Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Cheat Day Conundrum

Anyone who has tried to improve their health in recent years has probably become accustomed to what is known as "Cheat Day." In case you are one of those fortunate people who never has to watch what they eat, "Cheat Day" refers to the one day in a predetermined amount of time (one or two weeks seems to be most common) in which a dieter can dismiss all their dietary confines and eat freely.

Initially the idea of "Cheat Day" may seem counterproductive.  After all, the word "Cheat" is right there, and as the old adage goes "Cheaters never prosper."
Except for this guy...
... and this guy...
...and this guy.
As it turns out, these fine gentleman may be on to something.  One need not look far to find a vast array of studies about the benefits of controlled dietary cheating. One of the primary facts in support of cheat days is that temporarily increasing your calorie intake will "shock" your body into burning more calories.  That's right, it has been scientifically proven that occasionally eating anything you want can actually aid in weight loss.  

Thank God, now I finally have an excuse to pig out.

That is exactly how I can misconstrue the facts about cheat day.  Every time I start a diet, this time included, I make a feeble attempt to exclude cheat days from the plan.  By the following Saturday I have undoubtedly failed in my attempt.

Perhaps this is because it is so simple to convince yourself that you NEED a cheat day.  The logic is all in order:
  1. Cheat days kick start your metabolism.
  2. If I don't have a cheat day, I might physically harm someone.
  3. It will be an exercise in self control, which is something you desperately need. 
  4. If I don't have a cheat day, I might physically harm someone.
Any of the above reasons could convince a trans fat deprived individual that the large order of french fries is actually beneficial... and therein lies the problem.

It is far too simple for me to convince myself that eating unhealthy food is acceptable so long as I only do so one day each week.  Then, as my diet progresses, so does cheat day.  I begin to eat larger quantities of prohibited foods on cheat day (which is generally Saturday).  Then the following week, I somehow justify stopping for fast food after work on Friday.  Its close enough to Saturday, right?  Shortly after the Friday habit takes full affect, cheat day will again be extended to Sunday because "I already messed up so bad on Friday and Saturday, its too late to save it now."  Before I know it my weight loss has slowed to a crawl, frustration sets in, and cheat day is extended one last time.  However, this time it is extended indefinitely.

A new goal is devised

Now that I recognize that my weekly cheat days have a habit of getting out of hand, I have set a new goal for myself:  Reasonable bi-weekly cheat days, effective immediately.  That's right, from here on out my cheat days will only occur every other Saturday, and when they do occur they will be limited to one or two meals.   
No more 24 hour smorgasbords for me. 
My theory is that by prolonging the time between each cheat day I will no longer be as reliant on them as my sole source of endorphins.  Hopefully on non-cheating Saturdays I can replace overeating with something more rewarding like physical activity or family time... or perhaps even physical activity with my family. When I do reward myself with a cheat day, I hope that the extended wait brings about a greater sense of accomplishment and an increase in weight loss.

Armed with my new philosophy it is time to set out on the next leg of my journey.  This particular leg promises to be a particularly long one, seeing as yesterday was a cheat day.  That means my next cheat day will not be until March 30th, which also happens to be the day of the weigh in for my initial goal of 262 lbs.  

March 30th is only 12 days from this very moment.  That's only 288 hours, and a lot of those will be spent sleeping. Besides, 288 hours is only 17,280 minutes. That's not completely terrifying... right?  I mean, 17,280 minutes means there are only 1,036,800 seconds remaining until my next cheat day... 1,036,799... 1,036,788... 1,036,077... but who is counting?  

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