My husband and I went to breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants on Saturday. We have done this on a few occasions since we started our weight loss. We used to go out to eat at least 5 or 6 times a week, now we go out to eat at our favorite places every once in a while, maybe 3 times a month. I do not consider this a "cheat meal" or a "cheat day" because the losing weight required a lifestyle change. Going to a restaurant on occasion is part of our new lifestyle.
I've said before that "you can eat whatever you want as long as you exercise" is a myth. It is. However, that is not to say that adding exercise cannot be a beneficial way in which to balance calories on occasion. When I go out to eat with my husband, we plan around it. For example, we plan our meal out on a Friday or a Saturday so that we can balance the extra calorie intake with extra calorie output from our active weekend. We also plan our other meals around eating out. We will make sure to eat a lot of veggies and low calorie meals for the remainder of the weekend. That is not to say that we over do it with the exercise or starve ourselves for the rest of the weekend, but rather, we strive for a healthy balance. This has worked to support our weight loss goals for several months now.
Just to put into perspective how many calories are involved with eating out, and why this is not something we can do on a very regular basis, consider that for breakfast, I ordered the same meal that I used to order before my weight loss: a ham and cheese omelet (3 egg), with hash browns, coffee and cream, and a biscuit with butter and honey. I put all of this into my calorie counter and figured out that I ate about 1200 calories for breakfast - and I only ate HALF (of the omelet, the hash brown, and the butter and honey) of what I used to eat. That is all my calories for the day in ONE meal.
One of the reasons that I do not consider eating out to be a "cheat meal" or a "cheat day" and why I do not consider myself to be on a "diet" - is because that mindset could very easily lead to one of two harmful decisions: (1)Since I had this huge calorie meal, I might as well just have an entire "cheat day" and eat whatever I want for the rest of the day because I blew my diet for the day or (2) Since I had this huge calorie meal, I had better not eat anything else substantial for the rest of the day so that I don't ruin my diet. Viewing this as a lifestyle change in which I need to achieve a healthy balance between diet and exercise helps me to put eating out into perspective. On Saturday, my husband and I had a pretty busy day. We first went swimming for about 1/2 an hour, then we went to breakfast, we went shopping for a couple of hours, then we went home, had lunch, including a good amount of veggies and a frozen (diet) entree, I went to a meeting for a couple hours, then we cleaned for a while, played tennis, had dinner (again, lots of nutritious veggies to fill us up without a lot of calories) at home, then went to a movie with my husband's brothers. Even given all of that activity, I was slightly over my net calories for Saturday. Sunday, however, I had my normal low-calorie breakfast with cereal and fruit, went for a nice walk at Mission Bay (about 3 hours), had a good lunch, and then finished our shopping - walking to the stores rather than driving which gave us another 2 hours of walking. So yesterday, though I took in about 1800 calories, I netted around 850. When I stepped on the scale this morning, I maintained. I didn't lose, but I will. And I did it by achieving a healthy balance - I did not spend the entire weekend doing a ridiculous amount of strenuous exercise nor did I starve myself, I had a very enjoyable weekend, was never hungry, and, in addition to the great breakfast I enjoyed out with my husband, we went on a beautiful, relaxing walk in the gorgeous San Diego sunshine, had fun swimming and playing tennis, and enjoyed an excellent movie. Balance. :-)