The Cheat Day: How To Do It Right?

The fitness and diet world is torn on the subject of cheat days. Some believe that 'You need them to stay sane.' While others claim 'Why would you reward a good habit with a bad one?'

To be fair, both have strong arguments, but as the holiday season approaches, the issue has been coming up more than ever. Here is everything you need to know about cheat days.

What A Cheat Day Does To Your Body?

On cheat days you can have your cake and eat it, too!

A cheat day in its' most basic form is you giving yourself permission to indulge. Since indulging typically involves fast food, sweets, and alcohol a lot more often than it does celery, its pretty much certain that you will consume more calories than you need.

Just for reference, your typical visit to a fast food restaurant (burger, fries, and a drink)  will pile on around 1000 calories. Hearty home-cooked dishes although better in nutrients, aren't much better in terms of calorie intake.

Let's face it, even with the best intentions the next few weeks are going to see you consume significantly more calories than you use and this extra energy will be stored in the form of fat.

So what do you do? Do you just decide to get fat in December before you get fit in January?!

I actually believe that a cheat day is a good thing for a number of reasons, but let me first of all explain the science behind it all...

First off, you need to be following a strict eating plan to something to cheat on!

I believe the key to any success with your fitness or diet goals is to know your body. The process of following my 30 day elimination programme is to find out how your body reacts to certain foods more so than just to drop a few pounds.

When most people try to lose weight they follow a calorie restrictive diet.

It's simple right? Less calories in = weight loss!

Well on paper yes, but we need to be aware of hormone levels and in particular a hormone called leptin which is found in the fat cells and is responsible for telling your brain when you are full.

When we follow a calorie restrictive diet leptin levels drop, your brain then senses starvation and the cravings kick in! This is why most people give up on a diet after just a few days. Their body is simply doing everything it can to restore balance. Therefore harnessing the best way to manipulate this process could be the key to success with your fat loss goals.

Your First Month Of Healthy Eating

Those of you that have seen my diet plan know that it is quite a strict process. You will by no means be starving but a lot of your favourite junk food won't be an option. The point is to reset your body to enjoy healthy food once again. But cravings are still a very real problem. Here is how I recommend you deal with them:

  • Experiment with food. Prepare tasty and nutritious meals for your family. Check out that new healthy restaurant. Restricting junk does not mean restricting flavour.
  • When a craving inevitably comes up, just acknowledge it. Understand that it's there because you are burning fat and tell yourself you are just delaying gratification.
  • Finally, at the end of the process, enjoy a cheat day. You will get a massive energy boost and your body will actually appreciate the shock. After that I recommend that you book in your cheat days once per week.

The Perfect Cheat Day

First off, you need to have a good healthy breakfast. I highly eggs and they have been proven to lower your appetite throughout the day. However, anything rich in protein and low in fat and fast carbs will do. You're going to cheat but the you don't need to go completely mad!

Next, whip out that cravings list. Which ones do you really want right now? Circle them and head over to the supermarket. Bear in mind, that whatever you buy you need to eat on the day. That holds true for parties, too, and we both know you will be going to quite a few over the next few weeks! No matter how much your host insists, you are not taking that doggy bag back home with you! You don't want anything tempting you during the week.

Eat freely, whatever your body has craved over the last few weeks - indulge!

If you love your junk food then removing it permanently is just going to make you miserable. It is my belief that all elements of health and fitness should be an enjoyable process and as you see the results of following my nutritional principles I guarantee that the cravings will become less and less.

Cheat Day Psychological Benefits

Internal organs align

The reality is most people will only really stick to a diet about 80% of the time. Over my many years of working in the fitness industry I recognise that instead of forcing my ideas onto clients I need to meet them where they are at. I want commitment but I understand that sometimes life can just get in the way and it is pointless trying to change others if I cannot be adaptable myself.  The cheat day offers a great solution for most people to achieve great results without feeling as though they are depriving themselves.

Instead of failing with a diet plan and turning a minor slip-up into a major set back you can simply accept that you will fall off the wagon manage it appropriately and continue with the diet as planned. A short break from your restricted diet can also really boost your mood and enhance your long-term motivation.

How To Be a Great Cheater!

I believe that a cheat day is a really positive move - as long as you've earned it!

The key to a lean and toned physique is in being strict with your diet - There's no getting around that. You get fit in the gym but you lose weight in the kitchen. Get into great habits, learn how your body reacts to the fuel that you feed it see the results and then be strategic with how you maintain them.

If you eat a clean healthy diet 80-90% of the time then you can get away with eating pretty much anything the rest of the time!

With that in mind... Let the Christmas Party season begin!

So those are my guidelines for a successful (or at least not as damaging) cheat day. If you have any questions or suggestions for future articles, please don't hesitate to share them in the comments below!

Cheers,

David


Your Ultimate End Of Season Review: Achieving Balance And Happiness The Easy Way

As some of you may know, I also work as the Human Performance Coach at Red Bull Racing Formula One Team.

It's an incredibly and highly rewarding experience but now that the season is over, I use this time to step back and evaluate how everything has gone for me in 2017...

Even if you are not involved in Formula One, the end of the year is fast approaching and maybe it's time to look at how it's gone for you?...

We all have New Year's Resolutions, but very few of us have end of year assessments which is a shame - as most people stick to their resolutions for an average of two weeks!

While this might be good news for the fitness industry that makes huge profits from the thousands of unused gym memberships, for the majority of people, New Year's resolutions end up being pretty much useless!

So, instead of starting that list of New Year's Resolutions for 2018, I invite you to join my end of season reflection.

How was 2017 for you?

What are you most proud of?

What was your biggest achievement?

What did your achievements cost you?

Where did most of your energy go?

This isn't just about patting yourself on the back! It gives you an understanding of what went well and what areas you need to improve upon in order to create a strategy of dynamic goals and resolutions so that 2018 can be even better!

Why Balance Is More Important Than Hard Work

Here is a piece of wisdom I learnt the hard way. You can't shut down the stress and anxiety by doing more work. Success at the cost of happiness is no success at all.

Over the years, I have heard all sorts of answers to 'What did your achievements cost you? ' Some of them are actually pretty shocking. Spending an outrageous amount of time at the office. Hardly seeing your family for months at a time. Sacrificing relationships. Sacrificing health. Sacrificing sanity!

I've been there before and seen it far too many times with clients that I've worked with and in order to change things for them and myself you need to first of all recognise where things are out of balance.

This is always the most difficult part, but I've found a little tool I refer to as my Wheel Of Life is a great starting point.

A Practical Way To Assess Balance

Most people are visual creatures. The wheel is a way for me to show my clients what their life balance looks like and it requires that you rate the quality of various aspects of your life. I have divided them as follows:

1. Career & Business
2. Finance
3. Personal Growth
4. Health
5. Family
6. Relationships
7. Social Life
8. Attitude

I find this covers most areas for most people, but you may want to personalise it more to your own life!

Fill Out The Wheel

I encourage clients to start with a little bit of reflection. What would my life look like if I had this aspect perfectly under control? For diet, that might look like home cooking most of your meals, making healthy choices when eating out, feeling energised, physically healthy and well-nourished.
Then, on a scale from 1 to 10, decide if you are pretty close to that or a long way from that perfect state!

Another way to complete the wheel is to think about your average day. How much of your time and energy goes into each aspect? Yes, worrying about it counts, too. Turn that into points on the 1 to 10 scale.

The idea is that you go through each aspect of your life and rate where you currently are in each area against where you would like to be. Some areas may be great for you while others may be causing you a number of problems. Most likely, each area will need a little bit of work.

Will The Wheel Roll?

Once you've completed the exercise, take a look at your wheel. Is it balanced? Is there any aspect that has significantly higher or fewer points than the others? In other words, if it were a real wheel, will it roll or will the weight of that one or more aspects stop the movement?

Now you know what to work on!

Turning The Wheel Into Actual Happiness

One of my favourite quotes goes:

"My point is, life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada."

It's by Ellen DeGeneres and it perfectly sums up my thoughts on contentment. Life will not always be perfect. You will have times where work overwhelms you. Where you neglect your health. Where your family consumes most of your time and where things just don't quite go to plan.

The point is there will always be tough times in life you can't avoid this, but you can get yourself in the best place to enjoy the highs and roll with the lows.

Do this exercise and then take the time to review it.

The next bit is to decide what you can do about it...

Note the areas that are lacking and commit to dedicating more time and effort to them. I personally like to list 3 practical things that would improve that aspect of my life. I know there might be days where I don't find the time or energy to do them but each week I try to revisit my wheel and and just check in on how I am balancing things out.

Your Thoughts

The reality is, time passes whether you decide to do anything about it or not!
If you're reading this blog then it's my guess that you'd like to do something to improve the health and fitness aspects of your life and maybe a few others.

I hope this post has at least made you think about assessing things and stepping into next year with a plan that will actually work for you.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Cheers,

David