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Cheat days, many of us live for them. But are they ruining your progress, and your health?
The mindset of being strict with your diet to allow for a single day of what some may class as 'binge-eating' is still a hugely popular concept for many trying to follow specific diet approaches. But ask yourself, is having 24hrs of eating an excessive amount of sugar, fats, carbs and overall calories doing your body any good? Put simply, no.
But is this required? Is punishing ourselves for 90% of the week with bland foods and mediocre alternatives worth that short time period of 'binge eating'?
Well no, to both of the above.
Balance is a term thrown around on social media a lot of late, and how this is interpreted can be very different from individual to individual. The idea is that a balanced diet brings together the combination of the foods you love, with the foods that are considered to have significant health benefits (high levels of nutrients).
Our relationship with food can often oscillate. Building sustainable approaches to our eating habits can not only improve our physical health but also our mental health.
So how should you approach a balanced diet, one that keeps your mind and body healthy, while still having that allowance for sweet treats and meals out with your mates?
Here are four tips to help you achieve a more sustainable diet:
1. Give yourself foods that you love, every day
Sounds great, doesn't it? Rather than destroying a large packet of biscuits on the sofa on a Sunday evening (diet starts Monday, right?...) - eat one biscuit every day, as a treat. If you do this seven days a week, you'll consume fewer biscuits, and most likely not crave an entire packet. Plus, you enjoyed your favourite treat every day. Everyone's a winner.
2. Eat out, but don't binge out...
Having a balanced diet doesn't mean having to miss out on going for food with your mates. You can still enjoy your favourite meals, but you might want to consider making a few simple swaps to help you stay on track. Love a burger? Swap out the side of deep-fried chips for baked potatoes. Fancy a chicken breast? Opt for grilled chicken rather than breaded. The list goes on...
Let's be real, those of us at the legal age to consume alcohol, generally, do at some point. It's arguably become a staple of western society. But did you know alcohol has 7kcal per gram? That's around 208kcal in a pint of beer and 140kcal in a glass of white wine.
Reduce calorie consumption while enjoying a bevvy with your mates by having low-calorie/sugar mixers, such as gin and diet tonic (59kcal).
4. It's trial and error
Changing your body composition, whether it be gaining size or losing bodyfat, is all trial and error. We are all different, which means our calorie (energy) intake must reflect this. Maintaining a consistent diet will allow you to slowly reduce or increase portion sizes and treats to suit your goals.
Be patient and monitor your progress; you can adjust your calorie intake and energy expenditure over time in response to your development.
5. Bin the 'Cheat day' terminology.
The approach of binge-eating regularly is bad for our health on so many levels, and you aren't cheating anything. Allow yourself to enjoy treats in moderation when you crave them, 'treat meals' can be a much better way of letting your hair down whilst on a diet. Enjoying foods you love regularly is a much more satisfying and realistic approach.