Cheating is Good for You

So I have some good news for you today. It turns out, when it comes to healthy eating, cheating is good for you.

Wow, y’all. I can feel your skeptical looks from here.

Do I still have your attention?

Okay. First of all, the entire premise of this argument is that the cheat day is good for you as long as you don’t abuse it. This means cheating by ways of a cheeseburger and fries, not an entire pizza, breadsticks and a case of beer (guilty).cheat day!

A cheat day or meal is a planned splurge, a reward even. But the important part is that you do plan it. Don’t slip up and say to yourself, oh well, I guess that was my cheat meal because then you do not get the full benefit of it. If you slip up, recognize that and move on.

There a couple areas of healthy eating that the cheat day targets, and as long as you are eating clean through the week, having a cheat day or meal once in seven days will not derail you. I’ve been eating clean since April, doing one cheat meal a week, and it hasn’t stopped me. If anything, it’s helped me keep going.

Disclaimer: I do not pretend to be a dietitian or expert on nutrition. These are just my thoughts and what I have found to be true for me. I have, however, had my good friend (and former college roommate) Liz Kowalsky, who is a dietitian, read over this blog post and make sure that my logic is sound.

The way I see it, cheat meals serve one goal, but accomplish this goal in two different ways. The goal is simple: to indulge. Give yourself a break. Relieve some stress. Let loose. Have fun. These things are important.

  1. First, let’s talk about the physical benefits. Studies have shown that temporarily upping your calorie intake can increase your leptin production, boosting your metabolism for a short period of time. Leptin is the hormone responsible for maintaining energy levels, controlling hunger and may contribute to increased levels of dopamine production as well, which we all know puts us in a good mood. It also helps prevent stagnation. It’s the same reason you don’t do the exact same workout every time you go to the gym. By switching things up, you throw your body for a loop, thus making it work harder to do the same job it was doing before.
  2. There are also obvious psychological benefits. Getting one meal a week to indulge allows you to satisfy any cravings you may be having, as well as helping you develop a healthy relationship with food. Instead of assigning food into categories (as we are all so used to doing) like “good” and “bad”, it helps you relearn food’s role in your life. Instead of not allowing yourself to have a certain food because it’s “bad” for you, you can reassign it as a treat, or a once in a while food. Over time, this will help you keep those little slip-ups (we all have them) into a major derailing.

The purpose of cheating is not to have a free for all with your food. That’s not healthy. The idea is to treat yourself for your hard work all week. By satisfying a craving, indulging and not over-doing it, you can actually maintain a diet plan for a longer period of time if you schedule these cheat meals.

The important thing to remember is this: when I say that cheat meals work for me and might work for you, that is not me saying that they definitely will. Everyone is different, and having a cheat meal once a week might not work for you. If not, that’s fine. If it does work, that’s fine too.

What do you think? Do you use a cheat meal? Does it work?

Advertisements

Food is Fuel

During college, I would get really frustrated with my fitness routine, because I never saw any results from those hours I spent at the campus rec center. I know now why I never saw any results. I was your typical college student, surviving off of Kraft Macaroni n Cheese, Cousin Vinny’s pepperoni pizza, massive amounts of coffee and probably equally massive amounts of beer. (#sorrynotsorry)

My favorite breakfast: non-fat greek yogurt with whole grain granola and honey

My favorite breakfast: non-fat greek yogurt with whole grain granola and honey

This frustration continued immediately after college, after I moved home to my mother’s amazing cooking skills. I still worked out almost every day, but again, with no results, only stagnation.

At the time I figured it was because that’s how the world works, and I would probably never see myself lose weight.

I now know why. I was fueling my body with – let’s call it what it was – crap. Delicious, wonderful crap, but still crap.

It wasn’t until I joined Texas Fit Chicks last spring that I realized the importance of what I put in my body. Sure, WeightWatchers taught me the importance of vegetables and portion sizes, but TFC is where I learned the hard way that what I eat will directly impact the way my body performs.

As part of joining TFC I was put on a high protein, high fiber, low sugar, low sodium diet, and only then is when I started seeing a change in my body. Suddenly I was not only getting smaller, but I was getting stronger, faster and better at my workouts.

Nice story, Julia. But what’s your point?

My point is that the food you eat is fuel. I allow myself one cheat day a week, usually Saturday or Sunday, to eat the foods I really want to eat. Other than that, I am pumping my body full of good things like yogurt, spinach, eggs, chicken, lots of veggies, peppers, carrots and all other kinds of real food – fuel – that I need. And I can feel the difference.

Home-made chicken tortilla soup. With home made tortilla chips because sodium is bad.

Home-made chicken tortilla soup. With home made tortilla chips because sodium is bad.

Very little of what I eat now comes out of a box. I cook at home a lot more, I read labels on everything I eat and I rarely eat out at restaurants. We’re talking once every two weeks, maybe. I monitor what I eat and how it effects my body very closely. If I don’t like how I feel after I eat something, I throw it out. I don’t need anything in my diet that makes me feel any less than amazing. I don’t keep crap food in my pantry any more. If it’s not there, I won’t eat it.

My body takes a lot. I work out 6 days a week and even one off day of eating will impact how I perform when it counts. This is why my meal prep time on Sundays is so important to me. It is during that time on Sundays when I lock myself in my kitchen and make not only Sunday night dinner, but usually 2 other full dinners for the freezer to ensure my success during the week.

If by chance I do end up going to boot camp or out for a run after eating like crap for a day, I can tell. It’s not only that I simply don’t have as much energy as I’m used to, but I can feel it in every part of me. My muscles refuse to loosen up, and when they do, they tire much more easily. I get winded quickly, and it takes longer to catch my breath and control my heart rate. In some cases I will feel nauseated and light-headed. This is why I know the importance of food. Because I have experienced what it feels like to try and push yourself when your body is running on pizza and cokes or Chinese food and decadent desserts.

A fresh take on chicken salad: chicken, tomatoes, parsley, artichoke hearts dressed with white wine vinegar and olive oil.

A fresh take on chicken salad: chicken, tomatoes, parsley, artichoke hearts dressed with white wine vinegar and olive oil.

Now I’m not saying don’t eat the foods you love. But be more aware of how these foods effect your body. Eat the crap out of spinach and tomatoes, eggs with low fat feta and green peppers, whole wheat pasta and veggie sauce. Fuel your body with real food, and you’ll feel the difference I’m talking about. Trust me on this one.

I really am not trying to sound superior or anything. Just trying to show you how switching my mindset from food being an indulgence to food being fuel has changed everything.

Boot Camp: Not-So-Final Results

So my boot camp ended a few weeks ago, but I’m still sticking to their meal plan and work out schedule as best I can. It’s a lot harder when I don’t have that amazing group of women (and of course my trainer) expecting me at class three times a week.

But here are my results.

I lost 1 inch in my bust, 2 inches from my hips and 3 inches from my waist.

I still feel fantastic (even after the junk-food-fest that was my Memorial Day and then Free Press Summer Fest weekends).

I did gain 2 pounds, but I’m convinced that that’s because I gained a ton of muscle over the past 2 months. I feel stronger, more capable and more confident. I no longer look at those fitness challenges on Pinterest and laugh, in fact, this month (June) I am doing a 30 day squat challenge. By the end of the month I will be able to do 250 squats.

But you’ll notice I’ve very conspicuously avoided calling these my “Final Results”. I’ve rediscovered my love of working out. I’m going to keep going. And I’m going to be putting my pennies in a jar in the hopes of signing up for boot camp on a recurring basis. Because as much as I hated doing burpees, hill runs and tabatas, I miss the way it made me feel – strong.

And if you live in Houston, San Antonio or Dallas, and are looking for a great boot camp experience. I cannot recommend Texas Fit Chicks enough. They are encouraging, supportive and still know how to push you to be your best, all while holding you accountable to your personal goals.

Happy Monday! Oh and here’s a few more pictures from last weekend because I am still recovering. 🙂

FPSF is held in the shadow of downtown Houston. I can never get enough of this skyline.

FPSF is held in the shadow of downtown Houston. I can never get enough of this skyline.

With Adam's sister Allison. Because sweaty music festival pictures are always in style.

With Adam’s sister Allison. Because sweaty music festival pictures are always in style.

4/5ths of the group on day 2.

4/5ths of the group on day 2.

Recipe Spotlight: Marinated Shrimp

This is a really easy weeknight meal that tastes delicious. Seriously, it took me less than an hour from the moment I took the shrimp out of the freezer to the moment I put it on the plate.

20130605_184241

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder (you could also substitute this with 1/2 tablespoon of regular chili powder if you can’t find ancho, but you should be able to find it in the spice aisle at Kroger.)
  • Brown Rice (optional)
  • Jerk BBQ Sauce (optional)

Okay. So here we go.

  1. To thaw the shrimp, put the amount you want in a Ziploc bag and place in a sink of lukewarm water.
  2. Mix together the olive oil, pressed garlic, ancho chili powder and onion powder in a large bowl.
  3. Peel the thawed shrimp and put them in the bowl with the marinade. Incorporate the shrimp thoroughly with the marinade, and let sit for 10-20 minutes.
  4. (At this point, I threw a bag of partly cooked brown rice in the microwave in a casserole dish of water).
  5. Once the shrimp is fully marinated, take a little of the oil from the marinade and throw it in a medium skillet. Put the head on medium high.
  6. Once the oil is bubbling slightly, place the shrimp in it. (I drained off the excess oil and marinade, but you can definitely use it to make a yummy sauce for when you are done).
  7. Cook the shrimp thoroughly, mixing with a wooden spoon constantly.
  8. Serve over the brown rice, or with veggies or even a salad. I topped it with a spicy and sweet jerk bbq sauce I found at my local farmer’s market a few months ago.

Enjoy!

Recipe Spotlight: Jalapeno Lime & Cilantro Shrimp

One of the great side effects of me eating a lot healthier and focusing on what is in my food is that I’m cooking at home a lot more. Which means I am trying new recipes and experimenting with new ways of cooking my favorite ingredients.

The bad news is that sometimes I serve my recipe tester slightly under cooked rice. Sorry, Adam!

I found this recipe on a website called Alaska from Scratch, which features a lot of really great recipes using fresh ingredients. We had it for a midweek dinner this week and I really enjoyed it. It was filling, but didn’t leave you feeling greasy or bloated.

IMG_20130508_192357

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes – optional, I didn’t have any on hand, so I just left them out.
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced – Pro tip: The more membrane you leave behind, the spicier your jalapeño will be! Also, don’t touch your face after seeding it. Trust me on this one.
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped – I used roma tomatoes because I like the flavor better.
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled (I removed the tails, but that is up to your preference)
  • 1 lime, zested
  • juice of half the lime
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • salt to taste
  • lime wedges, for serving

This recipe is pretty simple, despite the number of ingredients involved. It’s worth it I promise!

To a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil and butter. Stir in the red chile flakes.

Saute the onions and jalapeño until tender, 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, but not browned, about 1 minute.

Toss in the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes begin to break down and release their juices, another 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer.

Then, add the shrimp to the skillet and season with salt, cooking and tossing until shrimp just turn pink and are cooked through but still tender, being careful not to overcook.

Add the lime zest, lime juice, and cilantro. Taste for seasoning and add more salt as needed. Serve promptly.

I served this over brown rice, but it would be delicious with almost anything, and even on its own! I really think this would be wonderful inside corn tortillas.

I couldn’t help but thinking while I was cooking that this would have been delicious with an ice-cold Tecate.