Hacks.

Shortcuts.

Insider trading.

Whatever you call them, we all want the shortest way possible to get to wherever we want to go.

  • We take back roads to avoid traffic-clogged freeways
  • We use duct tape instead of actually sewing, nailing or otherwise spending hours repairing something
  • We join a high-intensity workout class to make up for lying on the couch for the past 20 years
  • We starve, deprive and voluntarily suffer in efforts to shortcut our way to weight loss

I think you know where I’m going with this.

You may be able to use GPS to avoid long, unpleasant routes, but the human body doesn’t always cooperate, especially after 50.

It’s nice to think you can do the same activities today as you did in your 20s, join an intense, high-impact workout class and thumb your nose to this age thing.

You don’t feel your age, so why should you act like you have one foot in the grave? Until something goes awry.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m ALL for overcoming limitations and living your life the way you want to live it, damnit.

But your body doesn’t always get that memo.

Regardless of how you may look outwardly, certain changes happen with age you can’t outrun — no matter how much Botox, sunblock, and hair removal treatments you use.

Prime example: MENOPAUSE (insert screaming soundtrack).

No matter what, the Big M happens to every woman at some point, regardless of ethnicity, attitude or celebrity status.

Ditto when it comes to how your body processes food.

Sure, you can mix and match the proportions of macros — carbs, fat and protein — but every diet ultimately “works” in the short term because of a calorie deficit.

Regardless of if you eat only broccoli, Twinkies, sticks of butter, or wine, if you’re taking in 3,500 fewer calories than your body needs, you’ll lose a pound of fat. (This explains why most diets subtract 500 calories from your daily calorie intake, which equals about a pound of weight loss weekly.)

This brings me to today’s focus: CHEAT DAYS.

Whether or not you’re familiar with the term, you can probably surmise its meaning. It refers to eating healthy all week long and then going hog-wild one day a week. That’s the cheat day.

I saw a meme that illustrated this concept with:

  • Monday: salad
  • Tuesday: salad
  • Wednesday: salad
  • Thursday: salad
  • Friday: salad
  • Saturday: [food enough for a college football team]
  • Sunday: salad

This may sound sensible — I mean, how much damage can you really do in a single day, right??

Answer: A lot. And it’s not just the calorie splurge itself.

But many people practice this tactic as a way to stay on track, when it actually makes it less likely they will succeed in the long run.

The first issue lies with the word itself. “Cheating” implies that eating a treat like a piece of cake or dessert is “bad” and forbidden. That, my friend, sets you up for failure.

Because if you’re truly living and eating in a healthy way, an occasional treat won’t make even a tiny blip of a difference in the whole scheme of things.

It’s when you don’t stop eating the doughnuts or what have you that the problem lies. And if you’ve been craving this food and finally get to eat it, you’re likely to dive headfirst into it until you get your fill.

And then feel guilty after it’s over. So you soothe yourself by — you guessed it — going right back to the feed trough.

In the long run it backfires for one main reason, according to research: The practice of compensating for unhealthy behavior later undermines goals to behave in healthy ways.

In summary, you’re LESS likely to reach your goals with this practice.

If you’re a member of my Ageless Army membership, you may have watched the interview I did with David Garcia, who lost 160 lbs through exercise and diet and has kept it off for about eight years.

One of the tips he gives revolves around Thanksgiving dinner –– a holiday where it’s acceptable to take pride in your gluttony. “I ate so much I had to stay at my in-laws until I lost enough weight to fit through the front door. Then they had to grease me up and pop me through!”

David has kept off this huge amount of weight because he never cheats, he tells me.

Yes, even at Thanksgiving.

This is not to say he deprives himself. He simply makes a single pass, piles on his plate with foods he really likes, then does not go back for seconds.

Crazy, right?

Not in David’s mind. He knows if he falls off the wagon it will be that much harder to get back on again — something many people find may also be true for them.

Is that you, perhaps?

Cheat days can easily become a feast or famine situation. You end up eating more than you want simply because it’s another week until you can splurge again.

Plus, where do you draw the line? If Sunday is your cheat day, then maybe Monday morning can be included in that too, right?

Before you know it the entire idea goes out the window and it’s a feeding frenzy seven days a week.

In other words, it’s more than a little counterproductive.

Instead of starving yourself all week and then eating like you’re on Death Row one of those days, try these tips instead to stay on track.

1. Do not deprive yourself of your favorite food

The first thing people tend to do when trying to lose weight is immediately eliminate foods they crave. This only sets you up to want them even more. Instead, portion out the food or treat and know how much you’re eating. You can literally eat anything if you keep it within your daily calorie allotment. Once you’re accustomed to making healthier choices, your cravings for junk food will also fade out. BONUS!

2. Eat whatever what you want

No, that’s not a typo. Eat what you want in moderations (see #1), but here’s the caveat: You must be honestly, physiologically hungry — and you must use portion control. We’re talkin’ stomach growling, it’s-been-at-least-three-hours-since-I-last-ate hungry. How to know? If you can’t decide what to eat or feel as if you’re “hungry for something but not sure what,” you’re not really hungry. Then stop when you’ve eaten your portion. Wash your plate, put away the box or bag and do a FULL STOP. 

3. Eat without distractions

At the risk of sounding like every self-help coach, be mindful when you eat. This means no TV, no reading, no playing Words With Friends or otherwise eating while you’re doing something else. Focus on the food you’re eating, taste it, savor it, appreciate it… unlike losing track of how much you at until your spoon hits the bottom of the ice cream pint. By being in the moment you’ll fill up faster and be more satisfied in the end.

How do YOU stay on course during the holidays? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you…

How to stay on track when it seems totally impossible

3 Surprising reasons for weight gain after 50 (no one tells you)

Foods that impact menopause (both good and bad)              

Your Ageless Body Coach,