keep going back and forth on this one ...
started out reducing calories by 500 a day, which resulted in losing 1 lb a week. then one day out of the week, i would 'cheat' and go slightly over my caloric needs. on these days, i would still eat 'clean', and mainly just get extra carbs. once a month, i would realy cheat, and go 500 to 1000 calories over my daily need. on these days, i would just eat the junk i craved, so an extra 1000 calories was easy. the concept behind these cheat days is to keep your body inefficient. you dont want it to get used to operating at reduced calories. this seemed to work for me, because i could sometimes feel my metabolism kick up a notch on those cheat days to compensate. finally, after 2 to 3 months, i would go for 2 to 4 weeks at maintenance calories, to avoid going catabolic and burning up muscle. one problem with this approach is that i had to closely monitor calories to stay within that 500 calorie range. but it is fun when you get towards the end of the day and you see that you need to eat more!
at one point i tried reducing calories by 1000 a day, which resulted in losing 2 lbs a week. but i really dont want to lose weight that quickly, in fear that i'll burn up too much muscle. so i've adapted this to provide some wiggle room. now i eat most of the same foods that would let me get a 1000 calorie reduction, but i can 'cheat' a little each day by having extra 'clean' snacks, or swapping out a 'clean' meal with something that isnt as great. this also keeps me from having to count calories, because i've already got a built-in 500 calorie buffer. i still have a slight 'cheat' day about once a week where i eat maintenance calories, but i only do the true 'cheat' day on holidays, where its socially much harder to avoid the junk food. an advantage to this approach is that its easy to tighten things up and drop weight quick.
not sure which approach i like better, but the 2nd approach seems to be working for me at the moment; so long as the extra 'cheat' calories are mostly from clean foods. if the extra calories were coming from junk, then the 1st approach would win out. and i'm just not sure the 2nd approach is keeping my metabolism inefficient.