Cheat Days

“Cheat Days” have become a popular dieting strategy. Because a lot of diets are very strict and require a lot of effort, people take a cheat day, or a break from the pattern. They have a day where they eat whatever they want and stop their diet plan for a day.

With a well thought-out eating plan for weight loss, you shouldn’t feel the need to have a cheat day. It is possible to eat foods that are familiar and make you happy, and still lose weight. It is better to eat those foods as part of your plan, rather than breaking your plan to eat them. Here’s why.

Let’s examine a scenario where you take a cheat day once a week. When you take a cheat day, you go out to a restaurant and eat your favorite foods. Then, you go to a friend’s house and go for a cook-out. On the way home, you and the family get ice cream and you get a Sunday. By the end of the day you have eaten 2,800 calories on your cheat day when your target for weight loss was 1700- off by 1,100 calories too many!

The impact of a cheat day on your progress can only be understood by remembering how hard you worked to reduce your calories all week. By following your plan and reducing your intake by 300 calories per day, you created an 1,800 calorie reduction over six days towards your fat loss. On the seventh day, if you have a cheat day like the one described quite a bit of your hard work is erased. Your weight loss will be slower- much slower- with cheat days like this.

Cheat days come from a diet culture that claims you can’t eat foods you enjoy while losing weight. They promote an unsustainable cycle of being strict or “good” about food, and then “letting go” or “being bad” about food. None of this is necessary to lose weight. That is why you will see fun and commonly consumed foods as options when you build your eating plan for this program.

If you are craving something specific, rather than taking a cheat day, talk with your doctor or nutritionist about how to fit that food into your weight loss eating plan. Also, remember that this weight loss treatment where you must carefully track your food does not last forever. It is a temporary 16-week program. You can gain a lot of health for taking care of your eating for a brief period of time.

Can I drink Alcohol while losing weight?

You might have noticed that there is no alcohol written into your weight loss eating plan. When you are losing weight, you have to eat less food overall. It is important to prioritize nutrient-rich foods to make sure you do not lose your health because of a poor quality diet. Alcohol is not a nutrient rich food, so it is not typically incorporated into a weight loss diet.

If you find yourself in a social situation where you have an alcoholic drink, there are a few helpful tips to keep in mind.

The best options to keep your calorie count lower are a light beer, such as a lager, or wine (champagne, red, or white). Try to stick to just one drink.
Avoid drinking hard liquor like rum, vodka, or tequila. When you are eating less for weight loss, you may feel the effects of all alcoholic drinks- but especially hard liquor- faster than usual.
Avoid mixed drinks. Mixers are usually very high in calories. Mixed drinks can often be 200 calories or more.
Mind the snacks that come with alcohol. Alcohol will reduce your inhibitions, and the snacks that are usually eaten with drinks are usually very high in calories.
Drink one glass of water for every alcoholic drink you take, just after finishing it.

Friends, Family, and Social Occasions

Having a higher weight is a medical condition, just like having excess blood sugar and diabetes. There is nothing shameful about having a higher weight and it can happen to anyone. Also, there is nothing shameful about trying to lose weight to improve health. Although you may come to understand this, others in your may not immediately understand. Because there are many different opinions about weight and weight loss, social pressures from loved ones can make or break your ability to lose weight. It is important to give some careful thought to who you tell about your weight loss journey, and how you tell them.

Weight Loss Friends and Foes

Most friends and family will understand if you tell them that you are losing weight for your health. Those who understand and are supportive can actually be very helpful. For example, if your loved one does the shopping, they can help you with the groceries for your weight loss eating plan. Or, you can ask loved ones to not keep tempting snacks like candy jars or chips out on the counter top where they are hard to resist. Also, a walking buddy can be very helpful to hold you accountable for getting your steps in.

Sometimes though, our friends and family may not be supportive. They may refuse to try new foods with you that might be helpful to you, or they may tease you about wanting to lose weight, for example. If you have a history like this with someone, you may consider avoiding mentioning your weight loss plans at all. Your eating plan is made up of typical foods that aren’t necessarily viewed as “diet foods”, so you can probably follow it without drawing too much attention to the fact.

If someone unsupportive notices your weight loss, even though you haven’t mentioned it, you can respond by explaining to them how great and happy you feel. It would be hard for a loved one to continue to be worried if they understand you are in a better place. And if they mention your looks, you can remind them that you are doing this for health, not to look a certain way.

How to Handle Social Outings and Celebrations

Friend and family support issues may come up during celebrations with family. For birthdays, it’s the cake and the special meal. Or maybe it’s an impromptu weekend cookout with your close friends. These events are important for your wellbeing and quality of life, but they also aren’t explicitly written into your weight loss plan. So, how should you handle them?

First, ideally you should be able to attend these events and keep up with your social life even though you are in a weight loss program. One occasional meal at a party that is different from your eating plan will not impact your progress if you have the skills to navigate it. If it’s at a restaurant, follow the guidelines you learned for that setting.

If it’s at someone’s house, you of course need to be mindful of your host’s feelings. This is especially true if they spent a long time cooking for you. You should aim to take a sensible portion of what is cooked for you.

Remember the meal sizes from the eating plan in this program are sensible, and take a similar sized portion of food. Remember that appetizers count, and remember to leave room for a few bites of cake if it’s someone’s birthday and it would be important to everyone that you have some. If your host insists on serving you, try keeping some food left on your plate because they won’t serve you more food if your plate is still full.

If you think the host will understand and he or she is someone close to you, tell them you are losing weight for your health. Telling them will help so they know not to take your moderate food intake personally. Tell them specifically what you need, just as you would if you were at someone’s house with any other illness that needed treatment.

If you think the person would not understand, try not to draw attention to what you are eating (not not eating!) and be discreet. Your host may ask why you are not taking more food. You can say it was excellent, but that you are full, and change the topic.

If someone is really unsupportive, you will have to decide how to handle that. For the time you are on this diet, you could try to avoid eating with that person. For example, Some of the meal options in this diet plan might permit this, such as the restaurant options where you could go without someone who is not supportive. Or, you could make a plan for how you will deflect or ignore this person.

If, after trying these approaches you are still having trouble with parties and social pressure to eat, that could make your treatment less effective. If this happens once every week or every two weeks, that probably won’t make a large difference in your progress. But if it happens several times per week, that can mean it’s difficult to lose enough weight to improve your health.

What to Do When Eating at a Restaurant

Eating at restaurants is part of life. You may eat out with friends to be social, or you may eat at a restaurant for convenience. So, when you are following a special diet program to lose weight, what should you do?

Restaurant food needs careful consideration when you are trying to lose weight. Most restaurants serve food that is very high in calories, so eating it can mean that you eat more than your calorie target to lose weight. That doesn’t mean that eating at a restaurant completely ruins your weight loss progress and efforts. It just means that eating at restaurants can slow your progress down, if you don’t know how to go about it.

The best option for your program would be to avoid restaurants as much as possible during this 16 week program. Don’t worry, you do not need to avoid them for the rest of your life! Instead, think of this as a temporary treatment program where you are changing your behavior for a short time. The more you can stick to the program as written, the better your weight loss results will be.

If restaurants are a necessity for your lifestyle, not to worry, you can still lose weight. The diet program has built in options for restaurant foods that you can take as part of your menu plan. If you know you are going to have a busy week, and you will need to eat out, choose those options. Or, if you know your family or friends will want to go out on the weekend, choose one of those so you have an option to go with them.

If those options are not going to work for any reason, the next best thing is to go to a restaurant that includes calorie labels on their menus. Build your meal so that it has 600 calories or less. If there isn’t an option that is that light in calories, you can choose one that is up to 1200 calories and take half of it for your meal. Just be careful when you do this, because sometimes the calories for the sides and drinks are listed separately. 600 calories is a good target for your entire meal including sides and drinks.

Sometimes you may end up somewhere that doesn’t have calorie labels. If that happens, here are some general tips to follow:
Some good main dish options include grilled chicken or fish, broth-based soups (not creamy), or salads.
Rice or tortillas are fine, but keep track of the quantity you take. Portion sizes are usually larger than needed for weight loss. 2 Tortillas and about ½ to 1 cup rice and beans is fine.
Try not to order anything with a very creamy or cheesy sauce on top.
Be aware of the calories in starters like free bread or chips and salsa. They are not free! One Olive Garden breadstick, for example, has 140 calories in it. Each Tortilla chip is 10-16 calories, so 10 chips will be about 100-160 calories.
Ask for any dressing, guacamole or sour cream on the side. Sour cream and guacamole are about 25 calories per tablespoon, and salad dressing is about 60 calories per tablespoon. So, take as little as you can of those items while still enjoying your food.
Water and diet sodas are the best drink options. Lemonade, regular sodas, beer or wine, and mixed drinks have calories.
Plan ahead. Know where you are going and decide what you’ll eat before you go so that you don’t even need to open the menu and tempt yourself to order something outside of your plan.