For the last six weeks, I've been participating in a weight loss challenge at work. I wanted to lose a few pounds (I've lost about four) and basically just kick-start the healthy habits I know are in there. Specifically, I wanted to work on my food journal-writing. All of my trainers made me do this, but it fell by the wayside when I was no longer required to show it to someone else.
I had tried My Fitness Pal before, but find that this time, it's easier to make myself post what I'm eating (there's even an iPhone app!). So I've been plugging along, drinking four 17-ounce bottles of water a day, 2-3 cups of tea, and using the loo a lot.
The best part is not being 5th in the standings (as of last week), as much as it's really learning about what I'm putting into my body. My Fitness Pal shows exactly how many calories, fat grams, protein grams, carbs, sugars, etc. you need each day based on your height, weight, and goals. It modifies them for the day when you input exercise, which I love because I exercise six days a week and need more than the applications' allowed calories for me (1,320 if I want to lose a pound a week) if I want to stay alive. Running makes a lady hungry.
The hardest part of the challenge has been the "no sweets" aspect, and here, I've lost points a time or two because I've allowed myself little indulgences, like a few pieces of Dove chocolate one day, or a cookie another. But last week, it was double points for avoiding sweets, so I put on a brave face and went for it. I figured my one "cheat day" would even things out.
Then I weighed in for the week and found that...I'd maintained my weight to the decimal.
It seems that in weeks when I allow the occasional treat, maybe every 2-3 days, just a small amount of chocolate, I actually lose more weight.
Now, I'm not saying that chocolate is now some magical diet cure-all. It's not. I can't eat six Hershey bars without facing the consequences, but I'm learning that if, 2-3 times a week, I just allow myself that small amount of chocolate amid all the veggies and fruits and lean proteins and crazy workouts, I do a lot better overall, and I'm happy because I don't feel like my diet regime is restrictive...and it's really not, because I eat a lot of flavorful, healthy foods. Still, I want my chocolate sometimes.
This has gotten me thinking about the concept of a "Cheat Day" in dieting. I ran my thoughts by the teacher in charge of the challenge and she agreed that she sometimes overindulges on her "Cheat Day" to make up for all the times in the week she was "good." I do exactly the same thing, and in the long run, it doesn't seem to be successful for me. But when I get my exercise days in, eat a lot of healthy food, and indulge in small treats a few times a week, I'm just fine. But then, eating some Justin's Peanut Butter cups (140 calories for the dark chocolate ones, and better than Reese's!) is a drop in the pan when I have a 4-mile morning run.
It all goes back to a beef I have with the so-called "diet industry" overall--that losing weight is somehow sentencing yourself to never enjoying food again, to always "being good" and never having treats. It's not true! We need to eat to stay alive, but I maintain that food should be enjoyable. Yes, I make mine mostly healthy foods (if you knew how much spinach I consume in any given week, you'd be surprised I'm not green), but there is nothing boring or tasteless about eating a veggie "fajita" of spinach, mushrooms, sweet peppers, onion, garlic and goat cheese, or my daily breakfast of scrambled eggs with veggies and black beans.
The more I learn about my eating habits and how they work for me, the more I realize that I can live a very healthy lifestyle and not feel like I'm cheating of being horrible to myself on those times I indulge in a little bit of something decadent. I hope others can learn that, too, because a healthy lifestyle isn't an all-or-nothing prospect. I don't feel like I've given anything up, except 90 extra pounds...but I've gained so much.
I'm interested in hearing what others have to say about this. Drop a comment!