This is why your diet isn’t working

At CaL Wellness, one of the things we do with every client is to have conversation before their subscription begins. During this call, we usually chat about nutrition basics, weight loss basics and our outlook towards it all. The one question that’s almost a constant is, “Do we have cheat days?”

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Now, at CaL Wellness, you don’t really need cheat days, since the food we pack into our meal plans are nutritious, plentiful and everyday foods, so a special day to eat normal food or indulge oneself isn’t really required. Nonetheless, this morning while writing a checklist for hypothyroid (things to be checked in every plan going to a client with that condition), it struck me. 

No wonder most diets don’t work for most of us, and cheat days are to blame. And you might curse me by the time I’m done, but then it’s simple maths. Do it yourself if you want. Here we go.

Gayathri D. is a 32 year old living in a metropolitan city who is 5’2″ (158 cm) tall and weighs 68 kilos. She works 5 days a week, handles household stuff on Saturday and parties from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon, after which she begins to get back into weekday mode. When she parties, she has a few drinks and finger foods if out dancing and a few drinks with a 2 – 3 course dinner if out for a fancy meal, indulges herself with a late breakfast, some treats around lunch time and then it’s back to normal by tea time and subsequently, dinner. Here are her basic stats:

  • Gayathri, D.
    • Age: 32 years
    • Gender: Female
    • Height: 5 feet 2 inches (158 cm)
    • Weight: 68 kilos

The above points to a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 27.24 (overweight) and a Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) of 1442 calories per day. Gayathri needs to lose 8 kilos to come down to a BMI of 24. Being well-informed, she knows she needs to eat less than her BMR and has calculated that if she reduces about 200 calories from her daily diet she’ll lose that weight in a few months. And so she hires a nutritionist to make her a diet chart and gets an okay for her ‘cheat time’ between Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.

The week passes, and each day of the week Gayathri has stuck to her meal plan and burnt an excess of 200 calories a day, making an approximate total of 1000 calories that week. Then, she’s off dancing that weekend and the cheating begins. Given she’s on a 1,200 calorie diet during the week, for this example, I’m assuming 400 calories per normal meal.

  • Saturday breakfast – regular (400 calories)
  • Saturday lunch – regular (400 calories)
  • Saturday night (2170 calories over about 4 hours)
    • Rum & Coke: 3 small pegs (208 calories) with 300ml coke (125 calories)
    • Vodka: 1 shot [large] (138 calories)
    • Pizza – 3 slices 14-inch regular crust (285 x 3 = 855 calories)
    • BBQ chicken – 2 thigh pieces (215 x 2 = 430 calories)
    • Apple pie – 1 slice with ice cream (277 + 137 = 414 calories)
  • Sunday breakfast (804 calories)
    • 2 Aloo parathas(300 x 2 = 600) with 2 tbsp butter (102 x 2 = 204) = 804 total
    • 1 mug of tea with sugar
  • Sunday lunch (1487 calories)
    • McSpicy Wrap (677 calories), large fries (685 calories) and coke (125 calories).
  • Sunday dinner – regular (400 calories)

As you can see, during Saturday and Sunday, out of 6 meals, 3 were regular and three were cheat meals, so let’s say the three together constituted a cheat ‘day’. What did her cheat meals cost? They cost a total of 4,461 calories. Some of you may say that’s too much eating. Sure, half it to 2,230 – okay? Even that, has cost her 1000+ calories more, which has erased all the work from the past week and with even with half the weekend indulgence, she ends up gaining nothing, but also losing nothing. This is fine when you want to maintain your weight, but not fine when you want to lose.

Guys, you need real lifestyle change to turn your health around, and just the fact that you want a cheat day means you haven’t succeeded in doing so. If you do have a cheat day, you can’t go crazy as the above example shows, and even the cheating must be done in a controlled and calculated manner. If you’re serious, that is. 

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