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Cheat days/meals....yes or no?

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Old 02-13-2011, 12:40 AM   #1
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Default Cheat days/meals....yes or no?

I am struggling with deciding if I want to keep a cheat meal. I keep pretty close to 1200-1400 calories throughout the week and give myself 1 cheat meal on Saturdays. Today I had a chicken fajita burrito from Chipotle for lunch. Now I seem to be up 3lbs from the same time last night when I weighed in. Really? 3 whole lbs? Grrrrrrr...

I like to have them because it gives me something to look forward to and let's face it, I don't want to live in a world where I can't have Chipotle every once in a while. lol. I always get right back on plan, so that is not a problem. I also heard that it is good to go over the normal limit once in a while so your body doesn't get used to set number of calories.

Just some thoughts or opinions on whether they are a good idea or sabotage?
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Old 02-13-2011, 01:18 AM   #2
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Hmm. This is something I have to figure out, too. My food calorie goal is 1200 a day, and while (let's be honest) I rarely make it, I usually log in at 1200-1300.

But I love food and it is driving me crazy. So the last few days, i kept telling myself I'd take a "cheat meal" after a really intense workout, because nothing else can really motivate me to exercise. Today I ran abt 4.5 miles outdoors -- my first time going that long, EVER -- and my motivation the whole time was, "Well, you're burning about 400 calories doing this, so now you can eat a burger!"

For me, the funny thing about tying food to exercise as a reward by promising yourself rich food AFTERWARDS is that my cravings (but not real hunger) tend to go away after a good workout. So at b.good -- where I could have easily burned through 1000 calories with a rich burger + fries + half a shake-- I ended up choosing and being really happy with a low-cal veggie burger with guac (350) and splitting baked sweet potato fries (100). In the end, I felt utterly stuffed and couldn't even finish the roll. Go figure... I'm at 1300 food calories for the day yet again.

Maybe the best way to approach a "cheat day" or "cheat meal" is to hold it as a carrot in front of really, really good behavior. Not just 30 minutes of elliptical (I happen to think elliptical is for the weak ) but an hour of running or a really high-intensity spin class. Shower and go to that meal immediately just as you're cooling down -- and if you're listening to your body, it might even reject the things you've been promising yourself the whole time, and will actually push you towards what it knows it needs: protein, whole grains, water...
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Old 02-13-2011, 02:16 AM   #3
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I guess I have don't really have set cheat meals or days but do allow myself to indulge in a somewhat cheating manner without guilt.

During football season I would go out to watch the games. I left myself have a few beers and typically eat. Sometimes it was something fairly sensible and a few times it involved wings or pizza. We typically order dessert for the table and I had no problem joining everyone. But I didn't really feel like it was cheating because rarely did my net go over my allotted calories and more times than not, it was still a negative net day.

Also, when I'm going out to eat, I try to burn extra beforehand but don't sweat it if I don't. Again, I try to order sensibly but if I don't, I'm not too freaked. It's the times I start snacking more than I should that induce major guilt for me.

Anyways, my point being, for me, saying Saturday's are my cheat day wouldn't work unless I had strict guidelines for what was acceptable on cheat day. I feel it's better to just go with the flow. If I want something that will push or go over my calorie allotment, I decide if it's worth it on a case-by-case basis.

If I might make a suggestion. If you do decide to remove cheat meals / days, I think you'd still be able to have Chipotle on a regular basis. They have decent calories for much of their food when put together right. And I think even if it's 100-200 calories more than you would normally allot for that meal you could take those calories from another meal. I also don't want to live in a world where I can't have Chipotle (Qdoba in my case, I'm a sucker for the queso ) every once in a while. While I haven't had it in a while due to finances not calories, I have easily fit it into my daily menu and I'm eating 1100-1300 calories. Why not make it something that can be eaten regularly rather than considered a cheat?
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Old 02-13-2011, 06:57 AM   #4
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I have to chime in as another horribly guilty burrito lover! I started out by counting calories fairly closely, trying to keep it around 1400 per day. Then I went on vacation, and it was impossible to try to keep an accurate count for 11 days with no computer / book / anything, so I've been doing more of a mental thing. I will probably get back into the swing of keeping a more controlled count of intake and so forth in a bit, but since getting back I've been eating pretty much whatever I want.... as in, I have been to one of my favorite local burrito establishments (the closest Chipotle is 30 miles away! But we have other brands, sigh...) almost every single day since I got back. But at the same time, I have still lost over 5 pounds in less than two weeks, so I guess the burrito diet has some merits.

I am definitely a believer in allowing yourself a little more dietary freedom, if you are able to do so without having it be too strong of a test of your willpower. I still have a lot of candy and treats etc. around the house, but I find that I am able to have just a small amount (generally try to keep it under 100 calories) rather than going crazy and grazing on whole bags and packages until they're gone. So that's sort of like a cheat meal / day, but I really don't think about it as cheating. If I told myself that the things I wanted to eat were completely forbidden, I think it would have been a lot harder for me to reach the point where I'm at today). It seems like in the long run, it is a lot better to keep in a mindset that allows you to be comfortable and happy with your lifestyle, rather than setting yourself up for challenges that you know will be really hard for you. For me at least, it's better to not be too hard on myself at all, so that I don't end up feeling like I'm failing myself.

And in specific defense of burritos: They really aren't that bad for you! Especially if you: a) have someone to split one with, and/or b) closely regulate the ingredients they put in. I like the proper ratio of the delicious ingredients, so if I just make sure that they use less of all of them the burritos end up with a reasonable calorie count and I get a tasty delicious and extremely filling meal... My personal favorite burrito is estimated at around 800-900 calories or so; it's a pretty big fraction of the total number of calories I try to eat for the day, but I'm also incredibly full so I don't want to eat much for the rest of the day anyway.

And along those same lines... yes, the burrito is hefty! When you step on the scale, it is not all that surprising that it's up 3 pounds from before. But remember that that is not directly going to fat: one downside of these delicious burritos is definitely the high sodium content, which supposedly goes along with increased water retention, and also you'll just have a not-insignificant weight of former-burrito hanging around in your digestive track until it's not there anymore. It's not really part of your weight, right, but the scale's not smart enough to know that.
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Old 02-13-2011, 07:12 AM   #5
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I dislike the term "cheat meal." Cheating is a negative word that implies failure, even immorality. Tying our definition of success and morality to food is just insane. Call it a "free meal," instead, and it's no longer such a negative, loaded term.

What matters in the long term is a caloric deficit. One meal out of 21 (7 x 3) won't make much difference, especially if you bank or borrow some calories from another meal: eat slightly less the day before Christmas, or the day after Valentines, that sort of thing.

That being said, you have to be mentally strong enough to go back to eating on plan after the free meal: a one-time event that turns into a month of eating more calories than you burn *will* make a difference in your long-term weight loss. If you think that a free meal will send you into month-long binge with Pringles, don't take one. Or, take one but get your family to hold you accountable for getting back on plan the next day/meal.

For a great article on flexible dieting, see Lyle McDonald's site here. He's written a book about it too, but the article is free and will give you a flavor of the argument and research.

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Old 02-13-2011, 09:47 AM   #6
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I think something is only "cheating" if you don't count or record it and try to pretend it didn't happen, if you have this idea in your mind that it wasn't real because it was a "cheat" or because "you deserve it" after whatever. It's important to own what you do: record it and see what it does to your overall average. Lying to yourself is the worst possible dieting habit.

Having a higher calorie days is fine, as long as you accept that it will slow your loss. That's not a good or bad choice: it's a biological fact. Now, a cheat meal once a month is not likely to slow you down MUCH, but everything you eat has an effect: it doesn't matter if you are only eating it to be polite, if you really deserve it because you've been on plan, if you are stuck in the hospital with your dying mom and restricted to eating out of the vending machine, if it is your birthday. Sometimes, choosing the higher calorie option is absolutely the best choice, given the circumstances, but even good choices have consequences.

Only you can decide how much fast weight loss is a priority, and that depends on your particular situation. I was motivated to lose weight by the desire to have a child. I absolutely wanted to start trying to conceive in September 2010, so I had a hard deadline. I lost 135 lbs in 14 months and there were very, very, very few days where I ate more than whatever number gave me about 1000 calorie/day deficit. I was in a hurry. Now, I am pregnant. After this child is born, I'd like to (finally) get down to my original goal, but I plan to do it much more slowly. I don't care if that weight takes a year or 18 months to come off, so I envision a gentler, less stressful, more flexible diet, with a certain amount of indulgence allowed. So it's just about where you are at the moment: how important is speed? (and absent something like my situation or a wedding dress, personally I'd go for pleasure over speed. I mean, who cares if you are at goal in 4 months or 8 months, as long as you stay there the rest of your life?)

The one thing I would strongly, strongly, strongly caution against are free for alls. It's beyond mind-boggling how much a person (including myself!) can eat in a day if they just say "today doesn't count"--because then there is pressure to get in ALL the things you are missing the rest of the time. A nice meal is maybe going to add 2000 calories to your day, and usually less. A free day can easily be 4000 more than what you usually eat and pack a pound of fat (not water) onto you.
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Old 02-13-2011, 10:03 AM   #7
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I always gain for the next day or two following a CHEAT meal, but then I always lose and drop to an all-time low on the 3rd for 4th day.

I whole heartedly think that it really doesn't matter to your weight loss efforts what name you decide to call your meals. Whatever works for you is totally ok. CHEAT meal is an 'expression' the same as 'kiss my grits' is. It doesn't imply "fornication" with out food.. It doesn't imply running around beating little ol ladies over the head and running off with their purses! It implies eating a food (or group of foods) that if eaten regularly would sabotage our weight loss efforts.

For people who don't like the word CHEAT...I HIGHLY suggest they never use it again...but for those of us that really "enjoy" that word and receive some sort of "simple pleasure" when we use it, I don't think we need to hear a "scolding" about that. *steps off soap box*

That said...you can't gain 3lbs of fat overnight...it's clearly water. I only take my cheat meal when I feel I REALLY REALLY need it...not just for the heck of it....or because I can. Maybe try having a cheat meal bi-weekly, instead of weekly.

I love it...I haven't stalled yet in this process and my bf% has gotten down pretty low...but that's just my experience. Much success in finding what works for you!
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Old 02-13-2011, 10:10 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joyfulloser View Post
I whole heartedly think that it really doesn't matter to your weight loss efforts what name you decide to call your meals. Whatever works for you is totally ok. For people who don't like the word CHEAT...I suggest they never use it again, but for those of us that really enjoy that word and use it I don't think we need to hear a scolding about that. *steps off soap box*
I think it matters insomuch as the term needs to be defined. For some people, a cheat meal means "I go out to eat and order whatever I want, including appetizer, drinks, and dessert, but on my calorie tracker I put it what I usually eat" and for someone else "cheat meal" means "I have a nice dinner that puts me at 2200 for the day when I usually aim for 1500" and for still others, "cheat meal" means "I had a slice of cheese on my dry turkey sandwich". These are very different things.
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Old 02-13-2011, 10:36 AM   #9
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Hey Lts girl, I'm glad I saw your name on this thread. I've missed you. How's your guy? Do you get to spend Valentine's Day with him this year?

I'm still on the Atkin's forum and on and off the eating plan. Having a tough time lately and thinking about combining Johnson's UpDay DownDay program with Atkins to get a losing streak going again. It means I'll have to count calories as well as carbs, but will give me a break from cooking every day. That's driving me nuts.

Any thoughts on that idea? Suggestions, anyone? Anybody doing the Johnson thing? I'm at a point where I'm either giving up Atkins, combining it with something else, or looking at something else altogether. Advice, suggestions, ideas welcome!
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Old 02-13-2011, 10:41 AM   #10
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Thanks everyone for the replies. When I say "cheat meal" I am only referring to something that I usually wouldn't eat aka: breaking the rules. Thankfully it doesn't turn into a week long binge for me and I can get right back to it. By the way, my choices were to eat McDonalds with everyone else or to bring something a little more healthy. So I chose Chipotle instead of my normal 2 cheeseburger, fries, and a coke. I also chose not to get the chips and salsa or soda. It is a work in progress but at least I am working on it.

So I stepped on the scale this morning and I am only up about 1.5lbs. My rings are pretty tight, so I am guessing it has a lot to do with sodium and water retention.

Joyfulloser - thanks for reminding me that I can't gain 3lbs overnight! Guess I was just freaking out. Maybe I should start a new thread:

Hi. My name is Sherry and I am a scale addict. lol.

So again thanks everyone for some insight. For now I will keep my meal and not weigh myself for at least 1 day after. I think I will stay more on plan if I know there is some wiggle room for the things I enjoy.
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Old 02-13-2011, 10:42 AM   #11
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At the start of my weight-loss project a few months ago, I took a full day off from calorie-counting about once every two weeks. Just totally ate whatever I wanted and didn't measure portions, maybe went out to dinner. Often my weight would spike immediately after but drop right back or even lower than before the day off. (That's the wording I used - "day off" instead of "cheat.") I think it helped me sustain my diet and I also bought into the idea that it's beneficial to shock your body/metabolism so it doesn't slow too much.

However, for the past six weeks I've been on the Belly Fat Cure (low-sugar/medium-carbs/high-fiber) and honestly I haven't had a serious want or need to "cheat." I still calorie-count and am at the same calorie levels that I was before. Cheat meals/days aren't part of the BFC plan but I really don't even want the sugary stuff any more, and I'm a bit afraid that if I eat a bunch of sugar my addiction may flare up. Mostly though I just don't want to. I guess that's one of the reasons why I consider this "diet" a true lifelong way of eating instead of something short-term/unsustainable. I haven't even wanted to go above the high end of my daily calorie range because I feel so full and sated on the amount of fiber and protein I've been eating. So that's my two cents.
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Old 02-13-2011, 10:47 AM   #12
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I think you can have those good meals without exactly cheating. I go to Chipotle, but I get the burrito BOL (the tortilla has SO many calories, a couple hundred, easy change to just get rid of it) with steak, lettuce, hot sauce and cheese. I let go of the sour cream as well to get rid of some calories. So when I add it up online it's like 600 some calories and I only eat half of the bol and take the rest home.

As for McDonalds, well I really just avoid fast food now, but you can get a grilled chicken sandwhich and take off half the bun, don't get fries, get a side salad instead. There are options out there, you just have to find them!

So I think for real weight loss that sticks you have to change your entire eating habits. So I no longer give myself a big cheeseburger and fries because...that's just not healthy, so if I am going to go somewhere that isn't the best for me, I still try and pick the "healthiest" meal. Mostly I just don't want those burgers or fries or ice cream anymore now that I eat healthy. I know when I eat something I shouldn't, I feel awful the next day!

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Old 02-13-2011, 11:02 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sandyfanny View Post
Hey Lts girl, I'm glad I saw your name on this thread. I've missed you. How's your guy? Do you get to spend Valentine's Day with him this year?
Hey there. Well no I don't get to spend valentine's day with him but that is okay because we don't really celebrate it. We just celebrated our 17th anniversary on Jan 31st (and no he wasn't here for that either). We usually go all out for our anniversary so to spend even more money 14 days later seems silly to us. Maybe we get a card or just say it. However, he is coming home this weekend! Then he leaves and 2 weeks later my wonderful friend is coming to watch the kids for 4 days and I am going to visit him! Then, 2 weeks after that he comes home for good! At least until the military says he has to go again. lol.

Have you thought about ordering your food. Something like Jenny Craig. Then you wouldn't have to worry about cooking at all.

BTW Check your message inbox.
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Old 02-13-2011, 12:06 PM   #14
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Thanks for the suggestion, Lts Girl. Already prepared meals would be HEAVEN! Since I live alone (except for the giant German Shepherd), it should be perfect.

I've thought about a food delivery service, but haven't done it because I was so unhappy when I tried it years ago, I ended up giving away $300 of food to my manicurist. She swore she could eat anything, but couldn't eat it either and gave it to her mother. It's really funny; it was like the ugly Christmas present people pass around. I don't know what finally happened it to.

I'm sure it's improved since then in quality. A friend of mine recently started one, but only used it for a month or so because she said she didn't really like it and couldn't stand the repetition of chicken in the meals. This company made the meals twice a week and you picked up your refrigerated or frozen food for the week.

I have my own idea of what tastes good, and I'm not sure about venturing into food delivery again. For now, I have to figure out what I can do to get myself going in the "minus direction" again. I've been see-sawing between 203 - 198 for six weeks - my own doing, of course.

Glad to hear you get to be with your guy this month...great job on your weight loss!
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Old 02-13-2011, 12:55 PM   #15
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I would agree that it's the sodium in that "cheat meal". Check the Chipotle website to see how much you ate compared to your normal days intake. I'd just balance it with upping your water intake for a few days to help flush it all through your system.
I agree that you shouldn't have to live without eating in places like that on occasion, all part of the new eating lifestyle, not a diet line of thinking.
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