It is worth talking specifically about “Cheat days”, because as counter-intuitive as it may sound, they are actually a really important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Most material relating to the 500 Calorie diet (such as 5.2 etc.) doesn’t spend too much time discussing cheat days, as the idea is that you can eat (within reason) whatever you like on the non-fast days.
This is one of the key elements that have allowed so many people to successfully lose weight using intermittent fasting style diets.
Remember, the key to achieving your weight loss and lifestyle goals is to find a system that is easy, something that almost becomes habit, second nature. You don’t want to have to think about it, or read about it each day, you just wake up and do it. These are all central parts of the 500 Calorie Mindset.
If your diet or routine is too prohibitive, you won’t stick to it, you’ll lose faith when you don’t see results immediately, you’ll get fed up not being about to eat the foods you want and ultimately you’ll quit.
Cheat days help to prevent that from happening, and keep you motivated to lose weight.
This is the day that you get to indulge on some of the things that you’ve missed out on over the rest of the week.
Take a break from the 500 Calorie Meals, drink a beer or a glass of wine, have an ice cream. The key is not to worry about it. Eat it on your cheat day and you won’t be craving it for the rest of the week.
If you’re ahead of your weight loss target you can even flip this paradigm around. You can “Cheat” more or less whenever you want, then have a healthy day, or a fast day if you see your weight start to creep up.
Use cheat days to your advantage, be flexible with them. You don’t have to only “Cheat” on a certain day of the week. If you are attending an event, or find yourself in a social situation that you’d normally enjoy indulging, make this your cheat day, and make up for it on another day of the week.
You may find that you can get away with more than one cheat day per week, especially if you’re willing to live within the confines of a stricter diet during the week.
My diet has evolved to the point where I cheat for most of the weekend, starting Friday evening. If I eat a particularly healthy meal during the weekend I see it as a bonus, but I don’t worry about it too much.
What if I don’t feel like cheating?
Interestingly, while you may really look forward to your cheat days, and going all out on sweet food, you may find that you don’t enjoy it as much as you’d expected.
Eating good feels good. And on a much deeper level than the superficial quick fix you get from something tasting nice.
You might find that after a while you start to become more restrained during your cheat days, as you’d prefer to go without that over-full, sick feeling you get when you eat too much. This is one of the benefits of the 500 Calorie Diet.
Beyond the psychological reasons, there are also important physical reasons for cheat days. If you’ve ever stuck to a diet for a reasonable length of time, you may have experienced a point where your weight loss bottoms out.
You’re doing everything the same, eating right, exercising, but the final few pounds won’t shift.
One reason for this is that your body gets used to the reduced calorie intake and adjusts accordingly. In effect it becomes more efficient in how it uses the calories and tries to save some for a rainy day. The reduced calorie intake actually slows your metabolism down.
Having a cheat day tricks your body into thinking that food is in no longer in short supply and this in turn kick starts your metabolism.
While this may cause you to put on weight in the short term (I almost always put on weight over the weekend), it should help you to achieve a lower weight goal in the long run.
Find your balance
The key is to find a balance. Clearly you can’t “cheat” every day and still expect to lose weight. But you have to find a rhythm and pattern that works for you. Experiment with varying the length and frequency of your cheat periods until you get the balance right.
The key here really is to kick back and relax, enjoy indulging and definitely don’t beat yourself up about it. Feel confident that you’re on plan, and that starting tomorrow, normal (healthy) order will be resumed.