Archive for the tag - 80/20 rule

Is It Okay to Cheat on Your Diet Sometimes?

stackOfDoughnutsI get a lot of emails and questions about cheating on a diet or nutrition plan.

First things first, I’m not a big fan of the word “cheating.” It’s a loaded word and one that we often associate with dishonesty in a relationship. After the cheating comes the guilt, and then the guilt inspires nothing but feelings of shame and more negativity. Such downward cycles can be very destructive in any aspect of life – and food is no exception.

In fact, many people turn to food as a way to soothe and comfort, and thus the very act of cheating can create a cycle of binging, unhealthy choices and even more guilt. And even more binging.

You get the idea.

Instead of giving yourself cheat days, I’ve always said that it’s really about creating balance. Most of the time, eat the nourishing foods that your body needs. Eat the lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains that provide the nutrients and energy to fuel your life. And then some of the time, indulge in those foods that you crave.

I’ve always espoused the 80/20 rule for newbies. Eat healthy 80% of the time. It’s a great way to create balance in your life. After all, if you resist an unhealthy food that you crave – you’ll probably just crave it even more. The more you say to yourself, “I can’t eat ice cream,” the more you’re thinking about ice cream. And the more you think about ice cream, the more you’ll crave it.

Here’s the catch. Pay attention to how your body feels after the indulgence. How does your body feel after you eat the ice cream? Even without feelings of guilt or shame, our bodies don’t respond well to unhealthy foods. You may feel sluggish, tired or even slightly ill. When you pay attention to how unhealthy foods make your body feel, you may discover that you crave those unhealthy foods a little less.

Over time, the 80/20 rule may even become the 90/10 rule. Who knows?

In the comments below, share your favorite cheat balance food. Mine is pepperoni pizza. Mmm.

Losing Weight with “Cheat Days”: Do They Work?

I’ve often heard people say that, when dieting, it’s good to have a “cheat day” or “binge day” where you can eat whatever you want. This helps to shock your metabolism.

I’m just wondering, do you have a cheat day? And if so, what types of things do you allow yourself to eat on those days? I don’t want to eat something that will ruin my progress entirely (I’ve lost 47lbs as of Monday when I last checked my weight!), but the idea of having a cheat day sounds great to me.

Thanks,
Brad

Brad, first off – congratulations on releasing 47 lbs of weight. I hope you’re enjoying the journey and delighting in the benefits of a healthier you!

For people unfamiliar with cheat days, the general concept is eating healthy 6 days of the week. On the 7th day, less-healthy choices are allowed. It’s not about eating everything in sight, but it is about maybe eating a piece of grandma’s famous fried chicken, or getting an order of fries with your sandwich.

To answer your question: I don’t have a cheat “day”, though I do something a bit similar. I follow the 80/20 rule. In a nutshell, the 80/20 rule is about eating healthy 80% of the time. During the 80%, I eat lean meats, berries, unsalted nuts, fruits, etc., etc. But every fifth meal falls into the 20% category. This is when I allow myself to “cheat”, though I prefer to call it balance. I don’t appreciate the guilt associated with the term “cheat” – it implies that you’re doing something wrong. At any rate, I’m not religious about practicing the 80/20 rule, but I do try to keep a mental note of the healthiness of recent meals.

I have read numerous articles and pieces of research that conclude cheat days do help boost metabolism, thus staving off weight-loss plateaus. And for a lot of people, cheat days give relief in an otherwise restrictive diet. So there can be some real benefits.

But I also think there’s a psychological downside to cheat days, and I don’t think they’re for everyone. I think cheat days can create a mentality of 6 days of suffering through dieting and 1 day of satisfaction. In actuality, eating healthy and satisfaction need not be mutually exclusive. Rather than focusing on what you can eat, I think it’s much wiser to focus on all the healthy, delicious and enjoyable options available. Moreover, by bringing attention to the way your body reacts to your food choices (healthy foods make the body feel good!), loading up on cheese fries starts to lose its appeal.

I hope that helps!

But what about you? Do you have a cheat day? Do you follow the 80/20 rule? Or do you eat healthy foods 24/7?

5 Tips to Eat Dessert Daily and Never Get Fat.

Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands – and then eating just one of the pieces.  ~Judith Viorst

Yeah, yeah. We all know two things:

  1. If you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, it’s important to keep tabs – even if it’s roughly – on the calories you consume.
  2. Desserts tend to have a shitload (that’s a technical industry term) of calories.

The Great Wall of Chocolate from P.F. Chang’s, for example, has 2,200 calories. More modest desserts in more modest portions tend to average out in the 300 calorie range (see here for a more detailed calorie listing). It’s no surprise, then, that I found the following tip posted in a fitness forum:

Limit yourself to 1 dessert per week – Go from 7 to 1 day to decrease calories by 1,800 (300 per dessert) per week. 3,500 calories burned (more than consumed) equals 1 pound.  So you can lose 1 pound every 2 weeks and 26 pounds in 1 year this one tip alone!

Talk about buzz-kill. Beyond the importance of calorie counting and the unhealthiness of most desserts, we also know another thing: Life is better with dessert. And so, dessert is one thing that I’m not willing to give up.

Don’t get me wrong: Nutrition is crucially important for a healthy lifestyle. But I refuse to subscribe to the mentality that I must deprive my taste buds of ice cream, apple crisp, pie or anything else pleasureful. Life is too short not to indulge responsibly; remember all those men and women on the Titanic that waved off the dessert tray.

If you’re like me in your unwillingness to deny your sweet tooth, then here are a few tips:

  1. Watch the portion and eat consciously. Your dessert desires can be satisfied with just a few bites. Consciously and fully enjoy each bite. You don’t need an entire pint of ice cream or thick slice of cake. It helps to put the portion on a separate plate or bowl (i.e., not eating ice cream out of the carton).
  2. Mix healthier options into your dessert selections. All desserts are not created nutritionally equally. While I’d never ask you to ditch chocolate cake entirely, occasionally opt for things like fruit salad, yogurt, mixed berries, cut mangoes or bananas drizzled in chocolate. Need more ideas? Here are some healthy dessert recipes you may want to try out.
  3. Work it off! Better and more effective than cutting calories to create a caloric deficit is to increasing the amount of calories you are burning. Starving yourself to lose weight tends to backfire. If you want to lose weight and you are unwilling to cut dessert, make it up on the treadmill. I burn 425 calories in 20 minute on the treadmill. I’d run an extra 20 minutes if it came to that or dessert!
  4. Balance it. Nutritional balance isn’t holding a cupcake in each hand. It’s eating well – most of the time. If you know that you’re going to indulge with your dessert, then cook (or order) a healthier man course. Instead of the double bacon BBQ cheeseburger at The Cheesecake Factory (6 zillion calories), order the Bang-Bang Chicken and Shrimp (only 2 zillion calories). I follow the 80/20 rule of eating healthy 80% of the time.
  5. Enjoy it. For fuck’s sake, enjoy the dessert and don’t feel guilty about it. Worst of all, don’t feel guilty about feeling guilty. Guilt is not a powerful motivator. Dessert is one of life’s simple pleasures. Eat up and enjoy.

So yes, when it comes to dessert, you can certainly have your cake and eat it to. If God didn’t want you to have chocolate, then she wouldn’t have invented it. Just indulge responsibly.

My question for you: What’s for dessert tonight? I’m having apple and pear cobbler.

Are You Eating Your Emotions?

When my boyfriend moved back to Canada last Sunday, I suffered some heartache. And without much of anything to distract me, I quickly found myself craving – and reaching for – chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. As I dug my spoon into the container, I quickly realized that I was feeding my feelings more than my stomach. It’s called in “emotional eating” – and I’m not alone; experts estimate that 75% of overeating is caused by emotional eating.

Emotional eating is the practice of consuming food (usually “comfort” or junk foods) in response to emotional feelings rather than hunger. Emotional eaters use eating as a main strategy to manage their emotions, both negative and positive. It’s dangerous and addictive.

But are you an emotional eater? Here are a few signs:

  1. You’re eating and you’re not hungry. Emotional eaters are filling an emotional void, not an empty stomach.
  2. You’re craving a specific food. When you’re hungry, any number of options will satisfy that hunger. When you’re an emotional eater, you desire one specific food.
  3. You have an intense urge to satisfy your craving instantly.
  4. You turn to foods like ice cream, chocolate or other unhealthy comfort foods.
  5. You know that you are full and you continue to eat.
  6. After you eat, you have feelings of guilt.

The first step in treating emotional eating is recognizing it. Once recognized, there are a few steps that all of us can take to nip this unhealthy habit in the butt:

  1. Replace the food with something else. Instead of reaching for Ben & Jerry’s, go for a walk or a jog. Call a friend. Do housework. Or even take a nap!
  2. If you find yourself unable to replace eating with another activity, at least replace the food type. Instead of eating pizza or junk food, try consuming celery or carrot sticks.
  3. Know that you don’t need to eliminate junk food from your diet entirely. Instead, recognize that junk food isn’t a healthy way to cope with emotions. You can occasionally indulge for the right reasons. I recommend the 80/20 rule as a general nutrition guideline – eat healthy 80% of the time.
  4. Instead of eating the entire cake, try taking just a few bites. Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Food and Brand Lab at the University of Illinois, states: “Your memory of a food peaks after about four bites, so if you only have those bites, a week later you’ll recall it as just a good experience than if you polished off the whole thing.”

Eating your emotions is a habit that can be broken. It might take some extra help; if you’re overwhelmed by your food addiction, I strongly recommend that you seek professional help.

Are you an emotional eater? If so, what foods do you turn to?

How to Eat French Fries and Stay Fit. Sorta.

No, you didn’t read the headline wrong. Yes, it is possible to eat french fries and stay fit.

Back in 2005, when I was living in New York City for the very first time, I went on a date with a guy named Mike. For our first (and only) date, Mike asked me to pick my favorite restaurant in the entire city. I choose Dallas BBQ, a soul food joint overflowing with fatty foods, high calories drinks and massive portions. When we got to the restaurant, Mike was appalled by the menu. He refused to stay – and instead, we ate a dinner across the street. Mike ordered a salad with no cheese, fat free dressing and a diet coke. In that moment, I knew it would never work out.

I understand that Dallas BBQ can’t be a staple food source for someone that is looking to stay healthy and fit – or for someone that is trying to release weight. But I also understand that life is about balance and moderation. If your self-imposed diet deprives you of the foods that you love, then it’s probably a diet to which you’ll be unable to stick. It’s just not sustainable.

So, I follow the 80/20 rule. I eat foods that are healthy 80% of the time. And 20% of the time, I allow myself to indulge in the foods that may not be particularly healthy – but that I love. Things like potato skins, vegetable tempura or french fries. The trick is moderation – and the 80/20 rule is a helpful guideline for striking that gentle balance. It amounts to 2 – 3 indulgent meals over the course of a week.

The 80/20 rule allows you to have your cake and eat it too. Literally. And that’s why I’m such a fan.

Do you follow the “everything in moderation” mentality? When it comes to diet and nutrition, what do you do?