Sunday, April 5, 2009

Why I Don't Like "Cheat Days"

This is sort of a follow-up to the post below re: alcohol consumption and fat loss.

First of all, let me make it clear that if you're on a program such as Body For Life that allows you one day per week during which you're free to eat whatever whenever, and you're getting great results with it, pay no attention to what I'm about to say. Diet is a very individual thing, and what works for one person won't necessarily work for another. If you've found something that works for YOU, that's all that matters, and if that plan involves a weekly cheat day so be it. Carry on, keep up the great work, and so on and so forth.

In the interests of full disclosure I should also add that I've done the Body For Life diet and gotten great results with it. But I think the reason my results were so good is that even on my cheat days I practiced some restraint. My cheating mostly took the form of ignoring all the rules about the timing of meals, the ratio of protein to carbs to fat at each meal, and so forth. I didn't eat huge quantities of food, and other than the occasional martini or glass of wine I didn't consume empty calories. This wasn't really a conscious decision on my part. It's simply that I've learned the hard way that certain foods have a bad effect on my moods as well as my energy level and athletic performance so I prefer to avoid those foods even when the program I'm on doesn't require it. It's not difficult for me. Years of aversion therapy tend to have that effect :)

Thing is, a lot of people don't seem to "get" that when I ignore the bread basket and pass on dessert, I'm not "being good" or exercising willpower or what have you. I'm just doing what I need to do to feel healthy. And since I like to feel healthy every day, it's my choice to stay more or less "on plan" every day.

Also--I admit it!--being strict in some ways allows me to be lax in others. I'm not as careful about my macros as I would need to be if I were looking to get in competition shape, and I often miss meals due to poor planning. For me, bending the rules a little every day works better than eating perfectly 6 days a week, then letting all heck break loose on day 7. It just seems more realistic somehow, because the fact is, most of us don't have such absolute control over our lives that we can plan for every contingency.

Then, too, as someone who spent years of her life dealing with an eating disorder, I admit I have a hard time with diet programs that impose too many hard-and-fast rules. I prefer to be as intuitive about my eating as I can be. I'm still learning to trust myself when it comes to food, and I will never gain that trust if I allow someone else to decide for me what I'm going to eat and when I'm going to eat it. This is a big part of why I've never seriously considered competing: I'm pretty sure that for me at least it would set me way, way back in terms of my recovery.

(Also, of course, I'm lazy. And I'm cheap. And I'm shy. And I'm pretty sure Jan Tana would give me eczema or something. I do sort of want the shoes, though.)