As a dietitian/nutritionist, I am often asked if I recommend having a cheat day. (A “cheat day,” cheat meal,” or “cheat food” — is a mini-break from a calorie-restricted diet for weight loss.) My answer is that it all depends on how you define cheat. If a cheat day is a feeding frenzy that packs in lots of extra calories, then I’m against it. But if it means making room for high-calorie favorite treats, then I’m all for it. No diet should be so restricted that it doesn’t make room for favorite foods.
Normal variations in day-to-day calorie intake may be in the best interests of health. Studies of intermittent fasting schedules in animals suggest that an intake pattern of highs and lows enhances the body’s ability to cope with biological stress and, maybe, to resist disease.* Variation is the natural course of events and evolution seems to make it work to an advantage.
Consider that healthy eaters who maintain steady weights don’t usually eat the same amount of food every day.
- They expect day-to-day variation and they use regular exercise to balance extra calories.
- They eat more or fewer calories largely depending on the social situation.
- They give themselves permission to eat favorite foods (within reason) as if it’s no big deal.
- They may choose to eat more at a special dinner or not.
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By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., Best Life lead nutritionist
Want to feel more satisfied after meals? You can, if you put your mind to it.
Eating mindfully, which can mean everything from simply noticing what you’re putting in your mouth to practicing stress reduction techniques to help end stress eating, can really help. When you become a more mindful eater, you savor, enjoy, and remember fondly each bite and sip of your meal. The end result: You’ll feel more satisfied and less likely to rummage around for more food.
In a recent University of Southern California review of 21 mindful eating studies, 18 of them helped improve in eating habits, cut calorie intake, and reduced bingeing.
There are entire books on the subject, so I won’t attempt to cover every aspect. Instead, here are my top five strategies; they work for me—and have helped people who’ve come to me for nutritional counseling.
- Identify why you’re eating or drinking. Is it because you’re actually hungry? (Rating your hunger for a week can be an eye-opener.) Or are you eating because you’re bored, stressed, or have another emotional trigger? Is it just habit (as in “I always have a 3 p.m. snack.)? Name the reason without judgment or guilt; these negative emotions can stress you out, driving you to overeat even more.
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You would think that after losing over 100 pounds, getting in the best shape of my life, maintaining it for 5 years. becoming a weight loss coach, motivational speaker and published author on the book “Fat Boy to Fit Man: A One Step at a Time Story of Success“, that it would be easy for me not to revert to old habits, right? WRONG!
Although it has become some what easier for me than when I first started on this journey, there are still times that I fall prey to the desires of wanting to eat mindlessly. (Eat mindlessly. HA! Who am i kidding? Pigging out is really what I want to do sometimes.)
Just last weekend, my fiancee and I went out to meet some friends for brunch. That morning I had gone to the gym and done an intense work out. Shortly after I arrived home and showered we left for our Sunday brunch. I was STARVING, yet I didn’t eat anything post work out because I reasoned that I was going to have a nice meal at brunch. BIG MISTAKE! Before we even got to the restaurant, my stomach was growling and I was about to chew my fiancee’s arm off! (Ok, I’m exaggerating. I was just going to nibble on her ear!)
Holidays can be challenging, especially when it comes to the variety and amount of food you encounter at gatherings. That’s why this can be a time of year you look forward to, and yet dread. If you struggle with your weight, should you do your best to make peace with the scale? Or should you avoid it all together; after all, you can always start again with the new year, right? Instead, we say plan accordingly.
Remaining present can be a challenge. Knowing what to expect this time of year and planning to approach it a bit differently can make a big difference in maintaining your weight and experiencing more peace, love, and joy (with yourself) this time of year.
Retrofit offers a personalized approach to weight loss and a sustainable, healthy lifestyle by identifying the key challenge(s) individuals face when trying to lose weight anytime of year. Each client takes a Lifestyle Patterns Assessment (LPA) developed by Dr. Robert Kushner, a weight-loss physician with decades of experience. The pattern(s) identified for each individual allows the Behavior Coach (or Weight Loss Coach) and client to work on the area(s) keeping him or her from being successful at losing the weight for good.
Clients are rarely surprised by their LPA results; they usually know what they should do to lose weight and make healthier choices. We use the patterns identified to build successful strategies. In short, the Behavior Coach helps clients close the gap between what they know and what they actually do, providing encouragement along the way.
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In many parts of the country, fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year. Other bonuses of the season including being able to exercise outdoors without fear of heat stroke and the holidays are quickly bringing family an friends together. However, that’s also a downside. With the holidays comes the lure of many enticing foods that will quickly pack on the pounds. Fad diets that promise quick weight loss may show results at first, but many times lost weight is regained as soon as the holiday decor is taken down.
Before this holiday season gives you even more reasons to overeat, change your bad eating habits in favor of ones with lasting weight loss.
We spoke with Susan Albers, PsyD., a clinical psychologist and author of Eating Mindfully, to hear her advice on how to achieve weight loss goals through permanent changes in eating habits.
“Seventy-five percent of overeating is caused by emotions, yet most of our diets focus on food, which is why they fail,” she said. “They don’t teach what to do for cravings or slip ups.”
Instead of another diet failing, focus on what she calls mindful eating. It’s not a diet with menus or recipes, instead it’s about changing psychological habits. “It’s more about how you eat than what you eat,” Dr. Albers said.
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