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Smart Cheating (Lifestyle Version)

You see her on your Instagram feed. That #goals woman crush that you want to be like. Maybe at some point that was me, but I guarantee you this example isn’t me.

It’s that fit IG model that is posting photos of her taking a bite of a donut in all her abs and toned/fit glory.

She’s living the dream isn’t she.

Donuts, pizza, and rock hard abs you can see from a mile away. I want to teach you how to cheat like this so you can experience the same thing.

Yet..the fact of the matter is that if I told you how to do this I would be lying to you and short-changing you toward your goals. You see, the photos you see of these Instagram models who are eating the donut, pizza, or cake end up being less than 2% of their actual diet over a very long period of time.

They aren’t eating like this regularly, no matter what they say in their bio “donut queen, cake queen, pizza & weights.”

The truth is, if they are eating a donut, they have already accounted for those calories days or maybe even a week or more before they enjoyed this delightful treat.

The fact is, they show a small part of their journey, but they know exactly what they need to do to sustain a pretty healthy body, knowing that the extra 400 calories or maybe more depending on what kind of meal is being eaten is accounted for throughout the rest of the week.

This is where we will get into understanding calorie/macro shuffling so you can cheat smarter instead of thinking that a bunch of donuts after legs will just go straight to build up your glutes. As if.

So let’s talk strategy.

There’s a few ways you can plan for “cheat meals,” and we will go through some of the basic strategies you can plan for, and then we will go through the different situations where you may find yourself in and the several ways you may react, as well as how you should react to specific situations.

The good news is that most events such as family dinners, parties, weddings, and other things like that are pretty planned so you have a heads-up to plan for it. We will also discuss about planning for when you don’t have as much of a ‘heads-up’ period of time.

Evry’day I’m Shufflin

So what is calorie shuffling? It is essentially changing around your calories in a given day or week to ensure you can enjoy a pre-planned event without kicking you off your goals and off track toward your progress.

Single-Day

So you know you need to consume 1,500 calories per day to maintain your progress and your caloric deficit. Yet today there is an event. You are presented with a situation that you may have to switch it up.

You’re going out to dinner at a restaurant. You are heading to a party. It’s a holiday. You are celebrating a special occasion. You are attending a family dinner/meal. You are going on a date. You have a chance to enjoy something you don’t really get to enjoy often at all.

Whatever the situation is, you will be in a situation where you will likely be overeating and exceed your calorie/macro intake for that meal and you want to prevent that from happening.

You may want to be allowed to eat more than you usually do during this meal, in a guilt-free way so you’re not having to go through what we discussed in the last section (i.e. self-loathing and self-hate).

Or maybe a little bit of both of these situations!

Guess what?

With a bit of planning and knowledge, even you can enjoy this evening while still making sure you are heading toward your goals in a reasonable way!

How does it work?

Let’s say you should have your 1,500 calories and you are doing 4 meals and a snack. That’s about 350 calories per meal and then a 100 calorie snack.

You’ve done your research and know that if you want to enjoy yourself and you don’t want to have a measly 350 calorie meal for the big dinner. You know that you’ll actually be closer to 800 calories.

Now that you have allotted 800 calories for your “cheat meal,” you will know that you can do a few things — you can average down your other meals such as:

Other meals end up being 200 calories with a 100 calorie snack, or you can adjust how you want. But you still are on track with where you want to be, still feeling awesome about your progress, while still enjoying yourself!

You can pretty much choose how you want something like this to look, but the biggest thing is that you control the controllable items, so you can enjoy yourself with your family/friends/date and still keep on track toward your goals.

What if you’ve got a big brunch to attend with your friends and you know that you’ll be consuming a ton of calories during this brunch?

You’ll do the same as before — you will make sure that you balance out the rest of the day!

This can be used if you unintentionally eat more than you were supposed to in a meal. This tool can be used for this but it is not recommended to do regularly. I say this because if you do this regularly, you may end up eating more than you should and really messing up on your program in the long-term.

Multi-Day Shuffling

If you want to, you can do multi-day shuffling too. Let’s go back to the 1,500 calorie example. If you do that over a week, you’re looking at 10,500 number for calories for the week (7 x 1,500 = 10,500). If you know this and you know that you’ll be eating an extra 1,000 calories at a party at the end of the week for a total of 2,500 calories that day (ahem, cheesecake, ahem).

You can do a wealth of things, but one thing you can do is average that extra 1,000 calories over the few days before and have 1,250 calories on Monday through Thursday, making up for that extra 1k you’ll be adding to Friday (250 x 4 = 1,000 calories)

You could do so many other things as well..but we will stick to that strategy and you can be creative if you’d like to choose a different way to go as well.

Looking back at the previous section, you should be expecting to gain short-term weight if you do follow this smart cheating rule. But this time you’ll be prepared because you will have all that knowledge in your head and also your mindset will be different because you know that it’s just some extra water, glycolysis, and food in your stomach, not fat ;)

Side Notes

You may try to implement this strategy if you cheated on a Saturday night and make it up on a Sunday. “Oh, I’ll just cut down an extra 1,000 calories today to make up for yesterday.” Well that’s a big NO-NO. When you do something like this, you will end up creating unhealthy habits and this strategy is not meant for reactive dieting. Many who do this end up not only very hungry after this time, they also end up bing-eating if they get too hungry. Going from 1,500 calories to 500 calories in a day is not only unhealthy, it’s very very hard for you to sustain. It also would be impossible to maintain the proper macronutrients you need for the day.

So let’s make sure to just be smart about that and try to take care of our bodies and not severely restrict our diets.

Now that we’ve covered how “messing up” is just a fallacy, and we talked about doing the shuffle when it comes to your calories, let’s discuss the next step — Approaching Situations Outside Of Your Normal Routine

There are five ways that most people react when facing a scenario that they aren’t prepared for or have to deal with that confronts their desire to follow a meal plan properly. They are as follows:

1. Complete Avoidance 🙅🏽‍♀️

2. Excessive Restriction 💀

3. Controlled Enjoyment 😏

4. Relaxed Enjoyment ☺️

5. Excessive Indulgence 🤤

Now we will travel down the path of each of these emojis to see how we can understand the best pathway to react to these situations.

1. Complete Avoidance 🙅🏽‍♀️

Have you ever tried to stick to your diet so much that you locked yourself in a room and avoided the outside world completely?

Well, this is called: complete avoidance.

This is kind of when you don’t just make diet a major focus in your life, it’s when you make it really the ONLY focus in your life..and do so at the expense of anything and everything else in it.

That means never ever eating out. Staying away from get-togethers with temptations floating around. Little to no social life due to being afraid it may mess with your diet. Avoiding friends and family to avoid temptations..etc.

Rather than trying to sustain your diet in the real world, you end up avoiding the real world as a whole. Even to an unhealthy degree — in hopes that you will be 100% “perfect” with your diet.

Maybe you are thinking that the only way you will ever succeed is if you are only 100% “perfect” with your diet, and you need to go to an extreme to accomplish this.

In this situation, a person may pretend to enjoy this lifestyle from most people’s perspectives. They may look and seem happy and sane in front of the 3 people they are in contact with. They may even feel superior to other people because of their “mental strength,” and how much willpower they have to keep on track toward their goals.

But what’s happening deep down is that they hate it. They would rather be less extreme. Unfortunately, they don’t do it because they either: A) don’t think it’s allowed, B) Can’t stand the idea of not being perfect, C) don’t think it could ever work any other way, or D) don’t realize that being less extreme is even a workable option in the first place.

For these reasons, their life is pretty miserable. Often times their health (mental, physical, or both) is affected. This is where many people experience body image disorders and eating disorders.

This is definitely not recommended.

2. Excessive Restriction 💀

The next level up from complete avoidance is not as bad, but still something that I wouldn’t recommend.

This is excessive restriction.

With excessive restriction, you venture out into the real world, but you may wish you hadn’t.

You go out for dinner at times, you have meals with friends and family. You have a so-so social life, you celebrate holidays and other events. You have a somewhat normal life.

But only until you get to the food part of the situations just listed.

Once presented with food outside of what’s in your program, you have an unnecessary and excessive level of strictness that prevents you from actually enjoying the specific scenario you are in. You also can cause an issue with those around you and their enjoyment of the time.

You may go to a dinner with friends, and enjoy time with them, but pull out your pre-weighed container with your food that is healthy and part of your program. Maybe you have friends over yet still weight out your food on a scale (maybe even doing it secretly so no one sees it). Maybe you tote your scale everywhere you go, such as other people’s houses. Maybe you make everyone in your social group (friends, family) to eat at you approved places to eat.

In this situation you have no dietary indulgence at all.

No exceptions.

In this situation, you literally stick to your small list of clean foods 100% of the time without deviation. You never take a bite of a cookie, pizza, Oreo, or anything remotely close to unhealthy. Usually this is under the belief that if you do so, it will ruin your diet and cause you to free-fall into the oblivion of the..fat monster..or something awful like that.

So you stay away from any foods that may be bad in any situation. All unhealthy food is bad food and you must stay away no matter what, 100% of the time.

These are usually the situations where you are at Christmas dinner and your mom or Grandma offer you something delicious they made for you and you say no. When you’re at a work event and Susan says “wait, you’re not even going to try one little bite?” Damn it Susan! I’m on a program!

If it was just excessive restriction it wouldn’t be the worst thing.

But it is paired with restriction that prevents that person from enjoying the time/event they are at.

This individual wants to eat the food. I mean they reaaaaallllllyyyy want to eat it. But they simply cannot because they are forcing themselves not to indulge at all.

Because of this, they get mad, annoyed, frustrated, unhappy, hungry, cranky, usually ruining their own time as well as the people around them during the event who can tell they are pissed off.

Ok. Sometimes they may act like it doesn’t bother them, that this shows how they are dedicated and focused on their diet/goals, or if they feel like they are morally superior to others due to their amazing willpower and self-control (admitting guilt on this at times :/) still while wishing they could relax (inwardly) and eat some of the amazingly delicious food around them without feeling guilty about it.

But they end up not doing it, which negatively affects their ability to enjoy these scenarios and be a mentally happy and healthy person within. This can happen to the point where their quality of life can be affected in a similar way.

This is not the worst part. Normally, once someone has unnecessarily restricted themselves for a very long time — something happens.

They reach a breaking point. Then they have a massive binge. This is followed by an even more excessive restriction..which is followed by even more massive binges..and so on and so forth. This destroys their progress toward fat loss, but is also detrimental to their mental and physical health and well-being.

Here’s the crazy part..

If they had just not been so incredibly strict in the first place and allowed some moderation, this whole outcome could have been avoided.

This leads us to the next one…

3. Controlled Enjoyment 😏

The truth is, you are doing your program for a reason. You aren’t here to just stay the same, you have goals in mind. And yes, you can’t let your cravings be bigger than your goals. BUT. Yes, there’s a but — this does not to be as excessive as what was just discussed.

It can actually be moderate!

This is where we have arrived. This is the sweet spot, which is called controlled enjoyment.

So now that we have discussed how “messing up” is just a myth. We have covered the misconceptions about “good foods vs bad foods.” We have switched the focus from over-avoidance and over-restriction to actual moderation. Understanding it’s looking at the full picture, the macronutrient/micronutrient and calorie intake at the end of the day versus the meal by meal focus. Knowing that you should definitely have the majority of your calories and macronutrients coming from higher quality sources, it’s perfectly fine if the minority of it comes from somewhere else. It’s not 100/0, more like 90/10, or 85/15.

Let’s discuss these less-than-ideal scenarios and what to do…

  • You’re eyeballing/guessing serving sizes to the best of your ability.
  • You’re using My Fitness Pal whenever possible to estimate/track calorie and macronutrient content as well as you realistically can, while ensuring everything fits within your intended daily totals (or as close to them as you can get!)
  • You’re overestimating a little on calorie content to play it safe and account for the different oils, butter, and additional items that were added to typical less-than-ideal foods to make them taste so amazing in the first place.
  • You’re eating a good amount of protein and veggies first, and/or throughout the meal (best way to control hunger), so you become less likely to overindulge on empty carbs and other fun stuff later.
  • You’re drinking plenty of water throughout your meal for the same reason as above.
  • You’re making smarter choices that will improve your ability to indulge in moderation while still staying within your intended calorie intake. For example, you’ll choose leaner cuts of meat. You’re eating a filling, low-calorie salad before the less-filling, higher calorie foods. You’re getting various sauces and dressings on the side to minimize the amount that is used (and thus minimize the extra calories it would contain.) You’re not wasting calories eating the bread that was brought to your table before your meal at a restaurant or the cheese and cracker appetizer available at a social gathering (thus allowing you to eat more calories later from the foods you’re really looking forward to eating). And other similar things.
  • You are eating slowly and actually enjoying your meal instead of stuffing your face as fast as you can to enjoy as much amazing food as possible.
  • You’re using calorie shuffling to make things better/easier for you when you need to.
  • Now you get to enjoy yourself and indulge a little, relax a bit, and eat yummy foods! You have a good time, enjoy yourself and your meal, and the people you’re with! All while continuing to stay in control of your diet (what you’re eating, how much you’re eating, etc.) and simply keeping things moderate and enjoyable while still working within your dietary guidelines.
  • Because you’re measuring your progress and keeping tabs on how things are going (measurements, weigh-ins), you know if you are or are not progressing. If you are progressing, you can keep doing your thang! If you are not progressing, you know that your form of moderation may be a little too indulgent, and you need to adjust when you are in scenarios like this to be a little less indulgent. You may have to adjust the amount of times you are in these scenarios to make sure you are still progressing.

Here’s the thing. If you find yourself in these scenarios quite a bit (events, parties, dates, etc.) and you are trying to follow moderation yet you are either going the opposite direction or are not seeing the progress you want, you may have to reconsider your friend Jackie’s birthday party where you know there will only be pizza and fireball served. You may have to adjust a bit to make sure you are actually achieving your fitness and health goals.

4. Relaxed Enjoyment ☺️

If we take what was discussed in the controlled enjoyment section and pretty much dial down the “controlled” aspect of it, you have yourself relaxed enjoyment.

So when you get into a scenario that’s less than ideal, you’ll end up going into it with a mindset of relaxing, enjoying yourself, food all around you and enjoying the people you’re with.

Seems pretty spectacular, right?

It is very nice!

Just so we’re on the same page, you’re not going overboard with this viewpoint.

You’re not trying to down all the food that is at the work party or anything. You’re not going into crazy binge mode or eating yourself sick.

But you also aren’t tracking anything, and here’s where you can get yourself in trouble.

You’re not counting, weighing, estimating, using My Fitness Pal, or logging anything. You’re not really even going out of your way to restrict yourself or keep track of your calorie or macronutrient intake, or even keep that calorie and macronutrient intake within the ranges they are supposed to be in.

And most important of all..you are ok with this.

You’re not worrying about, or obsessing over it, or stressing yourself out. You are just relaxing and enjoying yourself…guilt-free.

You may be thinking in the back of your mind about making sure you eat a good amount of protein and veggies (which is a smart habit to be in). You may also have used your multi-day balancing method to give yourself more room to consume extra calories on this day as well. And you also will be back to your regularly scheduled diet the very next day.

But, beyond that, you’re not actively doing anything but just enjoying yourself in a guilt-free environment and manner where you don’t feel bad about it or hate yourself afterwards.

At all.

Why? Because you get it — you have one rare day of relaxed eating enjoyment which is followed by an immediate return to your normal intended program and won’t have a meaningful negative impact on your fat loss results whatsoever.

When should this be used?

For the majority of women, this category should be used very rarely. When I think of the times that are best for this type of enjoyment, I can number them on one hand: Christmas, Thanksgiving (or a big holiday outside of the U.S.), your birthday.

Why only these?

Because these are all rare, one time events for the year where you really just want to have fun, relax, and enjoy yourself and they don’t happen multiple times throughout the year.

They are family-oriented, and you actually should be enjoying yourself and really just spending quality time with your family in a meaningful way.

Why? Two reasons:

  1. The first reason is that there is more to life than diets & fat loss progress…you won’t regret the wonderful times you have had with family with your relaxed enjoyment when you’re looking back at the memories in 30 years..you may look back at regret for not partaking in the fun though.
  2. If you look at the other options..they aren’t very fun and they end up to derail so much of your mental state. Why walk away from one of the best holidays known to the world (Christmas, Hannukah, etc.) being annoyed that you can’t eat and enjoy yourself with your family? Who wants a grump during epic family gatherings or events like this? You also don’t want to go into a massive binge after having complete self-control because you only ate your chicken and rice with asparagus instead of the turkey and mashed potatoes..

When clients ask me “what should I do for my diet during Christmas?’ or “How do I avoid stuffing my face during Thanksgiving?” or “How do I follow my plan when it’s my birthday party/dinner and I’ll be with my family/friends?” well, guess what the answer is?

Relax. Enjoy yourself.

This happens once-a-year and you won’t be gaining 10 pounds from Thanksgiving even though you think that’s the case. And now that you’ve went through my program so far you know that it is absolutely NOT the case and utterly impossible for you to gain 10 pounds after one day of relaxed enjoyment.

Yes, you may consume more calories, sodium, carbs than you normally do and you’ll likely weigh more than you did the previous day, but if you remember the “messing up” section, you will remember that we don’t need to worry about that because if you get back on the program you will be more than fine over the long run.

You know what else is AWESOME?? A relaxed holiday eating will also provide similar physiological and psychological benefits as a planned re-feed would! (And if you have a planned re-feed, this is a good time to schedule it on ;) )

Now that we have context, you can refer back to this section and know that “relaxed enjoyment” is going to be the best way to approach big time once-a-year holidays.

There is a bit of an asterisk* with this explanation though..

If you do follow this model and take the relaxed enjoyment approach, and then you find yourself unable to get back on your program the next day or it takes you a very long time to get back on the program..I’ve got a bit of sad news for you.

It’s likely that this is not for you and you will need to stick to controlled enjoyment.

If going down the relaxed enjoyment road makes you crave the food after that day, and you are unable to get back on track or it takes you off track and you are unable to continue your program, this is a huge red flag that your body and mind responds differently and you should not be following this plan as it will derail you off of your goals, and you should avoid this approach completely.

5. Excessive Indulgence 🤤

Here’s the final part of the journey concerning “smart cheating.” To explain this reaction to less than ideal scenarios in a nutshell, it’s actually pretty simple. What happens in a situation like this is that someone approaches a scenario and looks to excessively restrict yourself in the days/weeks/months prior to one of these scenarios, and/or attempting to do so during one of these scenarios.

What happens next?

Excessive Indulgence, typically in the form of an all-out binge. This is the kind where the person may feel physically sick afterwards. The kind that can last for days.The kind that can cause a queen to stray from her intended diet so that they don’t come back to it at all.

The truth is, if you excessively and unnecessarily restrict something long enough and severely enough, a breaking point will eventually be reached.

This is an example of that breaking point being reached.

It’s going to be accompanied by varying degrees of guilt and self-hate. Potentially also by purging to “undo the damage” and/or various other actions commonly associated with eating disorders.

No, this is not a good place to be at all.

So what number #1 and #2 will usually cause, #3 and #4 will usually prevent.

Why is this reaction to a “cheat day” so bad? I mean..what if your results are the same as #4 where you eat an extra 1,000 calories?

It’s important to remember that your body isn’t just made up of calories in, calories out. This is why the mental aspect of your program is so important (and what we will get into a bit later in this).

You must understand that there is a mental aftermath that happens when you find yourself in this state.

When you decided to have some relaxed enjoyment — you were deciding to enjoy yourself and you were aware that enjoying Christmas festivities really didn’t have a long-term or meaningful impact on your progress, diet, or pathway to true fitness and health success. You also knew that you would go back to crushing your program the next day..

But the other person?

From scenario #5?

Well..rather than intending to relax and enjoy (essentially allowing themselves to overeat a bit), they intended to be unnecessarily, excessively unrealistically strict on Christmas…and they failed.

Guess what that feeling of failure will lead to?

It will lead to guilt, self-hate, and all of the illogical thoughts we talked about earlier that cause a person to turn a non-problem into a real problem.

So, sure…both people may have overeaten the same 1000 calories in both cases, but the difference is HUGE when it comes to what truly matters most and what events take place afterwards.

Breakdown

  • For 5% of less-than-ideal scenarios, you will be following #4 (unless you just can’t handle it.
  • For 80–95% of less-than-ideal scenarios, you will be following #3 — controlled enjoyment and planned enjoyment as this is the best way to succeed and will help you go towards your goals over the long-term.

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