I often have friends ask me for advice on working out and eating healthy. While I love to help them out, I have to remind them that I’ve had no professional training whatsoever and I go by both research from health experts and the things I’ve found to work for me. The other day, a friend was asking how I’m able to stay in good shape while eating whatever I want. I explained to her that I follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of what I eat is veggies, lean protein, fruit, minimally processed, and low-sugar foods. The other 20% is whatever I want. “So like you eat healthy 6 days and unhealthy 1 day?”, she asked when I was done explaining. Not exactly, and the rising popularity of “cheat days” is something that confuses me.
The premise of a “cheat day” is essentially to eat healthy every other day of the week and then designate one specific day for eating whatever you want. But this means that you restrict yourself all week, work out hard, eat healthy, and then binge on one given day. Doesn’t that just reverse all the progress you’ve made throughout the week? What if your friends are ordering pizza and you want a slice but it’s not your “cheat day”?
For me, every day is “cheat day”. I don’t restrict myself to eating all of my favorite junk foods on one certain day, because I don’t really think it fits my lifestyle and wellness goals.
I am constantly surrounded by unhealthy options. It’s so easy to tag along when my friends are making a McDonalds run or want a slice of pizza after a night of drinking. And what about when someone wants to grab dinner and I’m really feeling a burger and fries (okay lets be real I’m always feeling a burger and fries). I just don’t think that limiting myself to eating healthy on one specific day is conducive to my lifestyle. I never know when I’m going to want to eat unhealthy, and that’s totally okay.
To help myself stick to eating healthy 80% of the time, I always make sure I have a variety of real food options at home. I try to have some sort of fruit and veggies on hand at all times and never buy processed foods to keep myself. That way, I’m not tempted to snack on something that I shouldn’t be. I’ve also found it effective to wash and cut up fruits and veggies the minute I get them, because if they’re already prepared I’m more likely to just grab them and snack on them.
I also never let a period of poor eating affect my progress. I understand that there are some periods of time where I’m just not going to eat like normal. (Think: holidays, vacations, etc.) But I never let those times to affect my attitude about healthy eating. For me personally, when I start eating junk food I start craving it more. I try to remind myself why I eat healthy most of the time. It makes me feel good. I don’t get stomach aches. My diet has a direct impact on my skin and attitude. When I take those things into consideration, I recognize that I need to get back into a healthy routine ASAP but also appreciate all the yummy, sugar-filled, bad-fat-laden foods that I get to enjoy in the process.
It’s truly all about balance. I don’t count macros or make sure that EXACTLY 80% of what I’m eating is healthy. But I do make sure that most of the time I feel good about what I eat so the rest of the time I don’t have to worry.