I don’t drink… I don’t smoke… I don’t do drugs… but by God do I EAT!!!
I have had a weekly cheat day for almost 7 years now and I refined my technique greatly after reading Tim Ferris’s “The 4 Hour Body”. I try to eat as clean as I can during the week but 1 day of pure food-based hedonism out of every 7 helps keep me sane and reminds me how crappy junk food makes me feel. I’ve written about the importance of cheat days for sticking to eating plans.
The World Games ended here last Sunday (my usual cheat day) so this week I decided to make a pig of myself on Monday.
Here’s a step-by-step, bite-by-bite guide to gorging like a professional eater and not worrying about the repercussions. I’ve included estimates of calorie intake for the meals as best I can.
9.00am: Coffee to start the engines
I start a cheat day the same way I do every other day of the week. Three large glasses of ice-cold water followed by two large mugs of strong, black coffee. I “intermittent fast” so I don’t take any calories before at least midday which means I don’t use milk or sugar.
The caffeine in the coffee causes your body to release lipids from fat-cells into the blood stream when your body is in a fasted state. That means your morning coffee gets you burning fat as soon as you wake up.
I’m nursing an elbow injury at the moment and both my physiotherapist and chiropractor advised me to avoid upper body movements for the next month. So I had a fairly heavy leg’s day to make up for it. I did eleven sets of 5 reps of squats pyramiding up to and then down from my maximum weight.
Having a cheat day on a heavy exercise day means that some of the excess calories you consume will at least be put to good use in rebuilding your muscles.
I also try to cycle around the city throughout the day to keep my muscles active which promotes the shuttling of nutrients into muscle cells in preference to fat storage.
1.00pm: Sugar Rush
Two local specialties, “Panelita de Leche” and “Arequipe”. They’re pretty much sugar and milk!
Right after heavy exercise muscles need sugar to halt the catabolic (muscle break down) effects of cortisol. To begin the anabolic (muscle building) process nothing is better than high-glycemic (fast release) sugars. I normally use a couple of bananas but seeing as I didn’t have any food left in the house (I had no time to go shopping while volunteering at the games) these little desserts I received during the games had to suffice.
1.20pm: Grilled Beef, Bolognaise, Cheese and Vegetable Sandwich
1.50pm: Banana Bread
I really love good banana bread. Unfortunately this wasn’t that good!. Don’t you just hat when you waste your calories on rubbish downletting food. What a downer!
2.10pm: Fried Chicken, Rice, Fried Potatoes, Roasted Plantain, Salad & Passion-fruit juice in milk
This was a nice post workout carb-boost (Roasted plantain and fried yellow potatoes are amongst my favourite foods in Colombia)
The day previously I had a whole conversation about fried chicken with my buddy Santana which combined with watching the movie “Soul Plane” left me with some serious cravings for fried chicken. This really hit the spot. Ya know the feeling.
Gloves for eating chicken are such a great idea. By the way. People eat fried chicken here with gloves and although it looks weird at first it really is a great idea and stops your fingers getting super greasy.
Also, if you’ve never tried passion fruit juice in milk before, you haven’t lived
3.30pm: Peach Genovesa and Black Coffee
This is at one of my favorite cafes in Cali.
A genovesa is like a sponge cake that has been soaked in condensed milk and cream to create an incredibly wet, sweet cake which in this case was topped with peach compote. I try not to drink my calories so the coffee was black and unsweetened.
On another note, if you’re wondering how I pass my time in between mouthfuls, I read a lot while I’m eating. I always have a selection of books stored on my phone so I never get bored while I’m gorging myself.
4.10pm: Cherry Cheesecake Ice-cream
Some of Colombia’s best ice-cream courtesy of “Crepes & Waffles”
One of Colombia’s better pastry products: Light, slightly cheesy and with a hint of sweetness
4.50pm: Oreo-Cream Cupcake
This expensive little fecker neither lived up to its name nor its price tag! PS: Another downer .
5.00pm: Calorie Mate
“Cheese” flavor, apparently… they really should return to taste testing.
Calorie Mate is a product that anyone who has lived in Japan for any decent length of time will recognize. It’s basically a “nutritionally balanced” meal replacement biscuit. I received loads from the Japanese Ultimate Frisbee Team that I was translating for during the World Games. I fail to understand it’s popularity.
5.10pm: Instant “Tan Tan Men” noodles
Another gift from the Japanese Frisbee Team.
5.20pm: Probiotic Yogurt
This is my favorite yogurt here because of the probiotic mix it contains.
Eating huge quantities of sugar and other junk foods can play havoc with your intestinal flora (the bacteria that live in your digestive tract) so I always make sure I take a good hit of probiotic (good bacteria) yogurt when I have a cheat day to help restore the balance of good bacteria faster.
5.30pm: Nutella (imitation)
Not the real deal but just as tasty!
I found this imitation nutella on special offer. I hadn’t had nutella in a while so I added it to the cart. I polished off half of it the way it’s supposed to be done… straight out of the jar with a spoon.
7.00pm: Oreo Ice-cream
This stuff is simply orgasmic!
I have a serious weakness for Ice-cream and this Oreo ice-cream by Popsy is amazing (I avoided it for ages because I “kind of” snobbishly looked down on oreos but it really is an amazing ice-cream. I got through about three quarters of the tub.
8.00pm: Oatmeal (The Cleanup Guy)
One very runny bowl of porridge (oatmeal)
It’s a great idea to finish off a cheat day with a good punch of soluble fiber. This helps to move the food through your digestive tract faster and the soluble fiber also cleans your intestines along the way helping to expel any waste that might otherwise remain after such a day of gluttony.
A couple of tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseeds in water (swallowed as fast as possible as it’s horrible stuff) would be even better.
9.10pm: One seriously distended stomach
To say that I was on the point of exploding would be quite accurate.
Grand Calorie Total: 5630
Am I worried about this huge glut of calories? No.
Why? Because every other day of the week I eat very, very healthy food in very controlled portions.
If I ate like this everyday I wouldn’t live very long. I would probably have died of a heart attack or diabetes years ago. But I have more sense than that. I realize how important diet is in maintaining one’s health but I’m also aware that it is what you eat most of the time and not what you eat only rarely that makes the difference.
I’ve written a few pointers on how to correctly manage a cheat day at the end of this article. Read and understand them and you too can enjoy a day of pure food pleasure once a week and not have to worry about ruining your diet progress.
Happy Eating Folks.
How to Bullet Proof your diet (Tips to help you stick to your diet, whatever it is!
The best way to abs isn’t endless sit-ups (although they help), it’s a dedicated approach to what you eat. Now stop drooling and read the rest of the article.
Give yourself an Incentive
This idea may seem a little extreme to some but sometimes we need extreme incentives to get things done. Humans, unfortunately respond more strongly to the idea of losing something than to the idea of gaining something. What that means is that we will work harder when we think we will lose something than we will when we’re trying to achieve something.
The way to make this work to your advantage is to make a bet with a friend or group of friends. What you do is come up with a realistic goal and a time frame (e.g. drop 2% body-fat in a month). Tell your friend that if you don’t achieve your goal your friend has to ensure that there are consequences.
Now, the consequences are where things get interesting. You could keep it simple and just pay a monetary penalty (substantial enough to make you not want to lose it) to your friend or you could do this: give your “friend” the most embarrassing “fat-photo” you have of yourself and ask them to make it public, either by facebook or by mailing it to all your friends. For this you need a really trustworthy friend who is also ruthless (we all have them).
You’ll quickly see how easy it is to stick to your diet when you have the fear of public humiliation floating over your head!
Instead of “I can’t”, say “I don’t”
Studies have shown that simply using the phrase “I don’t eat that” instead of “I can’t eat that” improves adherence to a diet significantly.
The phrase “I don’t” is much more empowering than “I can’t” as it lets the speaker feel in control of their decisions. This feeling of control and empowerment makes sticking to a certain way of eating much easier and much more satisfying.
Remember, when you say “I don’t eat cake”, it’s because you know that it is not good for you and that it doesn’t help you with your goals of being healthier and looking better. When you say “I don’t eat cake” it’s because you are taking the conscious decision to be in control of what you eat and ultimately your health and your body.
Saying I can’t on the other hand makes you feel powerless, like there is some external force in control of you and dictating what you can and can do.
Change your vocabulary and change your results.
Be firm with others, especially your friends
You will encounter plenty of situations where people, especially your friends will offer you something that you shouldn’t have. It might be when your out for coffee or at a birthday party or maybe just at 11am in the office.
Whenever it is you need to put your foot down. Despite the best of intentions, friends can be persistent; “Go on, just have a small piece”, “A little bit won’t do you any harm” (If you’re Irish you know how bad we can be about things like this). You need to be firm and honest with them. Let them know that you appreciate the offer but you don’t eat that food. Ask them to respect your decision and not to offer again. It often helps to be specific and let them know why you don’t want it and that will keep them off your case in the future.
If all else fails just tell them your diabetic. That usually shuts people up.
Deal with your emotions
I could right a whole article on this point alone but this post is already long enough as it is.
The fact of the matter is, people often need some sort of a crutch to deal with difficult emotions. Everyone has something different; alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, food… even sex and exercise.
We need to learn to deal with these emotions so we don’t fall into the habit of emotional/stress eating i.e. Literally using to food to avoid dealing with stressful emotions. This is where relaxation techniques such as meditation can come in handy but I really recommend reading into Neuro Linguistic Programing (NLP) and how it can help you handle stress and other negative emotions. I’m not going to go into what it is hear so it’s time to get your google on!
Dealing with emotional eating can go a huge way towards dealing with problems you may have had with sticking to diets previously. Stress is a major issue in the modern world and the role it plays in our eating habits definitely shouldn’t be underestimated.
Learn to cook
There really is no better way to take control of what you eat than by cooking for yourself. However, it never ceases to amaze me how many people say they can’t cook.
If you’re one of these people it’s up to you to take the initiative to learn. I’m not saying you should try and become a gourmet chef but try learning a few basic (and very importantly, tasty) recipes that you can alternate throughout the week.
They say the most successful dieters stick to a limited range of recipes that they enjoy and this is the reason for their success. They keep things simple, tasty and regular (i.e. they have a routine).
If you need help just ask a friend who knows how to cook to teach you a few healthy recipes or just look for some online. There are loads of websites online full of amazing recipes for every particular eating style and diet on the face of the earth. There really is no excuse not to learn a few!
Do your absolute best to make the recipes tasty. There is no point in learning a super healthy recipe that tastes like cardboard and cat urine. If you don’t want to eat it you’ll just end up with an excuse to eat something unhealthy instead!
Know what your eating
The vast majority of diets require you measure (to a certain extent) the quantity of certain foods you eat. It really is for your benefit to learn what exactly is in each portion of the foods you consume regularly.
The best way I’ve found to do this is to use the USDA Food Tables. This is a database of nutritional values for a huge range of foods. You just enter the food your looking for in the search bar and then it allows you to chose the quantity of the particular food (example: 100g of raw lentils). I always search the value of foods in there uncooked state because that’s when you have the best chance to accurately weigh them; when they’re separate from other foods.
This is particularly important if you apportion your food like I’ve already recommended. You can weigh all the ingredients before cooking and then apportion everything appropriately later. Which brings me to my next point…
Buy a kitchen scale
It is one of the ultimate tools in the dieters arsenal and if you don’t have one go out and get one ASAP. A kitchen scales allows you to accurately measure food portions and eventually you’ll learn how to estimate the nutritional value of some foods by sight.
Buy a scales now!
Cheat… a little
Having a scheduled cheat day or cheat meal is a great way to give yourself a mental break from dieting. Tim Ferris really championed cheat days in his “Slow Carb Diet” and “The 4 hour Body”. Everyone knows I have a serious man-crush on/ vicious rivalry with Tim Ferriss so of course I’m going to advocate this diet tip!
Basically a cheat day is a day that you schedule to eat the foods that you normally wouldn’t eat on a regular diet day. As I said it gives you a mental break but it can also counter some of the negative effects of extended caloric restriction. What I mean by this is that our bodies are designed to store fat (a genetic ability that we have maintained from our past when food was scarce and being able to store fat was advantageous) and when we reduce our calories our body automatically undergoes hormonal changes that make losing body-fat more difficult. Without getting into too much detail (this is an entire article on its own) an occasional spike in calories (and certain macro-nutrients) helps “reset” certain hormones in our bodies that can prevent these stalls in fat loss.
If “The Rock” says it’s ok to have a cheat day, who’s going to argue.
While cheat-days can sound like proof of the existence of God, they need to be done right to prevent you from going overboard. Here’s a few little tips for cheat days:
* Keep a list of the foods you’d like to have on your cheat day that you can update during the week.
* Skip breakfast and wait until lunch time to start eating. This prevents you from taking in too many calories during the day.
* Don’t stuff yourself late at night as this can result in a bad nights sleep and with you waking up with a “food-hangover” the next day. This can result in the food cravings I mentioned in the section on getting proper sleep (Part 1). In fact, try not to eat after 9pm.
* Get plenty of fibre during the day from fruits and vegetables which will help move those less-than-healthy foods through your system quicker. I usually finish of my day of gluttony with a couple of tablespoons of ground flaxseeds in water or a small bowl of porridge (oatmeal).
* Try and eat out of the house as much as possible or if you do eat in the house get rid of whatever leftovers there are at the end of the day to make sure you’re not tempted to eat them the next day or during the week.
* Ideally have your cheat day on a heavy exercise day. That way at least some of the extra calories will go towards muscle growth and repair instead of automatically getting sent to be stored as body fat.
* Be careful: Food-hangovers can be pretty bad!
A cheat day is a handy little trick to have if managed correctly. Just make sure that you go back to your regular, healthy way of eating the next day. Food-hedonism is great, but in moderation.
We’re all human (I’m assuming) and that means that we are inherently imperfect. Life is going to throw things at you that will try to derail your progress but it’s how you deal with those situations that makes the difference.
There will be times when the only food available to you is something you would rather not have. You have two valid options:
1. Don’t eat: Yes I’m serious! There are very few situations in life where you absolutely “have to” eat at a certain time. If it’s socially acceptable to do so just skip the food and wait until you get home or until you can get some healthy food. Believe me, we, as a society, eat far too regularly as it is. A little bit of fasting will do you absolutely no harm whatsoever.
2. Eat the food available… but do it consciously:Dieters have a tendency to see any break-down in their plan, no matter how small it is, as an opportunity/excuse to go crazy and “compensate eat” like it’s going out of fashion. Instead, eat more consciously. What that means is, eat the food available in normal/small portion and leave it at that. You don’t need to eat a second portion, nor do you need dessert nor do you need to visit the donut shop after just because you’ve strayed from the one true path. Accept that you’ve eaten something that wasn’t ideal and be aware that the best way to get over that is just to go back to your healthy eating patterns at the next meal i.e. not to lose your cool and eat everything in sight.
These little hiccups happen. Just make sure they remain isolated hiccups and don’t end up turning into chronic indigestion!
…and that’s that! These are some of the tips that I’ve found most useful for sticking to my eating plans, whatever they are at the time.
You don’t need to use them all but they definitely have a cumulative effect so the more you can incorporate into your routine the faster you should see results.
If you have any tips you’ve used yourself go ahead and let us know in the comments.
Best of luck and Eat Well.
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