Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Every Bite Counts

I had a huge light bulb moment last night as I was reading this thread on the "3 Fat Chicks" website (GREAT place for support, by the way!) It's a thread about "cheat days," which is what some people call it when you plan a day to go off your eating plan and eat whatever you want. The theory is that if you PLAN a day like that every so often, it makes it easier to stay on plan the rest of the time. Whenever you are craving something, you just tell yourself that you can have it on your cheat day, but you have to wait until then to have it. The problem is that for some people (like me), a cheat day turns into a cheat week or a cheat month and it's really hard to get back on track. Or if you have problems with bingeing, it isn't any hardship to ingest upwards of 4 or 5 thousand calories on a cheat day (yes I have done that), and it really messes up all your hard work you did eating right all week.

Anyway, reading through that thread, it hit me. Every bite counts. EVERY. Now, maybe this sounds obvious, but how many times have I gotten up, started a healthy eating day, and then at lunch "slipped up" and had pizza? Then I would tell myself, "oh well, I ruined my day, so I may as well have candy bars and burgers and fries for dinner and start over fresh tomorrow." Isn't that something a LOT of people are in the habit of doing? We look at our eating aka "diet" in terms of a UNIT. One good day (eating the right number of points or calories or whatever your plan is) is a Unit of Success, and a Bad Day (eating over your limit, not counting calories, eating junk) is a Unit of Failure. Sometimes we even try to string days together, as in "I will start on Monday" or the first of the month or after Christmas or whatever, which is an excuse to eat badly and not count anything until we "start again" on that special date.

WHO came up with this idea??? Why is a "DAY" the unit of success or failure?? Who decided that if you eat badly for lunch, you can just eat whatever you want for the rest of the day and start over in the morning? It's as if we think that "one bad day" is a single unit of failure, whether we ate 2000 or 5000 calories, it's the same because it is just ONE bad day. It makes no sense!! EVERY BITE COUNTS, people, whether you eat a Hershey bar on a "bad" day because you are bingeing or eat it on a "good" day and add it into your calorie count, it is STILL 210 calories going into your body. You HAVE to stop looking at it as good and bad days. It is your LIFE.

What I mean is this. Say you are aiming to eat 1500 calories per day to lose weight (substitute WW points or whatever other unit or plan you are using). Now, say your week looks like this:

Monday: 1500
Tuesday: 1470
Wednesday: 1460
Thursday: 1520
Friday: 1460
Saturday: 3200
Sunday: 2900

You slipped up on Saturday and told yourself you would start over on Monday. You had only 2 bad days. But now you have eaten 13,510 calories for the week which averages out to 1910 per day... way over your limit. And you wonder why you haven't lost weight. Because every bite counts, and the unit is not a day, or even a week. It is a lifetime. When you eat something you shouldn't have, it's over. Stop, and eat right from that very moment on. Have a healthy dinner. Keep going. A bad meal is way better than a whole bad weekend.

You want a cheat day? Every bite you take counts, because it still goes into your body, counted or not. Every bite either helps you get closer to your goal or slows you down from reaching it. So the question becomes, how badly do you want it? Do you want to lose weight more than you want that cookie? Then put it down. Every time you eat something unhealthy or go over your calorie limit, you are effectively putting a speed bump... or even a roadblock... in between you and your goal. Every bite you take determines whether you will reach your goal weight in 6 months, 12 months, 3 years, or never. What do you REALLY want?

Most of this, I am saying to myself. I have been acting like I have all the time in the world, and one more day eating poorly won't matter. I can always start over. But I spent a decade of my life doing that, and I wasted a lot of years being fat and tired. I missed out and I can never get my 20's and 30's back. Never. I am certainly not going to miss out on my 40's too, just because I want some cheese right now.

EVERY calorie counts, and I am going to treat this Escape from Obesity with the attention and determination it deserves. I want progress, and I don't want to eat one more bite that is going to hinder that progress.

As that thread stated, we all have favorite foods that bring us enjoyment in life, and we don't have to ban them all. But is an Oreo REALLY your favorite thing? Is a greasy Pizza Hut pizza your favorite thing? Think about it. Pick your favorites that you REALLY enjoy, and then say no to the other junk. And fit your indulgences into your plan if you like. But remember that IT COUNTS. And if you eat a bunch of junk today, it counts, and if you add up all the calories you eat in a year, that determines your weight loss or gain for the year. Just remember that, and take a second to decide if that bite is really worth it or not.

Today's meals:

Breakfast: oatmeal with walnuts and pumpkin butter, 2 mugs of hot tea
Snack: 3 oz chicken breast, hot white tea
Lunch: cup of curried red lentil soup, baked Carnival squash with a tsp of butter and cinnamon
Snack: hot tea, Kashi flax pumpkin bar
Dinner: still figuring this out! Something warm that the kids will like. Maybe chili mac, or tuna noodle casserole, or skillet lasagna.

I really want this weight off. I think I lost my vision a bit over the summer, but I am ready now.


Thinking Thin said...

In the past, I was one of those people that if I had a bad day, I threw the towel in for the week and started over on Monday (maybe). That thinking is long gone. If I have a bad day, I have a bad day. I work harder the next day. I have no such thing as a cheat day. If I want something, I eat it. I may not eat as much of it. I count the points for it (I am on WW). I may have to skip dinner for it or scrimp for dinner but if I want something, I know I can have it but I also know that I have to pay the consequences for my choices. I used to believe in "bad foods". I no longer believe in that other than trying to stay away from just unhealthy foods in general. Everything is bad for you if not in moderation. Carrots can be bad for you if you eat too many. Ask my mother. She had a rough couple of days :).

The day that it finally clicked that one bad day didn't have to equal a bad week, was a blessing for me. It just took most of my 36 years to get there.

Thinking Thin said...

...and Lyn you will get there. We have a great deal in common. About the same weight, I am guessing about the same age and am assuming overweight most of our lives. Stick with me kid. We will both get there!

Thinking Thin said...

Oh heck, now I am stalking your blog..hehe I need to read better. You started at about my current weight ..so you have already done an awesome job :). I am having a blonde moment, forgive me.

You will still get there..hehe

new*me said...

sounds like a very healthy day. I think the key for me is to not be totally deprived of anything. So, if there is a cheesecake at a function, I will allow myself a few bites of hubby's or a couple bites of a pb cup now and then. I get that for some people, this is not possible. I feel that if I eat right most of the time, a bite here and there (not every hour ;)....) won't put a pound on. Eating healthy MOST of the time....99 percent of the time in my case or so that is my goal....is really important.

I can hear the determination here in Kansas!!! You have this Lyn!

~TMcGee~ said...

So very true! I know many are successful with planned "cheat" days" but I would turn it into a cheat month (like I did just recently). I believe you had one of Oprah's "aha!" moments. lol Keep up the good work, this journey may be long but the valuable things I am learning from bloggers like you is priceless.


Ceres said...

Heh, you're so right! That's why snacking is evil when done thoughtlessly. You think you're eating 100 calories worth of stuff, and then if you actually sit down and think and calculate, you might have eaten 200 calories or more, so no wonder the number on the scale is not what you were expecting. I think that this thought is why calorie-counting works for me. It makes me accountable to myself, and it helps me realize exactly how much I'm really eating.

Kimberly said...

Hi. I've been lurking on your blog for a while now but today's post really hit home. This is something that I have recently come to terms with - having a bad day does not wreck the entire journey. If I stumble, I can always start anew tomorrow. And I do! It really is quite freeing to let myself off the hook.

I do have cheat days every week. Although my definition is a bit different. I never actually consume more calories than I should. I simply eat the entire range of points I am allowed on WW instead of sticking to the just over half of my points I allow myself during the work week. It works too. I never feel like I am stuck in diet hell. I know that on the weekends I can have one very good meal filled with foods I would crave like mad if I couldn't have them because they weren't on my "diet".

Lauren said...

Such a great post. I am trying to figure out which foods trigger me and which foods don't at this point, and it's tough because it kind of wars with what I WANT but you are so right, every bite does count. And I think you are doing great. I've been hovering at 275 because of my food choices on the weekend primarily.

Tony said...

Wow, this post speaks to the heart. I use to have cheat days and they would turn into cheat weekends so I stopped them all together. I use to think that screwing up once during the day meant that I should just throw in the towel and start over the next day, but not anymore. Now, if I screw up, I make sure to work my butt off to reverse the damage. It's ok to eat what you want to eat, just in moderation. That's what it's all about really.

Memoria said...

I actually am pro-cheat day. I do it every time I reach a midpoint of the next tenth increment of my weight (e.g., 215, 205, 195, etc.). However, I make sure it is just one day, and the weekly average comes out just fine because I don't have a cheat day every week, and I ensure that I limit it only to ONE day. I also like that I make it based on my weight not the week. Also, by waiting until the midpoint, I know that after the cheat day, I will still be in the same weight range I was before the day.

Another plus of cheat days is how many revelations you experience during and after it. I have realized, for example, that the reason dieting is so hard (among other reasons) is because it feels like a loss of freedom to eat whatever you want. Another realization that resulted out of having cheat days was my ability to be more discriminant with the "bad" food choices I made. Before I started this journey, I would just eat anywhere. Now, I am very careful about where I want to go (like what you were stating in your entry). For instance, I wouldn't dare go to Schlotzsky's or Applebee's for my "bad" meal haha. I have to pick a place with foods I have been obsessing about for days or weeks. The last revelation deals with how those "bad" foods feel in my body by the end of the day. While they taste delicious, they make you feel heavy and greasy and even make me CRAVE my healthy foods. My body is good about telling me to eat pure and clean the next day haha. My body doesn't like those foods anymore, but my mind and taste buds do. I love my cheat days. It keeps me motivated, and since May of this year, I have lost 90 pounds so far doing this.

I write all of this to say that having cheat days depends on the person. If you don't feel you're strong enough to get back on track the very next day, then no, you shouldn't do it. If you think you can handle it, then do it! I like that it keeps me looking forward to a certain weight not only for the number but also for the treat or reward. Do what is best for you, no matter what.

bbubblyb said...

I allow myself a cheat meal a week. It's almost always on Friday at lunch with a few coworkers. I do count the calories for it and it usually balances out. I think planning for something does help but like you said it still has to be counted. I agree too that this is for life so we have to figure it out to where we can still enjoy our favorite foods once in awhile but also keep ourselves on track. It's all in the thinking.

julie said...

I rebel if I restrict my food too much, so I try to eat healthy most of the time. Maybe I'm more of the 90/10% kind of person, every other day or two I eat something that you wouldn't expect a dieter to eat. Ice cream cone, pizza, beer, burrito, bacon burger, what have you. I'm actually getting to the point where I eat when I'm hungry, so if I eat a burrito for lunch, I probably will still be full at dinner, so I'll just eat a green salad, or some fruit. I think it balances out, and I'm losing slowly, but not losing my mind.

Hanlie said...

I believe you've got the right idea here... Every bite does count. And often we are just brainwashed as to which foods taste better than others. We can train our tastebuds to enjoy healthier foods and after a while they can become our favorite foods. I believe in you!

Skinny Inside said...

Excellent post! I've usually thought of myself as one of those who cannot handle a cheat meal~ being it turns into a cheat day, week, month. I've always thought of it as the carb addict in me, but I'm beginning to realize its more. I really want to stop living a fear based (including fear of carbs) life!

Vickie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vickie said...

The delete was me.
Let me try again.

I have been all the way around this topic and back again in my own life.

In my opinion - if the cheat event (be it one serving, one meal, or one day) does NOT trigger more cheat events - then I think it can be successfully incorporated into ones life.

If the cheat event DOES trigger more cheat events - then in my opinion - The cheat event is the addict brain trying to talk the addict into feeding the addiction.

moonduster said...

This is so true! I had two days last week when I went over my calories, but they weren't cheat days as I made sure to not go over by much (100 calories on one day and 200 on another), and I exercised extra to make up for the extra calories.

I still gained half a pound that week, but I am pregnant and have only 3 weeks of pregnancy to go, so I see it as a successful week, no matter how much I would have liked to have seen another loss on the scale.

LissaLee said...

Hi Lyn
Another insightful post, thank you. I find that this post comes as a pivotal time in my weight loss journey becauase, as it turns out, I picked the wrong plan. I dedicated my month of october to a plan that didn't work, and everytime it didn't work I said "I'm starting tomorrow... after this pint of ice cream, after this oatmeal cookie, after this XXXX" and because of that, I regained the 6 lbs that I was so proud of losing in the first place. Oh binge eating, you are not fickle in the least. I tell you, lately I have been saying to myself "there is nothing that bingeing will not take away from me." I have been thinking about how bingeing can rob me of everything, like any addition, like any other eating disorder. It pains me to think of all I have to lose, especially since I just met someone and I suspect it could be serious. So, I am trying again. New plan was posted and I am working VERY hard to directly target emotional eating. I just needed to put that out there. Keep up your great work, Lyn, obviously people find you very inspiring and I can't help but feel that maybe we are in the same boat:)

Nancy said...

Lyn - What a great post! I had a revelation this past Monday when I came off a weekend that was supposed to include one "cheat" meal and it turned into a "cheat" weekend. Your chart of how those weekend calories boosted the daily average to 1900 was very enlightening. I am NOT doing any more cheat meals. If I start craving something in particular, I'm going to plan ahead and figure the calories into my totals.

Thanks for your blog . . . it's going on my daily list.

JC said...

Just came over from Once Upon A Diet. Great site you have here. I love your pictures. I post my first after I had lost 60 and my next after 72 but they are both of my backside. Looking forward to trying some of your recipes esp. Butternut squash M & C. Great post.

Pandora said...

As usual Lynn, you managed to write about something I've been thinking about, and to express it more clearly and eloquently.

I can't imagine life in a constant state of deprivation. I try to differentiate between "cheats" and "treats".

Treats are planned, and limited in quantity. (One cookie is a treat, a box of cookies is a cheat.) Treats are fully enjoyed!

Cheats are unplanned, the quantity is usually excessive. (Not just more calories than usual, but more than a "normal healthy person" would consider a reasonable portion. For me cheats have limited pleasure, they often start with a positive feeling, but end up with a sick feeling. I can even start to eat as punishment. (You took this now you have to finish it.)

Obviously, to lose weight treats have to be limited, not the substance of daily eating.

Heather said...

great post! I myself dont do cheat days...I dont really ever feel that I have to cheat. sure I have events where I eat off plan, but I dont considering it cheating..I consider it life. things happen and you will over eat. it doesnt have to be this huge planned thing. to me, if someone feels they have to cheat, then they should really look at what they are doing and why they feel they need to cheat. my plan works perfectly for me and I think thats why I dont feel like I need to cheat. sure i have cravings and I do indulge in them from time to time, but in general, im happy with what I eat every day and when you feel that way, you dont see the point in cheating.

kilax said...

I agree with you so much - it ALL counts, ALL the time. We should try to make smart, moderate decisions every day!

Shauna said...

beautifully said! :)

(btw... your oatmeal with walnuts and pumpkin sounds SO good!)

Jen said...

I'm like the other post on weight watchers. I have my daily points and an extra amount that I can divide up and add to my daily, or use them up all at once. So I use them as my splurge meal. It keeps me sane, knowing if I am craving something I can eat them at this meal. It works for me. But it is only one meal, not a whole day. Not to mention, I know when I feel gross after I over-do it. I am hopefully learning, even on that meal to stop before I am uncomfortable. Thanks for the post, it made me evaluate myself which is always good to do.

Anonymous said...

I folled a link from The ELFF diet to read this and I'm so glad I did. I've been slowly losing weight-but have been stuck at 18 pounds and have seen a couple pounds go back on recently. I'm doing exactly what you said-allowing myself a treat and then another and then another. Thank you so much for sharing this. Keep up the great work!!!

Laura Jane said...

I think this is so true and so well said. It's something I've struggled with a lot.

Anonymous said...

Instead of looking at a day as a unit, I look at each meal or snack as a unit. If I mess up and eat too much for one meal or snack, it is a unit unto itself. I determine to eat right for the very next meal or snack.