when the holiday season is an all-you-can-eat free-for-all that lasts from November- January …. See how that can get out of hand? I am a big fan of the 80/20 plan where we work to get the vast majority of your days and meals healthy and supportive to your goals.
Now there are many different ways you can clean up the 80% of your time. Yes, you can do the idea that you just skip 20% of your eating opportunities by doing the “fasting” thing. But again, as a dietitian, I am not a fan of anything unnecessarily restrictive. Plus, just not eating can lead to deficits in things other than just calories. Remember vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients? Yeah, they are in foods too and skipping meals can mean you’re skipping these as well. Also not refueling with your macros (carbs, protein and fat) on a regular schedule can leave you feeling sluggish, hazy, and unprepared for the day’s activities. Instead, maybe think about making a meal or snack that you would have skipped, lean, mean and full of good nutrients.
* Peanut butter + banana
* Hummus + raw veggies
* Ham and cheese roll-up in a whole wheat tortilla
* Protein bar + raw veggies
* Greek yogurt + berries + granola
* Cottage cheese + pineapple
* Trail mix
* String cheese + apple
* Hard-boiled egg + raw veggies
* Greek yogurt dip + raw veggies
* Peanut butter + whole wheat English muffin
* Higher protein and fiber cereal + milk + berries
So, this concept also applies to your meals. Try to make the majority a good balance of lean proteins, heavy on the vegetables, and light on refined foods like simple, sugary carbohydrates. If you do this most of the time, it’s totally ok to eat “whatever” you want. Just make sure it’s what you ACTUALLY want! All your meals should be enjoyable and ultimately serve your personal needs and goals. Food is fuel for your fire. Keep it burning brightly!