"Your body doesn’t understand numbers, it understands food"

“You just gotta eat clean, bro”

"Calories don’t matter”

You’ve heard all that before right? In fact the other day I was on a cardio machine and someone asked how much longer I will be on it. I said I’m almost done, only got another 50 calories to go. The person laughed and said you don’t believe in calories do you? “No I don’t believe in calories…and I don’t believe water is wet either.” -- That’s what I should’ve said back.

It sounds pretty damn cool to come up with sound bites that challenge popular belief because it’s sexy to go against the norm. Facts and science aren't sexy which is why so many people get caught in the herd of oversimplified and often misleading concepts. (Insert anti-vaccine rant here)

A couple summers ago I was trying to get “shredded” and came across a book called Serious Strength and on the cover picture was a ripped bodybuilder doing a concentration curl.

Since it’s obvious that I’m the perfect target for publishers with crappy and clichéd book covers, I bought the book with high hopes of being shredded by mid summer.

The diet section of the book was based on a super low carb diet on six days a week and Saturday I could eat whatever the heck I wanted.

After 8 weeks I had gained four pounds. So that didn’t didn’t go as well as I had planned.

So what gives?

Well you see, I was in a caloric deficit all week (I was eating less calories than my body needed). I was tracking everything all my foods to the T’ everyday. Having my cheat day to look forward actually helped me stick to my plan during the week.

When cheat day came around, however, I would eat whatever food came within 5 feet of me. Now I wasn’t eating cakes and doughnuts as the only thing but I would treat myself to a couple and I was eating all the “clean” foods I could find. Nuts, fruits, salads, cheeses, meats. You name it.

So if I was eating clean all the time how come I wasn’t losing weight?

Well after I started tracking my cheat days I realized that the excess calories from Saturdays alone were offsetting all the hard work and discipline I had put in through the week, and then some. Mainly because I was restricting what I was allowed and not allowed to eat throughout the week to keep my carbohydrates low, or eat "clean" I would end up going on a binge that would feed an entire NHL team for a week.

I learned to stop using the words “cheat days” or “cheat meals” in my vocabulary since it has a negative connotation to begin with.

I began thinking of them as reward meals and I would enjoy only one reward meal and that’s it. Not an entire day of consuming calories like it was about to go on a 30 day fast.

That realization alone was what helped me get on the right track and start getting in the shape that I wanted to get.

Instead of feeling guilty about a cheat meal I had and going on an yet another epic restriction throughout the week feeling like I have to lock up my fridge and send the key to Australia. I started to see reward meals as fuel that would do my body good.

This let me enjoy the heck out of those meals and wake up the next morning feeling great. During the week I didn't feel like I was going through too much restrictions so when it came time for me to enjoy my meal on Friday or Saturday I didn't feel the need to pound copious amounts of food down my throat.

I'm not trying to say calories are the only thing to consider when it comes to successful weight loss. Getting enough nutrients and vitamins from a variety of sources and having a diet you enjoy is paramount. But it's definitely something important to keep in mind.

Reward meals definitely help you to stay on track through the week because you have something to look forward to. But they only work to your advantage if you use them properly and you know when to get back on the game-plan.

Just keep a few things in mind when incorporating reward meals into your diet:

1. You only get ONE plate

2. You don't get seconds

3. Enjoy every-damn-bite

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