Can You Cheat On Your Diet and Still Stay On Track?

Dear Gabby,

Its been over a year since I graduated from college and while I miss it a lot, it has been A LOT better for my eating habits.  Whoever came up with the Freshman 15 clearly didn’t make it to senior year because somehow it got the best of me and I had no worries, because I had an excuse to do, drink and eat whatever and whenever I wanted to.  Once I started work, I got into an exercise routine and healthy eating habits and definitely feel the best I have in a long time!  I don’t live at home so I am cooking my own meals and controlling exactly what I eat.  The weekdays go great for me, but on the weekends there is always something going on.  Of course those things also include either eating, drinking or both.  Whenever friends want to get together it either means going out to eat or going out to happy hour.  

I am proud with how well I eat and exercise during the week but when the weekend comes, I know I could do a little better.  What is a way to cheat a little on the weekends but not so much where I feel like I need to restart completely on Monday?


The wannabe healthy social butterfly

Dear Wannabe Healthy Social Butterfly,

I am glad to hear that you have recovered from the college health habits and are feeling better!  Unfortunately I work with many young women that never truly get there.  You should be proud on that point.

I often see clients that through the years are constantly working on the same goal and never actually achieving it!  An important question here would be “Have you reached your goal?”  I am going to respond from both sides of the answer.  

Your body does well with consistency.  Consistency in eating habits, sleeping habits, self-care habits!  As you probably already know….when you change any of these things you may not feel “right.”  I often use the saying “one step forward – two steps back” to explain what happens with people’s health goals.  This sounds like where you are and if you have not achieved your goals yet, this approach will NEVER get you there.  This is the “doing well during the week but going overboard on the weekend” mentality.  Another commonly used scenario is the cheat day.  In this example a person may give themselves free range for one day a week, where they cram all the sweets/carbs/fats and alcohol choices into one day.  Ekkkk!  The problem with these approaches is that your body does not feel well and the calories that you consume counteract any deficient that you have achieved for weight loss/fat loss during the week.  The bottom line is that a consistent and concentrated effort will get you to your goal quickly and once you are there it will be easier to maintain.  This will give you a little more flexibility with your times off your plan in the end.  So if you have not achieved your goal – buckle down and get there first so that it doesn’t feel like an endless struggle.  

In general terms people can comfortably stick with an eating plan 75% of the time.  Statistics show that if you can get that needle up to 90% the person can still achieve health, while having a few “opps’!”  In my practice I find that magic number to be 4.  You can go off your plan 3-4 times during the week and still be effective.  That is one glass of wine = 1 time off.  One slice of garlic bread =1 time off.  Be realistic!

Much of your social life revolves around food and drink – no matter what your age.  It is a good time to start balancing that.  If you do not learn it now it will be ever harder to balance as you age.  So pick and choose your times off the plan on the weekend.  Is one event more important to you? Is that friends birthday cake a must have?  Count your times and stick with it.  You will feel much better making those choices and still give yourself a little flexibility have fun.  It is ok to say no sometimes or try and plan a “healthy” outing with your friends that involves activity and focuses the fun on socializing rather than food/drink.

Good luck to you!  And remember - Everything is possible with balance!