An occasional day of overeating can be beneficial to your overall health.
Is “diet” a horrible word to you? When you think of the word diet, what comes to mind? Do you see visions of carefree days and happily sharing a meal with your family and friends? Or does it bring to mind hours of obsessing about foods you can’t have anymore? Does depriving yourself of all the foods you cut out really work out in the long run? More than one-third of American adults are considered obese, and the childhood obesity rate is rapidly rising as well. Great news . . . it is possible to eat well, enjoy your food, and still be at a healthy weight and body composition. Overeating can be good for your health!
Just because you decide to change your eating habits doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy those foods that aren’t as good for you. It’s about creating some balance and moderation. The typical scenario of starting a diet and being very strict about what you eat, and possibly how often you exercise is nothing new. However, that doesn’t work long-term for most people as the recurrence of that New Year’s Resolution can attest.
Going to the extreme will often work for a short amount about time but then the cake, candy, chips, or whatever your vice may be becomes too tempting. Instead of having a serving and being satisfied, you overindulge because you’ve “fallen off the wagon” anyway. The next day you justify not following your diet again by saying you already broke it, and it becomes harder and harder to start back up.
What if instead of starting yourself in a cycle that you have failed multiple times you create a new path instead? Is it worth the risk? If you haven’t succeeded thus far it could be worth a try. Albert Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” By building in a cheat day where you can indulge or enjoy overeating a bit you are actually benefiting your overall health. How?
In having a day a week or every two weeks that allows you to still enjoy foods that you stay away from the rest of the time it helps you to stay on track and not feel deprived. Mentally and emotionally it keeps you on track as well. It is easier to continue with your new eating plan because you know you will still get to have that food or foods that don’t really provide great nutrition, but they taste oh so yummy to you.
You can still derail yourself with the cheat day and unchecked overeating though so don’t lose all inhibitions! To get more benefit for what you’re doing don’t eat four times your weight in food on your cheat day. Pick one to three foods that you would like to enjoy and have a serving of them, along with foods that are more nutrient abundant for you. Thoroughly enjoy the foods that day, along with your food every other day of course.
If you really want to maximize with your nutrition goals swap some of the ingredients in those foods in your cheat day so that they are more nutrient-dense than before but still have amazing flavor. Just because it is good for you doesn’t mean that it has to taste bad. Find great combinations that work well for you and start there.
There have been some studies on how “overeating” one day may help your metabolism as well. While results are still being evaluated and checked there is some good theory there and falls in line with a cheat day. You typically go from an overabundance in the energy you are giving your body to cutting dramatically. While the energy requirements for your body still might be met it can be a red flag for the body sending it into a “starvation mode.” The metabolism slows to conserve energy and store fat for later use. This is exactly what we don’t want to happen!
By adding in a periodic day where you deviate a bit from your normal plan it signals the body that there is plenty of energy being provided and helps the metabolism rev back up. Obviously, you don’t want to add this type of day in too often, but overeating once a week or twice a month can be very helpful. Model Miranda Kerr says it well, “I try my best to eat healthy the majority of the time so that I feel good and have more energy . . . I try my best to eat organic whenever possible, but it’s important not to be too strict about it. Just do the best you can.”
If you don’t want to go into a full new nutrition plan start with small changes and the results will add up. Can you get to where you are eating better more than fifty percent of the time? What about eighty to ninety percent? That way you can still relax and not be too rigid, but you will fuel your body with good foods. When possible enjoy your food and don’t rush through eating it. You will find more satisfaction that way, and won’t eat as mindlessly. If you are adding in a cheat day this is especially important. That way you fully enjoy the food you are indulging in so it satisfies the craving.
Instead of using the dreaded word diet to mean cutting calories, fats, and foods for a certain amount of time to lose weight, let’s look from a different angle. Your diet is the food that you eat to fuel and nourish your body. While it wasn’t said in relation to what we eat I like the inference of this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters . . . compared to what lies within us.” Feed your body good food so that it can perform well for you, but don’t forget to relax a little and allow yourself an indulgence appropriately. Occasionally overeating will leave you better off for it.