How to Take the Day off Without Jeopardising your Weight Loss Progress
You can only be strong for so long before you need a day off from dieting
So you’ve begun your weight loss program + you’re actually doing pretty well!
You’re feeling strong, you’re exercising regularly + clothes are starting to feel a little more comfortable. You’ve been on quite a high for a few days because of it + you’re feeling confident but then boom, out of the blue you’re starting to get pretty sick of salads + you’re beginning to really miss that glass of wine in the evenings. Your motivation is starting to wane (for no apparent reason!) + it sucks! Self doubt (about whether you can actually do it) is knocking at your door, + even though you really want this, you’re not sure if you have it in you.
The trouble is, now that you’ve had some success under your belt, you know logically that you can do it, but you’re tired + just a bit over it, so it makes you wonder whether it will actually ever happen.
Losing weight can be one heck of a roller coaster.
When you’re strong + motivated it’s exhilarating. When you’re successful, you have this real sense of achievement + you genuinely start to feel like you can do anything. But when self doubt hits, or when you’re not getting results, it can mess you up big time + that’s when most people end up giving up.
So when you’re next on struggle street, + you’re finding you can’t stay motivated, what do you do?
I find with most clients, there are three necessary ingredients to achieving long term sustainability to weight loss + you can implement them yourself.
Firstly, it’s important to be honest about what it takes to actually lose weight (this is the weight loss science-y) + then put your mind to those goals wholeheartedly (this is the weight loss hard work bit).
Secondly, deliberately structure a day off into your program that allows you to maintain a calorie deficit across your week (this is the weight loss sustainability bit).
Thirdly, have somewhere planned that you go to when you’re struggling + actually go there. Don’t try + stick it out on your own (this is the second + most important weight loss sustainability bit).
If you do all of these, you’ve got a pretty good chance of making weight loss work (even with a day off) + avoiding burnout. Let’s break these three points down a little bit more so that you know how to apply them to your own situation.
In order to have sustained weight loss, you need to be in a calorie deficit most of the time
Whichever way you choose to lose weight, it will only be successful if you are in a calorie deficit for most of your week. And it’s really important that you are realistic about what sort of effort that requires.
There are a number of ways to ensure you are in a deficit, my program HABITS is one way, + there are plenty of other options out there. A calorie deficit simply means that you consume less calories (i.e. energy from food + drinks) than you burn off in a day (both in exercise + in everyday activities). As I mentioned above, you can put yourself into a calorie deficit in a million different ways, however some methods are more palatable + easier to follow than others (I’m looking at you boiled egg diet ….☹).
I personally prefer to do it in a way that uses your own diet as a beginning point (so you don’t have to completely overhaul your way of eating) + I encourage you to avoid practices, especially if you’re busy, that you’re not going to be able to do when things get stressful (like calorie counting, as it can get pretty tedious in the long term).
Ensuring you’re in a calorie deficit over your week is the best way to make headway with weight loss. How do you know for sure you’re in a calorie deficit? Well it isn’t always easy to work out + can take a bit of trial + error to ascertain what will give you success. This is because calculating calorie intake + expenditure is not easy to make super accurate, but if you would like to get get a general idea, you can here. Once you have a grasp of the way you have to eat in order to be in a calorie deficit + you understand what that means for you, plus you’re fully committed to the changes you’ll have to make in your life, you need to make sure it is something you can do sustainably.
One way to do this is to structure in a day off that still allows you to stay in a calorie deficit.
How to structure in a day off from your weight loss plan but still lose weight.
A day off each week is a great idea because (as you may already be experiencing) there is an inevitable fatigue that happens when dieting. And with fatigue comes a lack of motivation + with a lack of motivation you tend to question both the efficacy of your approach + your ability to stick to it. Neither of these are good for your progress.
To top it off, you can be eating well during the week but even one calorie binge on the weekend can stop weight loss in its tracks fast + it can be pretty easy to do this with a just one night of drinking in your week or one or two unplanned cafe meals.
This is why it’s crazy important to integrate flexibility into your diet plan. You need to be able to give yourself mental breaks but not halt your progress.
The only way to do this is to give yourself a break that you control rather than a break that comes because you are just out of puff. Giving yourself a break in a structured way will also help you avoid the all or nothing thinking that can be so damaging for your confidence. Note that adding flexibility into your diet can take a bit of trial + error (because you may not know exactly how much flexibility you can introduce without it affecting your weight without trying it out) + to work this out, I recommend a slower, habit based method of weight loss because it allows you the space to develop more customised approaches to weight management rather than having to stick to an overly prescriptive plan which means you’re either on it or you’re off.
Your day off needs to incorporate ways to give your brain a break from the weight loss mentality but also ensure you don’t blow out your calorie deficit so here are my top tips to do this + still stay on track.
On your day off, at as many vegetables as you can. Make it your top priority (+ think about the vegetables being good for your health rather than your waistline - what a gift you’re giving yourself!). This will keep you full + crowd out the food that is not so ideal for your weight loss goals.
Make sure you are full at the other meals you are eating on that day + don’t eat unless you are hungry.
Focus on doing something for yourself that is not food on that day so you really get the most out of your day off. Managing your stress + sleep is just as important to achieving sustainable weight loss. If you need some nutrition specific stress management strategies, I have written a great article on the topic here.
Move. Try to incorporate some fun activities where you exercise or you get off your bottom + get out of the house (that way you’ll burn the extra calories that you consume, but in a fun way + it won’t feel like you’re still trying to stick to your weight loss plan).
Make your meals on that day easier. Ask yourself how you can facilitate three wholefoods meals with veges, protein + a bit of fat while STILL sitting on the couch or going out with friends. Could you pick up a roast chicken on your way home + steam some vegetables? Could you buy a pre-made salad on your lunch break + have some tinned tuna with some of that batch cooked quinoa that you made on Monday? Could you have leftovers ready or a pre-made meal available for your day off so it isn’t a fall-in-a-heap calorie binge but instead it is a genuine break.
Plan what you are going to eat on your day off the night before + stick to it. If you are adding in a treat meal, write it down but then write down the foods you are going to eat around it so that you don’t go bananas with your eating for the whole day.
Following these tips + planning ahead of time a day where you don’t think about your diet too much is the key to losing your weight long term. These things take time, practice + a good hard look at the way you approach food so don’t give up if you’re finding it difficult. If you feel that you need someone to help you do it you can join my 6 week weight loss program where I step you through all of the things you need to do to set yourself up for weight loss success…including structuring in time off! For more info, click here.
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Hey! I’m Zoe Morosini, a Brisbane based nutritionist on a mission to show every woman that wants to lose weight that she doesn’t have to lose her mind trying.