Have you ever had a cheat meal that turned into a cheat year?
The only thing I’ve failed more at than diets is, well, nothing. Like many obese people, I’ve struggled with my weight for my entire adolescent and adult life. I’ve tried every diet you can think of: Shake based, starvation, low carb, low-fat, cabbage soup, pill based, hypnosis, yoga, Zumba, hokey pokey, hanky panky and super swanky. And when I say I’ve tried them all, I gave each of these at least a solid week of effort before a lunch or a party or maybe something as simple as passing a bag of Doritos would completely derail my diet train until I woke up from a fifteen year bender hangover style with only my buddies Ben & Jerry there to help me figure out what the hell happened.
True Story Bro.
Please do not misunderstand me. Many people are able to successfully eat a certain amount of processed and unhealthy foods without waking up missing a front tooth with the tiger in the bathroom, but for me, that is not reality. Which brings me to one of the most important things about reading weight loss studies that you will ever read. Are you ready for this?
It doesn’t matter if 99% of people can lose weight with a certain diet. The only study that matters is what works for you.
You are your own bio hacker and the best thing you can do for health is take a reasonable amount of metrics to learn about how your body reacts to certain protocols like sleep, carbs, fat, weight training, low intensity and high intensity cardio, etc..
More on this in a future article :). But let’s stick to discussion of “cheating on your diet” this week.
You can’t cheat on something you’re not married to.
So day 1 is here. You’ve picked your diet. Maybe you’re going Keto and you’ve got your fridge loaded with bacon. Maybe you’re paleo and the grains are gone like the Angels in the Playoffs (BYE FELICIA!). Maybe you’re just low-calorie and you’ve got enough vegetables in your fridge to feed the entire population of Portland. The first thing you need to know, is that if you decide to eat something outside of your diet, no one is going to come put you in Paleo or Keto jail. Chances are, no one will care–except you.
You aren’t married to your diet. Talking about cheating on it implies that you put a ring on the thing and you swore to never deviate from it again. No one outside of Crossfit expects you to be that irrationally devoted to a fitness or meal plan. So stop talking about cheating on your diet like you just turned a trick outside of a 7–11.
Side note: occasionally, people adopt protocols like Keto or Paleo to try to cure a non obesity related symptom. This is different from what I’m talking about here.
So can you have the occasional bite of cake while losing weight? I think the answer is fundamental. Of course you can. The question is not:
“Can I eat cake and still lose weight?”
The question should be worded more like:
“Do I have enough self-control to eat cake just once in a while and not have it every single day for the rest of my life?”
I just got back from an incredibly relaxing three-day cruise. When people talk about cruises, they tend to focus on one aspect of the journey: the food. All expenses on food are paid for while on board. At dinner, you can order 75 steaks and not pay an additional dime. Cruises result in gorging because:
- There’s a lot of food you might never try if you had to pay for it because it isn’t worth the price but you want to brag that you ate it once (see escargot).
- There’s a lot of food you normally wouldn’t splurge on (like lobster).
- There’s a lot of food.
- There’s not a lot to do.
- There’s restaurants open around the clock and you’ve always wanted pizza at 2am.
- Everybody’s doing it.
The cruise departed on a Thursday and returned Sunday morning. I made the decision to train Thursday morning before getting on the boat. I had a chest day Friday while the boat was docked in Ensenada (and stopped thankfully) and a leg day on Saturday while the boat was at sea, nearly dropping a 95 pound dumbbell on my foot when the boat took a particularly strong rock to the right side (I elected not to learn nautical terms while at sea).
One person on board told me I wasn’t normal for making time to work out while on board. She told me that at noon and she was already drunk. I prefer my version of abnormal over hers. I’m not saying mine is better, just that I prefer it. And the truth is that there is no normal, only
ZUUL our choice.
Stylistically, the carpet matches the drapes.
I guess what I’m trying to say with this article, is if you want some cake, eat some fricking cake. But forgive yourself and move on. But if you don’t want to have cake, then don’t eat cake. Both options are completely acceptable and you are not a better or worse person for choosing either option. Do whatever you want.
Deviating from your diet plan, like the decision to wear Crocs, is a personal decision. Unlike wearing Crocs though, “cheating” is not always the wrong decision. For some, like me, not cheating is an option that works. These are the three reasons I choose to stick to my plan 100%:
The biggest reason why I failed after eating outside of my dietary plans was I would beat myself up about it. And then I would turn to food as a way of forgetting that guilt. And then I would remember that guilt. And then I would eat more. And then guilt. Eating.
Wait, why did I feel guilty again? Is that birthday cake?
One other problem with “cheating” is that sometimes we don’t suffer as a result. We wake up the next day and we weigh ourselves, unrealistically expecting to have gained five pounds from one bad day and when we don’t gain weight, we think: that wasn’t so bad. Maybe I can do that more often! Like every day!
This is where we realize symptoms of illnesses can be a great thing. The pain in your chest is your body’s way of saying, “Hey person steering this thing, that thing you’re doing to me is not working out over here. You need to reconsider some life choices.” And in this case, weight gain is a sign that you’re probably doing something incorrect for your body. But those symptoms don’t manifest overnight.
And with some of the most fatal illnesses, many of us never a symptom.
In the case of cheating, an absence of symptoms might lead to more cheating, so I just don’t even go there.
For better or worse, people will know.
One of the greatest assets that I had on my weight loss journey was the fact that people know how devoted I was to it because they never saw me cheat. They didn’t want to be the one to give the alcoholic a drink and as a result, I hardly was offered opportunities to cheat. Even today, people will make comments to me like, “I’d offer you some cake but I know you won’t eat it.” It’s brilliant, I don’t even have to have the willpower to say no today, because people say no for me.
My borderline obsession has helped others help me stay devoted.
So what about you dear reader? Were you succesful incorporating “cheat meals” or “cheat days” into your plan? How did you fight the urge to go just that far and no further? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook.
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