* This is part of a year-long weekly series called "52 Weeks to Eating better than Ever". Click on the side bar for more information and to read the previous essays.
One of the best long-term strategies for eating better is something I call “The Make Up Day.” It’s unlikely you’re ever going to eat the perfect diet, so shoot for good, not perfect. Don’t be so hard on yourself that you take the joy out of life and take the fun out of eating. I’ve written before about the benefits of fasting, and “The Make Up Day” is like a fast, only less regimented. If you think you blew it one day, by eating way too much or gorging on something unhealthy, just make up for it the next day or two by eating much less and much better.
I recently had family in town and went out to eat for my birthday. The festive feast that began on Friday night with Pizza ended on Saturday night with a 5 course French meal. The pizza, though topped with extra sauce, broccoli, spinach, and mushrooms, was still heavy in salt, Canadian bacon, carbs, fat, and empty calories. The French food- crab cakes, French onion soup, Caesar salad, Duck Canard, and Chocolate Mousse cake, was high in everything, but delicious and worth every bite! In this birthday scenario, Sunday was what I call the make-up day.
I knew on Sunday I needed to make up for what I ate the last 24 hours, so I ate much less than normal and ate plenty of fruits and vegetables. That way I could shift back into a healthier eating pattern, which I follow on most days. On my “make-up day” I focused on apples, oranges, nuts, and whole grains to make sure I got plenty of fiber and potassium.
Try this: the next time you want to loosen up a bit and eat something a little indulgent- cheesecake, sausage rolls, Beef wellington, or a calzone- make up for it the next day by eating much less. If you need to be eating 2000 calories per day to maintain your weight, and you overeat 3500 one day, then the following day reduce your intake to 1000-1500 on your “make-up day.”
Recommended calories: 2000
Binge day calories: 3500
Make-up day calories: 1000-1500
Don’t overcomplicate this system. Think long-term about changing the way you do things. Little things add up and the multiple strategies I give you, if combined, make a huge difference in the overall health outcomes of your eating. If you overindulge, get things back in check by balancing out with undereating the following day. Research even shows the benefits of intermittent eating patterns like this. Overeating every now and then is not a big deal, it’s overeating every day which is a killer.
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