I will never forget the night I was first asked to cheat. I had been working out religiously for about 3 months and was starting to see some real progress. Like to the tune of 15 lbs. of progress. I had been completely diligent also about what I was eating, and with the stray exception every once in a blue moon of something terribly small and insignificant, I had not had a “cheat meal” let alone a “cheat day” since. It was early Sunday evening and my husband and I were driving home with 2 happy boys in the back seat. That was when he decided to pose the question: “Honey, you’re doing so great on your diet! You really have made so much progress! What do you say you reward yourself tonight and we all have pizza?” You would have thought he asked me if I wanted to kill my dog. I gave him a scorching look, and felt my boiling blood rise slowly … “Whaat?!” I was seething. “Don’t you understand what I am working towards!? ‘Do I want pizza?’ No I do not want pizza! This is not a phase… this is a LIFESTYLE CHANGE!!!!!” My poor husband, sitting behind the wheel thinking he was giving me a compliment, and trying to “reward” my good work, had been completely taken aback by my visceral, livid response.
The thing is, I really didn’t know how far I could take it. This was my first attempt at losing so much weight and I didn’t honestly know what would happen if I ate a piece of pizza. Would I want another one? And another? And what would I want to eat the next day now that my body had a flood of familiar, long lost, happy carb feelings coming back? “Oh yummy starchy comfort food! How we missed you!!!” The next thing you know I might be eating mashed potatoes and pasta. I was fully cognizant that a large reason for my staying rigidly on point in my eating habits was the sheer fear of slipping back into the arms of the warm, dark and cozy, carbohydrate abyss.
I wasn’t ready to cheat because I wasn’t yet confident enough in my new lifestyle. I didn’t believe in myself enough to know that one little indiscretion would not amount to a landslide of regret. And so I stayed the course. Eventually, one day I decided I was ready, and it was a Philly Cheesesteak, much to my husband’s thrill, that I decided would be the lucky recipient of my one night of lust. And happily, no negative consequences ensued! Quite the opposite in fact. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had remembered I had enjoyed it. And so, instead of craving one again the next day, I felt like I didn’t need to revisit that for awhile.
Over time, the body gets used to what you fuel it with. And the output you get is directly correlated to the quality of the input. By eating healthy, I was fueling myself for better performance in my workouts. Of course one slip here or there didn’t affect my progress, but added up, it most definitely does. Last summer, for example, I eased up. I wanted to see what I could get away with. I let myself have more than my share of cheat days, and something interesting happened. The scale didn’t reflect it as much as my performance in the gym and in classes. I felt sluggish, weaker… my endurance suffered. I was not able to do as much as I could before. My metabolism was so revved up, that I didn’t gain more than a few pounds, but I knew I needed to change when I felt myself not up to the physical tasks I could do previously. The minute I went back to eating healthy, I lost the few pounds, and I was back to my normal self.
I think it's important to give yourself some leeway, to allow yourself that craving every once in awhile. But I also think that if you keep looking at your cravings as these sexy things you “shouldn’t” have but really want to have, you will never really shake them. In other words, it is fine to appreciate the beauty inherent in truffle fries, chocolate cake, and deep dish pizza… but rather than looking at them and only seeing their sexy side - look at them in the cold light of day. Too much of a good thing, is…. you know the rest. How those foods make you feel if you eat too many, too much, and too often is certainly not very good. I don’t want to ruin it for you, but try thinking about what the foods actually do to your body and how they can unravel all your hard work. Everything in moderation. Enjoy your life, enjoy your “cheat meals”, but know when to stop. And don’t become a philandering fool.