When it comes to weight loss, one of the biggest misnomers I believe comes with staying at a certain calorie count every single day without exception.
It makes sense, right? If you stay at, say, 1,500 calories then you should just stay there, not go over, and as long as you exercise everything will turn out fine. And you probably don't even have to exercise too much as long as you keep your calories at 1,500. And that doesn't mean 1,530 or 1,550 but rather 1,500.
While that may seem like a perfectly logical plan - and it may indeed work for some - it fails to take into account two important aspects of weight loss: your body and rewards.
When I lumbered into the gym at more than 300 pounds four years ago, my trainer did not put me at a strict calorie count. Well, he did in one sense but it was flexible. How so?
Day 1: 1700 calories
Day 2: 1700 calories
Day 3: 1700 calories
Day 4: 2800 calories
Day 5-7: 1700 calories
Day 8: 2800 calories
As you can see, I was not limited to the same calorie count every day. That was helpful in the sense that I knew pretty soon I'd have a day where I could have a bit more options to choose from. Now, I didn't splurge and raid the fridge on the Up Day, as we called it, but I certainly could eat foods that had more calories (though I tried to stay away from empty calories), maybe drink a glass of milk in the morning with my energy bar or banana yogurt or whatever other thing I had for breakfast; maybe have a pasta dinner; perhaps go for two fruits for a snack instead of one. Just little things, really.
It was nice knowing that I could plan for these meals and not feel so restrictive. I didnt' feel the need to just go out and say "Enough with 1700 calories!" and just go completely off my meal plan. I didn't feel like things were such a mental burden.
Now, I don't know how or why it worked. This is still a mystery to me, the reason behind it. My trainer said that such a meal plan was effective because it helped boost the metabolism, having that Up Day in there. There were many things my trainer told me that I just had blind faith in them, and this was one of them. It worked since I lost the weight.
When I was around 220 he suggested I go to 1800 calories per day and that's the figure I try to stick with, try being the operative word. Still, I feel it is important to let yourself have a dinner or day even to just not be so restrictive. I like Cheat Days, because I don't pay too much attention to my calories. That doesn't mean I'm going to eat a thousand-calorie hamburger for lunch and wash it down with a 1500-calorie milkshake, but what it does mean is that I'm going to enjoy a dinner (or day) where I'm not so tied down and can relax. I know that the next day I'll be back to normal and that I'm working out regularly so eating like this won't cause me to gain five pounds.
It's natural to think that if you eat too much that you will instantly gain weight, but if you plan ahead for it, stick to the plan and go back to whatever your normal routine is afterward, that Cheat Day won't have that effect. And you won't feel guilty if you plan ahead.
If you are sticking to a routine with your calories and trying to shed the weight, make sure you take into account how your body works and some rewards. Yes, you deserve a reward if you are making the decision to lose weight and have lost weight already. Go ahead and choose a dinner every now and then to just relax and maybe go over your calories, knowing full well that it's a one-off thing and it won't harm you.
Because it won't. I promise.