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How to Eat What You Want & Still Lose Weight

Here’s how to have a cheat meal without upsetting your weight loss plan. By Sasha Gonzales

You can still have your favourite food without upsetting your weight loss plan. Photo: maridav / www.123rf.com

A strict diet can be hard to stick to. We know what it’s like to succumb to temptation, only to feel guilty for falling off the wagon, and then skipping a meal or two the next day to make up for the extra calories you consumed.

But cheat meals need not spell disaster for your weight loss plans. Think of it as a food vacation, or a mini-holiday from your self-control: that one meal a week where you need not feel like you messed up just because you had a cream-filled doughnut and a burger with all the trimmings. If you’ve been on a restrictive eating plan for a while and have already dropped a few kilos because of it, giving yourself a break once a week can keep you motivated to continue your weight loss goals.

A few experiments, which were published in the January 2016 issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology, found that people who allowed cheat meals found their diets more sustainable, and even managed to lose weight despite consuming more calories overall than people who did not pig out at the end of the week.

Cheat meals are thought to help speed up your metabolism by increasing levels of leptin, a hormone that regulates energy balance by preventing hunger. When you’re on a low-calorie diet for a long period, leptin levels drop and your body starts to conserve fat in anticipation of a food shortage. Throw in a high-calorie meal, however, and your leptin levels temporarily surge; your body is then fooled into believing that the food shortage is over and that it can start burning through its fat stores again. 

Of course, a cheat meal is not a free pass to eat every unhealthy thing in sight. It’s a good idea to plan what you’re going to eat and when. Here are six strategies to help you get your cheat meals right.

1. Pick your splurge.

What’s it going to be – carbohydrate-rich foods like bread or pasta, dessert, or a high-fat treat like fried chicken? Avoid pigging out on all three in the one meal, so that you can really enjoy your splurge and not feel like you overdid it. 

2. Don’t cheat on an empty stomach.

It’s easy to overeat when you’re famished – and feel totally sick afterwards, so don’t do anything silly like starve yourself the day before your cheat meal.

(Also read: 8 Reasons Why Weight Loss is So Hard)

3. Don’t think of it as “cheating”.

The word has negative connotations, and you shouldn’t feel bad for rewarding yourself with your favourite treats after a week of healthy eating. Instead, think of it as something to look forward to. 

4. Watch your portions.

If you’ve followed a calorie-controlled diet and exercised all week, you don’t want to undo all that effort in just one meal by downing an entire pizza or going crazy at the buffet. So stick to small portions of your favourite cheat foods – you won’t be going overboard, but you won’t be depriving yourself, either. 

5. Choose a quality cheat meal.

If you want to splurge on a burger and fries, skip the fast food joint and make your own, or order a gourmet version at a reputable restaurant. You’ll savour it more, and, because it tastes better and is homemade or made from quality ingredients, you’ll feel more satisfied eating it.

(Also read: Beware These 8 Weight Loss Saboteurs)

6. Work out before you pig out.

Carbs are stored in the body as glycogen, but when the glycogen tank is full, the carbs are stored as fat. If you want to cheat with a plate of pasta, you can stop it from turning into fat by burning through the glycogen in your body first – just 20 to 25 minutes of high-impact exercise before a cheat meal will have an impact on these energy reserves.

A version of this article first appeared on May 27, 2016 on www.herworldplus.com.



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How to Eat What You Want & Still Lose Weight How to Eat What You Want & Still Lose Weight Reviewed by Lucille on 7:15:00 PM Rating: 5

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