Cheaters Never Prosper!

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Shaun Stafford.

As summer fast approaches and the pre-holiday diets inevitably begin, all everyone seems to want to talk about are their CHEAT MEALS!!!

For those of you not in the know, these are planned breaks from your diet where you can psychologically reset yourself before continuing on the path towards that dream beach body…

For most people this will involve a night out/ in with a pizza, bowl of ice-cream and a bottle of fizzy pop or wine as a reward for all your hard work in the week. But what a lot of people don’t realise is that this meal might be setting you back further than you think!

To give you a broad context, in order to maintain and encourage a sustainable period of weight loss/ fat loss, you need to be eating within a “calorie deficit”. This means that you are burning more calories than you are consuming, and it needs to be sustained for a prolonged period of time to get real results.

A commonly accepted number for this deficit is around about a 500kcal per day, or a total of 3,500kcals a week: this should lead to an estimated 2lb drop in your scale weight every 7 days and depending on how you are training, this could be pure fat!

Now, let’s revisit your typical cheat meal: a 14-inch regular crust pizza (2250kcals), a bowl of your favourite ice-cream (600kcals) and half a bottle of wine (450kcals) almost completely knocks out your entire weekly deficit… that means all 7 days that you were dieting like a monk and training like a madman were completely worthless when it comes to achieving your weight loss goals from a calorie point of view!

Now that puts your cheat meal into perspective and also might explain why you not only feel sluggish on a Monday morning, but why your weight has “inexplicably” gone back up!

Now I am not someone who insists that his clients live like fitness models 24/7, 52 weeks of the year… but I do encourage my clients to be sensible and clever with how they treat their diets and weight loss goals.

Here are a few things that I try and get most of my clients aware of and why most of them have a great relationship with food and exercise, and more importantly… get results! Here is your blagger’s guide to cheating smart!

1. Be Clever With Your Cheat Meals.

When planning a cheat meal, be realistic when it comes to portion size and choice of food. Rather than have a whole Pizza, try a couple of slices… Rather than having a normal bottle of Coke, try a Coke Zero… and rather than smashing a whole tub of Ben & Jerry’s, why not go for a low-fat frozen yoghurt or specialist low-calorie, high protein ice-cream?

If you can keep the calories down to approximately what you would be eating whilst on your diet, the ‘Cheat Meal’ will certainly have less impact on your weekly deficit, keeping you on track whilst adding in that extra psychological boost.

2. Cut Back Your Calories Around Your Cheat…

Now I am never a big fan of eating less (I’d much rather move more), but in the context of a weekly cheat meal, it could make the difference between progress or stagnation!

Rather than have your cheat meal on top of your weekly calories, remove some from elsewhere to balance your weekly total. If your cheat meal boosts your calorific intake by 1500kcals, make sure you drop these calories from other meals… this might mean dropping a meal a day 3 days before your blow out so that your deficit remains in tact!

3. Earn your treats!

If I know I have an event coming up where I will be “off-piste” with my diet, then I like to take some pre-event measures to limit the impact. This usually involves adding in an extra workout or two before and after the event to mitigate as many of those bonus calories as possible… at least that way you feel like you have earned your night off and can enjoy it completely guilt free!

4. Give Yourself Enough Time!

Now if you have your wedding, holiday or that “chance encounter” with your ex coming up, make sure you give yourself enough time to shift the weight that you want. If we consider that approximately a 2lb weight loss per week is safe, manageable and sustainable, figure out how much you want to lose, divide it by 2lbs, and that will give you how long you have to diet for in weeks… throw in a couple of extra weeks for unplanned illness/ travel etc. and you should be bang on track to achieve your goals with time to spare.

The worst thing you can do is try to lose too much weight, too fast: this will make you overly hungry and will almost certainly lead to over-eating and binging when you do stray from your diet.

5. If you don’t need it, don’t take it!

One of the most frustrating things about dieting from a coaches’ point of view is people’s obsession with cheating on it… When you’re focussed on a plan and seeing results, that should be more satisfying than any pulled-pork platter or greasy cheeseburger!

The psychology of cheating is often a self-fulfilling prophecy as people become fixated on the wrong thing… and you always end up wanting what you can’t have even more. Focus on your training… focus on your nutrition… and focus on your results! That will keep you motivated and when the time to have your cheat meal comes around, you probably won’t want it anyway!

The best way to get results whilst dieting is to make it sustainable and manageable: planned “cheating” can be a good way to do this, but make sure you are doing it in a sensible and clever way so. That way you really can have your cake and eat it.

School of Success