I wanted to expand on my post “Nutrition, fuzzy math and keeping a balanced budget,” I want to talk about the cheat day. First and foremost many people will put themselves on a diet that is a drastic change from what their past daily consumption might have been. Before starting the diet (my followers already know I don’t believe diets are effective) they will outwardly joke with people about their diet being a negative experience, creating an environment ripe for failure. They chortle with listeners how they will endure their “horrendous” diet all week while keeping the elusive light at the end of the tunnel, their cheat day. They go though the week talking up this “cheat day” building up expectations of it until the emotion behind it is palpable; this is a disastrous train wreck waiting to happen.
Again it really comes down to math because all week long the individual has followed whatever restrictive diet they are on, kudos for them if they follow it to the letter. They have been consistent with their nutrition and their workouts and are feeling good about themselves, the week is drawing to a close as the magical day arrives; cheat day. It is like a holiday event almost complete with bells and whistles, all week long the conversation returns to all the wonderful decadent things to be consumed on this day. As the excitement builds you will get a little deviance on the eve of the day and sneak a little pregame treat, maybe a couple cookies or candy after dinner, the downward spiral begins, but I digress.
Cheat day, a whole day dedicated to devouring anything and everything to your heart’s desire, you deserve it after that week you just had of eating within your calorie range and, gasp, daily exercise! The menu has been building with excitement all week at every drab diet meal as you reminded yourself what this day would bring. You wake with the thought of breakfast, something of significance, something extra gooey like donuts, no wait cinnamon rolls with icing. Cracking the tube open is always half the fun isn’t it, then as the half dozen or so cinnamon rolls bake your mouth starts to salivate as the heady smells fill the air, your anticipation builds, this is going to be a GREAT and you deserve it. That first roll is fantastic, you hardly taste it, the second is just as good as it melts slowly in your mouth, you feel like bursting as the third is eaten after the dishes are cleaned up.
A few moments contemplating your day then a quick shower and you are off with friends for some shopping then lunch out at your favorite place. Walking through the mall with friends you reminisce about your breakfast, the sweet taste still fresh on your memory as you stroll past the pretzel place. Mmmm, you are getting a bit hungry, those rolls just don’t hold you over and with all this walking, don't they smell wonderful? Isn't it is time for an almond glazed pretzel and a diet soda, you are on a diet after all, right wink wink.
Lunch is quick and easy, appetizers of salsa and chips, you will be good so order the Asian chicken salad and a blended margarita; you have to live life to the fullest. The day is spent with friends talking about how the evening will unfold; it is the weekend and time to party. You get ready for the nights festivities and quickly down a couple more cinnamon rolls from this morning then head out for dinner, it is pizza night woot woot and what is pizza without a few beers, lite, you are dieting. After a night of dancing, that is cardio right, you didn’t have any more than 3 or 4 beers at the bar, life is good and you are feeling great, another successful cheat day in the books.
This is where the numbers come in! All week long you ate within your calorie range, you exercised and your body started to feel good enough to release its energy stores, yes those dreaded fat cells, the scale went down your clothes loosened up a bit. Then comes the cheat day, again you have a set amount of calories to consume for the day but you don’t track as it is cheat day, this is your day to give in to yourself, to celebrate your hard work. Until the next morning hits and you can’t zip up those loose pants from yesterday, what’s up with that!
We could look at the math for the week shall we, of course these are estimated numbers:
- Monday through Friday: Calories consumed daily on average 1500 which hooray for you is a daily 300 calories lower than the body required at 1800 with a total weekly savings of 1500 calories you just lost a half a pound, what a rock star you are. Wait welcome Saturday, lets go over what you ate since you didn’t keep track.
- Breakfast: 3 cinnamon rolls at 145 calories each equals 435 not bad
- Snack: 1 Almond pretzel at 390 calories, soda zero calories
- Lunch 12 chips and 2 oz salsa at 338 calories; Asian chicken salad, that had to be good right, Wrong it came in at 709 calories; plus your Margarita (hope you only had one) 10 oz glass are you ready for this at 740 calories..
- Snack: 2 more rolls, can’t let those puppies go to waste 145 calories each equals 290 calories
- Dinner: Pepperoni pizza of hand tossed goodness 4 slices at 275 each equals 1100; 2 lite beers at 107 each equals 214 calories
- Partying after dinner: 4 more beers 107 each equal 428 calories and we won’t tally the beer nuts or maybe the midnight snack run as it was technically at 1am the next morning..
Can you see where I am going with this? Saturday: consumed calories 4644 calories, required 1800, what just happened here is you sent ¾ of a pound back to your fat stores!
You just wiped out a week’s worth of diet and exercise and gained a ¼ pound but it will look like more on the scale the morning after due to the exorbitant sodium intake, I won’t even begin to discuss the introduction of alcohol to the mix in this post but rumor has it that alcohol significantly slows metabolism down.
Don’t knock me or criticize me for this scenario, I have lived it; been there done that, know the drill. It took time for me to realize what I was doing to myself, not that the ever thickening layer of body fat on my lower extremities didn’t remind me. I would diet and lose weight in all the wrong places or look gaunt and drawn; I knew it was time to get real, real fast.
Let this be a word of warning, diets are self limiting, have a negative appeal and cheat days just don’t work period. Make a few changes to what you are eating each week until you can get yourself to a level of nutrition where you are feeding your body good wholesome healthy foods and sit back while your skin clears and your body rewards you with good health and a good health body weight. I will always advocate daily exercise but not just for weight control, exercise is for overall body health as it does more than burn calories; exercise will give you your life back.