To Cheat, or Not to Cheat

Kelly loves a cheat day.....

To cheat, or not to cheat?
The idea of a cheat day is is something that is very individual.  It's impossible for me to tell you what you should do without knowing your habits and preferences, but I can tell you what works for me.  There are lots of varied philosophies out there regarding cheat days, so it's worth doing some additional research on your own, but I can tell you my personal views here.

For me, cheat days are a wonderful thing.  They make it easier to exist in a carb filled world.  You shouldn't deprive yourself completely of foods that you love.  On top of that, eating is social for most people and it's important to participate in social activities that include food.  Making drastic changes to the things that make you who you are is no way to live and you'll end up hating me for suggesting such a thing.

The trick about cheat days is that they have to be controlled.  If you read my post about my recent trip to North Carolina, then you have a good example of an extremely uncontrolled cheat day that got away from me quickly.  Today was a stark contrast to that.

Awesome boyfriend and I ordered a huge lunch with all of our favorite foods from Red Hot & Blue, an amazing barbeque joint.  What we didn't eat we brought home and nibbled on for dinner.  We also went to Cold Stone (another one of our dirty habits) and each got a small ice cream around 6PM.

The reason that cheat days work for us is because we usually do them together.  We help each other stop when we say we are going to stop.  Unlike mother's day weekend, there's no danger here of me having additional cheat meals tomorrow or the next day.  The food is gone, and we don't keep carby stuff in the house, so we will be back to regular schedule tomorrow.

A second reason that we have success with cheat days is that we plan them in advance.  We knew we were going to be visiting Annapolis with some friends and so we've been excited to have a cheat day this weekend for several weeks now.  We had actually planned to have a carby sugary brunch by the water that would include things like pancakes and hash browns, but we stumbled over Red Hot & Blue and changed our minds.  The knowledge that there is a cheat day coming up on the horizon makes it easier for me to resist temptations in the day to day.

Perhaps our most important cheat day success secret is that we really do use these days as a reward for hard work. We take time to pick our favorite foods, go sit down somewhere that we both love, and truly enjoy what we are eating.  We eat off of each other's plates so that we can sample everything, and we don't rush these meals.  It's grown to be somewhat of a special thing that the two of us can do together, and this makes cheat days something that we look forward to even more.  Again, the social aspect of food comes into play here.  Neither one of us wants to waste this thing that we do together, and so we are more diligent in the day to day because we know that there is a prize at the end.

Tips for having a successful cheat day

  1. Plan ahead!  If you know that you are going out of town or have a special occasion coming up, use one of your cheat days there.  
  2. Cheat days should be used as rarely as possible.  Once a month is best, but absolutely not more than once a week.  
  3. Cheat days should only be ONE day.  Don't end up stretching them out into a cheat weekend.  
  4. When you do have a cheat day, try to get some good protein into your meal as well.  This will help keep you full longer and lower your carb and sugar intake.  (The above example of a barbeque place is great because we had lots of meat dishes to go with our starchy sides.)
  5. A cheat day is not an excuse to go bananas.  Whether you practice low carb or not, eating a whole pizza or a box of donuts in one sitting is probably not acceptable.  Think of a cheat day as an opportunity to have sensible meals that include breads, starches, and sugars.  
  6. Use the buddy system.  If you don't have a friend that you are doing low carb with, tell your loved ones that you are having a cheat day.  Get them to encourage you to make good choices.  Tell them that you need their support.  This is really key for me.  
  7. Try to get in some exercise, even if it's just taking the dogs for a walk.
  8. Drink lots and lots of water, and don't forget your supplements.  
  9. Don't mix cheat days with lots of alcohol.  A beer or two is okay, but if you're drinking enough to have very impaired judgement, you are more likely to go bananas (see number 5).  

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