Give yourself a break

I remember once watching the Oprah show when she had lost a large amount of weight. To illustrate how much weight she’d lost, she pulled out a wagon with bags of fat on it. She had done some liquid diet and was explaining her experience while doing the diet. She said she stuck to the shakes for every meal except once when she ate a burger. I remember thinking at the time that it was incredible that she hadn’t eaten anything else during the process, I admired her resolve.

Having done liquid diets myself, I know from experience, how difficult they can be and that they just don’t work long term. You do not learn any healthy eating habits while your on the diet and transitioning back to solid food is difficult because you fall back in to the same old patterns. Also, you have not learned how your body responds when you eat certain types of food. In addition, prolonged reduction of calorie intake just puts your body into starvation mode and when you eat solid food your body just wants to store it up as excess fat. Just in case you decided to starve it again. It’s a vicious cycle.

As we go though the week, our bodies are either burning energy or storing energy. When losing weight, you want your body to be burning energy,in the form of fat, as much as possible. In order to burn stored fat, (on a simple level) you must burn more energy (calories) than you are consuming (calories from food). The challenge is your body doesn’t like this idea and after a few days of you consuming less calories it switches to energy store mode. It basically thinks it has to store energy (fat) because your not eating enough. Yes, even if your carrying excess fat on your body. This is why so many people struggle with weight loss. With prolonged calorie reduction, your body just won’t burn that much stored fat. Your body goes into survival mode and you get frustrated.

How do you over come this battle between energy storing and energy burn? If your body is going into energy store mode you must eat MORE food to “trick” it into reverting back to energy burn mode, to get the fat stores off. If your body thinks it is getting more food (calories) it will switch to energy burning mode as there is more than enough calories to spare and it doesn’t need to store it. Now, you mustn’t keep over eating as eventually the body switches back to energy store mode. If there is constantly too many calories in the system it will not know what to do with them, so it just stores them. It is a delicate balance.

I have found the easiest way to balance this system is cheat days. These are days when you get to eat what you want to eat, like fish & chips, cookies, cake…. whatever you fancy. You get to give yourself a brake from the daily eating plan. It is so important, not only for your body, but for your psychological well being too. This way you don’t feel like you are being deprived or going without your favorite foods.

By having a cheat day, your body feels like there is a good amount of energy coming into the system and switches to burn energy mode to consume the small amount of excess calories. The next day, when you return to your reduced calorie eating plan, your body is still in energy burn mode. Now, because you have reduced your calorie intake and maintained or increased your energy output (perhaps by exercise) it has to go into the energy stores (fat) to get the energy difference (your calorie deficit). This is when you lose weight! Now, after a few days your body will realize what you have done and put the brakes on switching back to energy store mode. This is usually just in time for your next cheat day.

It is important to have at least one cheat day a week. This has worked so well for me. Not only do I look forward to my cheat day, but I see the weight come of within a day after cheat day. A few months ago I was stuck on a weight plateau. The first instinct was to eat less or exercise more to break the barrier, but after 3 weeks the scale wasn’t moving. I decided on cheat day I was going to go for it and eat more than usual. Two days after cheat day the scale showed the results, more weight lost! It works.

So give yourself a break! Remember this is a marathon, it’s a lifestyle change! Set a side a day to have somethings you like or some thing you are craving. If a day seems like too much, try a meal. It’s all about learning what is right for you and your body. I know some people who don’t have a lot of weight to lose so they do two cheat days a week. Do what works for you, after all you know your body better than anybody else, you live in it!