Would having a weekly cheat day – a particular day when you can eat almost anything you want – help you to lose weight in the long run?
by Dane Findley
Personally, I’m not a fan of “dieting.”
Instead, I believe in permanent lifestyle upgrades.
There are some menu items that I will not allow myself to eat, no matter how tasty they might appear.
Inflammatory foods – which for me include foods with processed grains and refined sugars – make me puffy and tired (and as soon as I’m done eating them, I regret it).
Also, when I eat simple carbs it just makes me crave more simple carbs and activates addictive urges around food. It’s better for me if I just don’t go there.
However, there are some cheat foods (hello, dark chocolate!) that I will allow myself.
And I have friends who enthusiastically endorse the cheat-day concept; they report that having one day each week when they can drink and eat anything they want really helps them to stay-on-track the rest of the week.
Many nutritional experts believe that allowing yourself a cheat day once-a-week – when you can eat (practically) anything your heart desires – might actually help you to stick to your diet and ignite your weight loss.
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Diet Cheat Day for Athletes: The Carbohydrate “Refeed”
Some people – particularly athletes or people who exercise regularly – call their Diet Cheat Day a “carb refeed.” In this case, the diet cheat day is an opportunity to consciously dial-up your intake of carbs to help offset the negative metabolic and hormonal effects from long-term low-carb dieting.
Low carb eating done for days on end can eventually burn up your body’s glycogen – the carbohydrates stored inside your muscle tissue – which can begin to impact your mood and your performance.
For me personally, I solve this challenge by adding a small serving of white rice (that I make in my InstantPot pressure cooker) to my dinner once each week. During the rest of the week, I might limit my carbs to between 100 and 150 grams a day (I would go even lower if I didn’t workout so much. But my exercise schedule necessitates having more carbs than is strictly Keto).
Some bodybuilding friends I know do their once-a-week carb refeed by hitting the gym on Sunday morning, then going out for their cheat meal directly after the workout – a meal that includes a stack of gluten-free pancakes covered in real maple syrup.
Many Dieters Find Cheat Days Helpful for Weight Loss
On this talk show, Doctor Oz created “Fat-urday,” the one day each week that you are allowed to cheat and eat the foods you love.
He shared tips on how to get the most out of your cheat day so that you have a good, delicious time without completely falling off of the diet wagon.
Technically, your cheat day can be more than once a week. The rule is that you need to have at least five days between each Fat-urday. Dr. Oz explained that for some people cheating properly can actually help them lose weight.
there are ways to cheat your diet without cheating yourself.”
People who cheat lose more weight, and the reasoning is two-fold:
- cheating stimulates the thyroid gland and turns up the metabolism
- cheating gets rid of the taboo of wanting what you can’t have, thereby curbing cravings
It’s important to understand that cheat day is not a binge day. Here’s the skinny:
- choose your Fat-urday
- Dr. Oz strongly suggests eliminating all binge temptations (often associated with location)
3 Meals 2 Snacks = Good Cheat Day
A cheat day is not, reminds Doctor Oz, a day of unlimited calories. For starters, even on a cheat day the body still will convert into fat cells anything over 800 calories in one sitting.
A cheat day is a widening of the diet boundaries, not a complete free-for-all!
The smart way to construct your cheat day is to have it consist of 3 meals and 2 snacks. Here is an example of a diet cheat day from Dr. Oz:
- breakfast – Dr Oz recommends his Fat-urday breakfast wrap with turkey bacon
- snack #1 – Brie or Goat Cheese with crackers (salt craving)
- lunch – pizza with whole wheat crust (simple carbs turns on the thyroid)
- snack #2 – frozen yogurt with almonds or smoothie (simple sugars craving)
- dinner – steak frites with baked fries (protein)
This is just a simple overview, but Dr Oz explains that this cheat day actually comes in at under 1400 calories. It is a cheat day, so that 1400 leaves you with some wiggle-room to indulge in some other healthy cheats. Here are some possible healthier alternatives:
• If you like potato chips, try Taro Chips
• If you like chocolate, try dark chocolate bars with chili peppers (the spice makes it self-limiting, and the capzasin gets your metabolism going)
• If you like cookies, try Lucy’s Cookies (see sources below)
• If you like ice cream, try green tea ice cream (and get all of the benefits of green tea)
Pick the one that fits your snacking weakness. Dr. Oz suggests freezing a natural whipped topping, like Truwhip, as an ice cream alternative.
3 Low-Calorie Smoothie Recipes for Cheat Day
The fun part of making a smoothie is dropping the ingredients you’ve chosen into a blender and creating a concoction that meets your taste buds’ wants – while simultaneously fulfilling your body’s nutritional needs.
The advantage to including smoothies into a cheat day, is that you can include a bit more fruit than you might on a regular day.
The best thing about smoothies is that, if made properly, they can improve your health.
Green smoothies also happen to be lower in calories than most standard meals so – even though they are rich and filling – dropping weight can be an additional result.
The main purpose of smoothies is to improve nutrition and health, but they also can help you drop fat. Many freshly made smoothies have between 285 to 385 calories, yet are satisfying – similar to the way a milkshake fills you up.
Smoothies are a part of my life. I’m 53 years old and fit.
I wasn’t always as fit as I am now; the reason I use my blender so much is that I want to have the high energy and excellent health required to live a passionate life.
I make all kinds of smoothies throughout the week. Some are as thick as ice cream and have more fruit than vegetables and those can be a good choice for cheat day.
Mostly, however, I have green smoothies that contain more vegetables than fruit and I often have those for lunch.
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Here are three smoothie recipes for you to try. Compare how your body feels after you drink them, with how you’d normally feel after a snack or a meal.
1. Detox Breakfast Smoothie
This smoothie is high in leafy greens and delightfully sweet – making it easy to kick-start your healthy day and meet your vegetable quota.
- Pineapple Juice (1 cup) – This will be the liquid base. If you’d prefer you can cut your own fresh pineapple chunks but be sure to add enough water to cover the blender blades.
- Kale (2 big handfuls) – This leafy vegetable comes in a dark green or purple color. It is a form of cabbage and has become kind of a fashionable food lately. Many nutritionists label it the most nutritious vegetable and a powerful antioxidant.
- Parsley (handful) – Often used as a garnish, in this case, it compliments the kale by being mineral-rich and a great antioxidant as well.
- Mint Leafs (handful) – Its pleasant taste enhances. Mint also cleans out your digestive tract and research indicate it has anti-cancer properties.
- Ground Flaxseed (2 tablespoons) – Freshly ground in a spice or coffee-bean grinder is best, as its nutrition starts to deplete once ground. A good energy booster and full of omega 3.
- Ice (1 cup) – Adds a chilled and slushy texture.
You’ll really need a good blender to liquidize all those soft leaves.
2. Mango Surprise Smoothie
Here’s a nutrient-dense super-smoothie that’s extra good for you. This is a more advanced recipe for people who already enjoy the taste of vegetables. If you’re newer to smoothies, you probably want to start with more fruit and possibly even add a little honey or agave to this one.
- Almond Milk (1/2 cup) – For the liquid base. Almonds are good for digestion and one of the few alkalizing nuts. This milk has a very smooth texture as well.
- Organic Cucumber (1) – Peel the skin to ensure a clean smooth texture. This is so good for a smoothie and is known for its many healing properties.
- Organic Spinach (1/2 cup) Very high in iron. You can use fresh or frozen, I prefer frozen for smoothies as it won’t spoil. I can then save the fresh produce for salads.
- Mango (1/2 cup) – Mango has a flavanoid in it that is anti-aging, but is also great tasting and adds a sweet kick to the smoothie.
- Plant-based protein powder (2 tablespoons) – Our body builds and repairs itself with protein so it’s important to make sure we get enough. Adding plant-based protein powder to a smoothie is a great way to naturally give your body more building blocks and provide yourself with energy.
- Raw sprouted pumpkin seeds (1 tablespoon) – Another good dose of protein.
- Small Tomato (1) – Just drop the whole thing in there. Optional — not recommended for beginners!
- Bee Pollen (1 teaspoon) – Contains vitamins and minerals. Many believe grown bee pollen to be especially good for you, especially if you have plant allergies (as it’s rumored to help you build an immunity to the local pollens).
- Ice (1 cup) – To add that chilled smooth taste that’s so desirable in a smoothie.
- Blueberries (3/4 cup) – This is optional, but I think most people would prefer it. Frozen or fresh — up to you.
- a few drops of Agave Nectar – also optional.
3. Coco-Cashew Smoothie
This can be either a smoothie on its own or an after-dinner dessert. It will taste like an ice cream milkshake, but made from the all natural sugars found in the ingredients.
- Dates (6) This super sweet fruit is full of healthy nutrients, make sure to remove the pit first.
- Cashew Nuts (2 cups) – Soak them in a jar for a few hours to soften and allow the protein level to rise.
- Raw Cacao (to taste) – A healthier, purer version of chocolate. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons (but don’t go overboard or it will taste bitter).
- Frozen banana (half or whole depending on preference); this will help give it the texture of a milkshake.
When blended and poured into a glass, sprinkle some carob nibs or nutmeg on top.
…compare how your body feels after you drink a freshly made smoothie, with how you’d normally feel after a snack or a meal”
You can change and adapt the ingredients and their portions to meet your wants and needs. In fact, I encourage you to do so.
Lengthen Your Healthspan Through Calorie Restriction
Lately, I’ve been experimenting with 1700 calories a day (hardly “restrictive”) with 300 additional calories on days when I exercise (for 2000, total).
Research seems to support calorie restriction as a key method for living better for longer. It can be helpful to think of this as extending your “healthspan,” instead of only extending your lifespan. The idea isn’t to just live longer, it’s to live longer with great health.
…if you follow these suggestions then you statistically will have a better chance to live longer and to leave a positive legacy”
I know “calorie restriction” has an ominous sound to it. But it’s actually not so bad. I’m five-foot-nine-inches, so as long as my workouts are normal, then 2,000 calories a day seems to work fine. Bear in mind, those are 2,000 quality calories.
There are periods when I workout strenuously every day. On those days, a mere 300 extra calories might not be enough:
- Your own daily caloric intake should be determined by your height, genetic metabolism, and fat-to-muscle ratio.
- Everybody’s unique, so everybody’s number can be different.
- Ask your doctor and nutritionist what the right caloric intake is for you.
The bottom line is this: in order to take your health to the next level, you will likely need to consume more vegetables within your typical daily diet.
Freshly made green smoothies are an excellent solution to the problem of how to consume more vegetables.
Dr. Oz referred to the Fat-urday Schedule as “structured hedonism,” which has a nice ring to it.
There are ways to cheat your diet and ways to cheat the clock without cheating yourself.
Additional Sources about Doing a Diet Cheat Day:
Medical Doctor Mehmet Cengiz Öz on Eating Plans that Reduce – http://www.doctoroz.com/
Science Reveals How Restricting Calories Might Prevent Disease – http://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2011/7/Protection-from-Disease-The-CR-Way/Page-01
Lucy’s Cookies – http://www.drlucys.com/ (not anti-inflammatory, just fewer calories than typical cookies)
TruWhip – http://www.truwhip.com/ (not anti-inflammatory, just fewer calories than typical whipped cream)