Fries, chicken wings, and candy, oh my! For most people, a cheat day involves binging on as many unhealthy food as possible over a 24 hour period. This usually ends by feeling gross by the end of the day but not guilty since a cheat day is considered a reward for eating healthy throughout the week. This may be fun, but it is the wrong way to look at health management. The cheat day needs a makeover.
We’ve taken the term cheating to a whole new level. Instead of having one or two items that we've deprived ourselves of over the week, many of us binge until we hit the food coma point. We should be having a handful of M&Ms, not an entire family size bag. Going overboard derails all of the discipline that was maintained throughout the week. Furthermore, it may hurt a workout the following day because our bodies will feel the effects of the binging. Instead of allowing for a full day of gluttony, try these suggestions to ensure workouts and meals stay on track.
Cheat Meals Throughout the Week
Most of the time, binging occurs with foods the person doesn’t even want. We eat unhealthy foods and snacks just because they are acceptable on a cheat day. This mindless eating is a cycle that causes more mindless eating. To avoid binging and unnecessarily taking in unwanted calories, have two cheat meals throughout the week instead of a full day.
The calorie intake will be lower because binging will not occur, the diet will not be derailed, and it will be easier to continue the diet after the unhealthy meal. Allowing a few meals like this during the week will prevent feelings of frustration from dietary restrictions.
Eating healthy foods is challenging because it’s restricting, but it doesn’t have to be. If craving something unhealthy, try to make a healthier alternative version of the dish. There are tons of recipes all over the internet that substitute unhealthy items for healthier ones. Simple things like using turkey instead of beef, low-fat cheese instead of full fat, using fresh veggies instead of canned, and creating homemade seasonings can help reduce calories. The modified meal will feel like cheating without ever actually having to.
Restaurants pose an even bigger challenge for people because restaurant food is generally made to be more flavorful, which can mean more calories or bad calorie consumption. Choose the desired item and figure out ways the item can be modified. Believe it or not, restaurants can be very accommodating when making changes to the item. Ask for a whole wheat bun for a burger, or ask for no bun at all. Choose a baked potato instead of french fries as the side. Some restaurants will bake items instead of frying them if it’s requested by a patron. Veggies or fruit can often be substituted for sides. If choosing a salad, always ask for dressing on the side and then only pour half of what is provided. Most importantly, remember portion control. Many of us go to a restaurant and stuff ourselves, but we need to eat the same portions as usual.
There are plenty of benefits when it comes to exercising. Cheating on a diet is less likely when effort to work out has occurred. If choosing to have a cheat meal, it will not affect weight goals as much because calories have already been burned. Try exercising in the morning or before having a cheat meal.
It may prevent cheating altogether or at the very least, cheating as much. The exercise serves as a reminder of goals and the healthy decisions that are trying to be made.
Make sure to get the recommended amount of water for your weight, usually between 8-10 glasses a day. When we don’t get the proper hydration, our stomachs let us know. Unfortunately, we often mistake thirst for hunger pains and end up eating. Proper water intake will prevent that from happening.
As an added bonus, you will feel more full. Make sure to have water around at all times and periodically drink some throughout the day.
These small changes can help to ensure goals are met and nutrition isn’t ruining all of the work being done at the gym. Remember, cheating doesn’t mean you cheat yourself.
Christin currently teaches English in a Chicago suburb. Her time as a teacher helped her understand the importance of physical and mental health. Because of her interest in health, she went back to school and received a Masters of Arts in School and Community Counseling. With a desire to help others, Christin began blogging in the hopes of showing others how physical health can lead to a happier life.
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