Dover Weight Loss Expert sheds light on what a “cheat day” means for your goals

We all have those meals when we eat more than we know we should, and then because we overeat suddenly it makes over eating all day okay. You start telling yourself “Oh I’ll just do better tomorrow because today is a wash,” and “I’ll just start again next week, and this time I’ll really try,” and “a day of eating bad can’t possibly cause me to gain any weight, right?”


This is the mindset of many people when they first start trying to build the habits necessary to maintain a sustainable healthy lifestyle. What they don’t realize is that these mindsets and these days of over eating can have a big impact on your ability to reach your goals. There’s a few reasons why:


Let’s say the average female consumes about 1500 calories a day, but on a day where you’re taking a break you can easily consume 3,000 to 6,000 calories in one meal. Think about breakfast first: when you’re on a “break” you’re probably going to have all of the things for breakfast that you want: pancakes with syrup and butter, bacon, whole eggs, this can easily get up to 800 to 1,000 calories in your first meal. Then, if you’re going to go out (which let’s face it, that’s usually when we cheat) you’re going to want an appetizer, a dessert, and a good hearty meal, which can amount to over 2,000 calories.


The thing about eating out is the sauces they put on the foods–you never know how much fat and calories is in a sauce, or how much they use to cook what you’re eating. And if you like to drink alcohol and want to indulge a bit, drinks easily have upwards of 500 calories in them. Pretty much any indulgence you choose is not only full of calories but full of fat as well.


One splurge day like this will cause your body to hold on to 3-5 pounds of fat because if you had been following your plan before, that means you were in a deficit. Now that you’ve splurged for a whole day, your body is thrown into hyper drive and wants to hold onto the fat and store it for the future.


This is a whole lot of calories/fat for “one day off.” And at this point you’re either going to do one of two things: you’re going to feel bad the next day and say well, I’m not going to do that again, or you’re going to think well, I already messed up this week so I’ll just start again next week.


Momentum is a tricky thing because it works in BOTH directions; it can either propel you to get to where you want to go, or it can shoot you in the opposite direction.


Not only will taking an all-out day off mess up your mental capacity for staying on track to reaching your goals, but it will actually affect the scale as well. The next day you’ll definitely see an increase of weight because your body is holding on to the fat calories of what you consumed. Sure, a few pounds of it might be water weight from the increased salt content (because when you splurge, you splurge on everything) but a good portion of that is fat that will stay on your body.


Even if you go back on track right away, you’ve messed up your metabolism by eating heavier meals and not on the same schedule as you were on your plan. This means it’s going to take you at least 2-3 weeks to work off the weight you gained in ONE DAY.


That has you thinking, doesn’t it?


So how do you prepare yourself for when you stray from your plan, and what are some strategies for keeping you from straying too far?


Here’s what we’ve seen help:

  1. One indulgence meal a week


This only works if you’ve already built the habits necessary to stay on track. So unless you’ve mastered the basics, you shouldn’t do any indulgence meals. But if you’re at a point where you feel confident you can get right back on track this is a good way to check yourself so you don’t have a junk food marathon and gain that 3-5 lbs of fat that we talked about. Make yourself work for it and give yourself the reward of an indulgence meal once a week–but only if you’ve followed your plan all week!


  1. Eat regularly throughout the day before your indulgence meal


If you’re planning on going out and having your indulgence meal, make sure you eat regularly all day before the meal. Most people will not eat in order to “save their calories” for that one big meal, but that is going to damage your metabolism and throw your body all out of wack. It’s much better for you to eat like you normally would, that way by the time your indulgence meal comes around you won’t be ravenous and probably won’t eat as much as you would if you hadn’t eaten all day.


  1. Fill up on water


Usually when you have an off day you’re drinking, but not water. This means you could be having a glass of oj with breakfast, or some wine, or soda…none of which hydrates you to help metabolize fat. If you are hydrating throughout the day, you likely won’t see a huge difference in the scale the next day because your body is better able to burn the additional calories. Plus, if you’re hydrated you’ll feel pretty satiated even without completely gorging.


  1. Pick and choose when you cheat


Since summer is coming up that means a lot of parties and barbecues that probably aren’t going to have all the options that will fit in your meal plan. Instead of splurging every weekend at a party with BBQ food and potato salad, pick and choose which events you are going to splurge at. For the ones you decide you don’t want to indulge, make sure to eat before hand or bring a protein shake or other food that fits in your meal plan. We know you probably don’t want to be “that person” that brings their own food, but there’s no shame in it! You have goals, right?


We hope this helps you navigate how to indulge every once in a while without packing on the pounds and backtracking your progress. And remember, most people fail in their nutrition because of a lack of support and accountability, which is why we offer a comprehensive individualized meal plan with coaching from professionals to help keep you on track. If this sounds like what you need, fill out your information in the request more information form or give us a call!


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