Recently, Andie over on Can You Stay for Dinner posted about cheat days while dieting. I responded in the comments, but the topic has stuck with me so I wanted to expand upon my thoughts here.
For me, being “on the wagon” with regard to eating well means that 85% of the foods I eat are healthy and 15% are eaten purely for enjoyment. Saturday at dinnertime through lunch on Friday I am eating healthy breakfasts, lunches and dinners with lots of veggies and reasonable calorie counts. Friday night is either takeout or something that I cook that is higher in calories/has little nutritional value that I wouldn’t eat during the week for dinner. Saturday morning is something ‘naughty’ for breakfast, often pancakes and eggs, and lunch on Saturday is usually leftovers from dinner the night before. On Friday and Saturday nights I have dessert, and if there are leftovers of the dessert I’ll have some on Sunday, but if anything is left on Monday it gets thrown out.
So here’s how my diet breaks down, and this is why I consider it balanced:
Out of 7 breakfasts each week, six are healthy (usually oatmeal) and one is not
Out of 7 dinners each week, six are healthy and one is not
Out of 7 lunches each week, six are healthy and one is not
Dessert is eaten two to three times a week, the rest of the days I don’t have any sweets
For me, this is perfection. I really look forward to the ‘naughty’ meal I’m going to eat on Friday and enjoy it much more than when I’m eating takeout a few times a week; same with dessert. When I don’t have these guidelines in place, it becomes really easy for me to eat dessert every day (and sometimes also buy some candy out of the vending machine at school) and start getting takeout frequently because I’m too lazy to cook, but then I feel physically crappy. This way of eating seems to be some sort of sweet spot for me because as long as I am exercising regularly it is easy to lose weight and it feels effortless.
Some people would consider my diet, well, a diet since I’m counting calories, and they would consider Friday and Saturday cheat days since I’m deviating from the way I usually eat. I don’t consider the way I eat to be a diet, though, because to me diet implies something temporary. Over the years, I have gone back and forth from being completely mindless with my eating (and/or stress eating, which will have to be a post of it’s own) to this style of diet (and here I’m using the word to simply mean the foods I eat), and I always feel awesome when I’m doing this. I don’t feel deprived in any way, and it is a way of eating that I can imagine doing forever.
Because of this, I don’t think of Friday and Saturday as cheat days because they are just a part of my balanced week. Food is more than just nourishment, and even though the meals I cook throughout the week are delicious and satisfying, I don’t think it’s good to make any foods completely off limits. Sometimes I want some sesame chicken or pizza, and those types of foods can absolutely fit into a healthy diet. The key is, of course, moderation. The important part of figuring out what balance looks like to you is to find a way to eat and exercise so that you feel healthy, happy, and satisfied.
On the theme of healthy living, I’m happy to report that last week was a total exercise win! I even exceeded my goals. I woke up early Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday to exercise before class, I went for a long walk Friday night, walked for about two hours on Saturday and about the same amount of time yesterday. I know I said this on Wednesday, but I’m shocked about how easy getting up to exercise is. I honestly thought it would be miserable but I like it a lot and I’m glad I finally just did it!
Well, it’s time for me to get reading. In my Growing Up Latino class we had to choose one book to do a research paper on, and apparently we were already supposed to have read the book. Since we’ve been reading about 150 pages per week of the other assigned books since the semester started I’m not exactly sure when I would have read the book I chose, but I guess I’d better get on it!
Now it’s your turn:
What does balance look like to you?