I’ve been kicking ass and taking names lately. 5 workouts a week for the last 5 weeks, save for one missed due to an emergency, and one missed due to missing an alarm. Still, it’s week six of early gym visits and the gains have been amazing. Stronger, leaner, lighter, more muscular, generally happier too!
The other half of the fitness equation is eating. A proper diet can be the difference between gaining muscle and gaining fat that you think is muscle. It can also mean the difference between having the energy for the gym and feeling too drained to go in the first place. My eating has been exceptional during this 5 week stint, and I feel it’s a huge contributor to maintaining the regiment.
One of the reasons I have done so well is having a cheat day once a week. I’m doing a variation of what is known as the Slow-Carb Diet, or SCD, which requires a cheat day. It serves several purposes.
The first has to do with the ‘starvation survival mode’ that many people face as they lose fat. After a few weeks of dropping weight successfully from a caloric deficit, most people will slow to a crawl because their body feels it is starving, so it decides to hold on to as much tissue as possible, fat included. By having a cheat day, you reset metabolic hormones like Leptin and Ghrelin, preventing your body from holding onto that fat and allowing you to keep burning it off.
The other reason for the cheat day is psychological. When you go through a week fighting off cravings and saying no to extras, you start to lose that willpower. The cheat day gives you a reason to say no all week because you can satisfy all those cravings on the final day.
One of the interesting things that happens after a few weeks is that you don’t go as crazy on cheat days. The first week I couldn’t wait to binge on all my cravings from the week, but by week four I was down to a single cheat meal to satisfy my need.
But this week, something interesting happened. I had to delay my cheat day by one day.
It happened because I was having people over for dinner on Sunday, so I figured it would be better to make that the cheat day so I could enjoy myself. This meant delaying my usual Saturday cheats. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but at the end of the week there wasn’t much food in the house, and it took a lot of willpower and scavenging to make sure I could hold on.
I did make it to Sunday, but the result was eating way too much during the day. It was all delicious, don’t get me wrong, but I felt like garbage all evening. And this brings me to the point of this post: I didn’t realize how good I felt eating well until I ate like garbage for a day.
I feel like this is a trap for so many people. We feel great eating well, but after a few weeks it becomes our normal, we don’t remember how crappy it felt to eat poorly. I couldn’t remember having an upset stomach, being lethargic, not sleeping well, bloating, etc. So when I overate I was blown away by how horrible it was. It reminded me how great it felt to eat well and take care of myself. I couldn’t wait to get back on the horse and be healthy again. I yearned or the gym to sweat out all the horrors I ingested. It was a harsh reminder of why I made the change.
It reinforces the point I’ve made a few times this year about how these kinds of changes aren’t temporary. For too long I’ve told myself that I just have to do it for a little while and then I can go back to eating what I want. I failed every time. Until I started telling myself that it would be permanent, and that I would have to make it sustainable. Now that I have I don’t feel like I’m missing out, like anything is lacking. I don’t feel like I’m suffering, or like I am saying no to anything. I’m just delaying my cravings. I don’t feel like I have to lose 10 lbs a week, or starve myself. I don’t feel like I have to overwork myself at the gym every day. I’m just doing what I feel like, what works at the time, with the idea in mind that it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
And so I’m never going back to the way it was. I can’t wait to see how the next 5 weeks go!