When someone mentions the words “weight loss,” “tone up,” or “get in shape,” people IMMEDIATELY go into full blown diet mode. Why is that? Those words have a trigger effect. It causes you to think you can't have all the things you enjoy because it is the reason why you are not where you want to be. So often I hear of someone attempting to change their lifestyle and the direction they take heads toward some really low calorie diet. They believe if they maintain a strict diet the weight just sheds off. Since when did health become so black and white? I wish when they unlocked their phone they would see my face screaming, "NOOOOOOOOOO," please don't DIET!
When it comes to calorie crunching to lose weight, health experts know that a 1,500-calorie diet is healthier than a 1,000-calorie diet. That's because, in the space of 1,000 calories, it's practically impossible to get all the nutrients you need to stay healthy unless you take supplements. And at 1,000 calories a day, you're getting too close to depriving your body of the energy it needs for basic functioning, like getting out of bed in the morning and maintaining a heartbeat throughout the day. But let's face it, if you have a problem over eating then cutting back on the amount of food you eat is already going to feel restrictive, so it doesn't really matter what low calorie diet you try to follow. The truth is, you're likely to cheat, and statistics say you're very likely to fall off the wagon altogether.
I'll use myself as an illustration to demonstrate how bad a diet can be for you. When I was getting ready for a bodybuilding competition 10 years ago I decided it was best to follow a strict diet. In my mind the more sacrifices I made, the more results I would get. Man, do I wish I could slap myself for thinking that. I would eat the same thing for weeks, and months on end. After the 13th week of dieting on the same foods every single day I found myself in the best shape of my life physically, but in the worst shape possible mentally. With 2 weeks to go until the big day I just couldn’t take the restriction anymore and I found myself at a convenient store around 1:00 a.m. buying all the foods I felt I was missing out on. I ate 2 boxes of Honey Buns, a couple apple pies, a few packages of Reese’s cups, and a Pay Day. I felt amazing during the binge, but awful after. After that night I didn’t need science or psychology to tell me that dieting was bad and I needed to find a new approach to reach my goals.
I don’t believe in diets, but if you happen to be on one, here’s why you should cheat on it.
- It's very hard to stick to a calorie-controlled diet. Initially you have a sense of fulfillment, because the challenge of being strict is fun, but it quickly turns into a chore. You can, however, turn your feelings of deprivation and frustration into pleasure by making the experience as easy and fun as possible though. Easy is all about following balanced, calorie-controlled menus that include foods you like to eat, and having those foods available so that it's easier to stick to your plan. Allow yourself some small indulgences and plan them into your diet. This can turn into the fun part.
- You can't kid yourself. If you want to lose or maintain weight, there are limits to how much you can eat, but it makes more sense to find a way to incorporate reasonable amounts of snacks and treats into your diet plan than to avoid them altogether, especially if living without certain types of foods is going to drive you crazy. The secret is simply to plan your cheating, rather than letting it happen randomly or at times when you're feeling out of control. When you have a plan, you have something to look forward to and you're less likely to overdo it. There's no rebellion involved.
- You have to stop saying, "Oh, I shouldn't eat this!" when you know you're going to eat it. Instead, whether it's chocolate, potato chips, or pepperoni pizza, figure out how to include small amounts of "cheat foods" in your diet plan and give yourself permission to eat and enjoy them as part of a meal or well-planned snack. Even better, choose healthy versions of your favorite treats, and try to combine your cheat foods with healthier foods, as in dark chocolate-dipped strawberries or bananas, baked potato chips with yogurt-based dip, and a slice of pepperoni pizza with a large salad on the side.
The thought I want to leave you with is one of sustainability. If you can’t see yourself eating the way you are now 5-10 years from now, what is the point?