Updated: Nov 3
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"When you're on a sustainable weight loss journey, you won't need cheat days,"
- Elaine Acheampong.
Elaine explains why she believes cheat chays are counterproductive for weight loss. "If you are on a weight loss plan that gives you results, keeps the weight off long-term and continues to work long-term for your lifestyle, then you wouldn't need to have cheat days!"
It's not to say that you cannot enjoy less-nutritious foods and drinks. However, a cheat day isn't necessary if you can prepare and consume food 365 days a year without pulling your hair out or starving yourself.
Here at Fitness Beyond Aesthetics, we subscribe to achieving weight loss results in a manageable and fulfilling style. The start of your weight loss journey may not always feel effortless or fulfilling, because you're changing your behaviour and mentality towards food and health. Yet, one day, you'll discover that healthy eating isn't a punishment or a chore - it's a form of self-care.
To put it simply: Restriction leads to overcompensating on your cheat days.
Before enrolling in coaching, some of Elaine's clients could double, triple or even quadruple the number of calories usually consumed in one cheat day! A consistent reaction to cheat days like this would cause concern for potentially developing eating disorders.
Orthorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder where a person is obsessed with healthy eating and displays restrictive behaviours. They get to the point where they are unable to enjoy everyday life and social gatherings with poor quality of life and risks of leading to other eating disorders (like bulimia or anorexia).¹
The only reason why you feel the need to cheat is that your weight loss diet is unsustainable - meaning you don't feel able to practice every day without needing "a break".
Demonizing foods or saving them for "special occasions or days" can lead to binging and eating disorders.
Labelling foods or meals as "guilty pleasures" or "special treats" can do more damage than good to your attitude towards food. A fascinating study conducted in 2020 showed that individuals on a high-restrictive diet could evoke feelings of guilt simply by imagining "guilty pleasure" foods and the same participants had a lower sense of pleasure when they got to consume the previously imagined food item.²
How awful does that sound? Feeling guilty before eating your special treat, only to not be able to fully savour when you do 'allow yourself' to eat it. Doesn't sound like a lifestyle worth living!
You deserve to live fully by enjoying social interactions and gatherings without feeling guilty for enjoying the available food and drink. Even in your daily meals, you can enjoy things like cheese, bread and bacon as long as it's in moderation and within your calorie limit.
"I realised I’ve become so healthy that I can't live anymore, like I can't live in the real world," April, a participant in a study performed in South Africa, shared when she realised when she'd taken "healthy eating" too far.³
8 Tips on how to find the happy balance between being 'too healthy' and 'unhealthy':
1- Remove labels like "good and bad" foods from your mind and life,
2 - Work out your daily calorie allowance (online calculators are available or speak to a health professional/ fitness trainer) and do your best to stick to it daily,
3 - Don't skip meals or beat yourself up if you consume something not scheduled on your menu - enjoy it for what it was and try again tomorrow,
4 - Plan around special meals (date night or a work luncheon) - eat meals with slightly lower calories if you anticipate having more calories on these special meals,
5 - Find a "diet"/ healthy eating plan you can enjoy every day,
6 - Find healthy alternatives for your favourite foods - for example, a low-calorie mac & cheese, naked burgers and ice cream you can make at home using bananas,
7 - Seek professional assistance if you have, or think you may have an eating disorder
8 - Surround yourself with friends and family who accept, or at least respect, your lifestyle - Remove yourself (as much as possible) from people who bully you into trying a new diet with them or shame you for enjoying a cupcake when "you're supposed to be eating clean".
Life is all about finding a balance in all areas of our lives. If you would like to receive personalised guidance in finding your unique happy place, click the button below now to book your CONSULTATION with Elaine.
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Written by: Andrea Thelen of AuthenticAndrea44
28th October 2022
¹ Scarff, J. R. (2017, June). Orthorexia nervosa: An obsession with healthy eating. Federal practitioner: for the health care professionals of the VA, DoD, and PHS. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6370446/#:~:text=Orthorexia%20nervosa%20is%20perhaps%20best,and%20poor%20quality%20of%20life
² Elder, R. S., & Mohr, G. S. (2020, February 25). Guilty displeasures: How imagined guilt dampens consumer enjoyment. Appetite. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195666319311110
³ Stokes, T., Hector, A. J., Morton, R. W., McGlory, C., & Phillips, S. M. (2018, February 7). Recent perspectives regarding the role of dietary protein for the promotion of muscle hypertrophy with resistance exercise training. Nutrients. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5852756/
DISCLAIMER: All blog posts are for educational and entertainment purposes only. Any advice or recommendations given in these posts does not supersede directions received by a licensed medical professional (i.e. doctor, psychiatrist, nurse, psychologist, etc), nutritionist, dietician or your personal trainer. The re