When I first began my journey in fitness, I wanted to learn as much as possible. I was like a sponge, soaking up any fitness information out there. When I was younger, I loved ready articles in fitness magazines, and most of my knowledge began there (eventually I did a lot of research on my own, in and out of the classroom in college. Now I only read those magazines for fun, not for really good, factual information). At this time I also discovered fitness forums, where I could communicate with other fitness enthusiasts like myself. I felt as if I found my niche’…these people ‘got me’!
I frequented many forums where the goals of a lot of the members were to compete in figure or fitness competitions. That was the beginning of my fascination with competing. I wanted to get into that way of life.
As my fascination with competing increased, so did my workouts. I did HIIT cardio (high intensity interval training) and lifted heavy weights. Anything over 8-reps was high. I stuck to 4-6 reps and definitely felt my strength improve (**Side note: As I have grown over the years, so has my relationship with fitness. I no longer think lifting heavy weights and doing HIIT cardio is the best way to get in shape. I take a much more laid back approach to my routine, and do what I enjoy doing most – and believe it or not, it’s not heavy lifting or HIIT, I don’t remember the last time I have done either one…)
Along with working out like a competitor I also began eating the typical ‘competitor diet’ staples: chicken (plain), lots of green veggies, potatoes (especially sweet potatoes), oatmeal (the holy grail!), egg whites, and brown rice. All good choices, but incredibly boring to eat day in and day out. I literally ate oatmeal and egg whites every day for 4 years for breakfast. Talk about burn out!
The Cheat Day
Then came the infamous “Cheat Day”. The thinking behind the cheat day is that you diet throughout the week or eat very “clean” (no junk food!). On Saturday or Sunday you can have whatever you want! Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Well, not so much. If I wanted a cookie during the week I couldn’t. I had to save it for my “cheat” day. At least this was how I began to think. I would crave all sorts of things during the week: ice cream, Mexican food, chips, pizza, and other goodies. But I wouldn’t eat it. It was not my cheat day! I had to eat clean all week to deserve my cheat day!
This began a time in my life when food was in one of two categories: Good or Bad. This black and white thinking got me in a lot of trouble with food. I began to fear food. I felt guilt when I would cave in and actually had a cookie or ice cream when it was not my ‘cheat day’. I’d feel as though I had ‘blown it’ and would end up gorging myself on all sorts of goodies.
When I dieted for my first figure competition (that I didn’t go through with) I started out with having one cheat meal per week. I would take my cheat meal on a Saturday, when I would often go out to eat with Andy. I could eat anything I wanted during that meal. And boy did I eat. I would literally stuff myself silly because I wanted to eat all the foods I had been dreaming about (literally) all week. Then I’d feel guilty because I was stuffed to the brim and I felt as though I had undone all the hard work I had done during the week.
Although I didn’t undo my progress, I also didn’t help it either. My cheat meals were eventually nixed and I then had to eat my ‘clean’ meals day in and day out. Hence one of the main reasons I quit: I just couldn’t take anymore of eating the same, boring, no-taste foods! I wanted a cookie, dammit!
The cheat meal seems like a good idea at first. Eat healthy during the week and eat anything you want on Saturday or Sunday. However, in my opinion this leads to that ‘black and white’ thinking about food. It’s either a “good” food or it’s a “bad” food that is only to be eaten on a designated cheat day. This way of thinking is what often leads to binges. You restrict and eat only ‘clean’ foods during the week. You deny yourself what you truly want to eat which can lead to binging. At least this was the case for me.
When I stopped having cheat days and stopped labeling food as either good or bad, my eating style completely change. Food became FOOD. That’s it. No other labels- Just FOOD. I reached a point where I was food obsessed and I wanted to put an end to it, once and for all. And I have.
I no longer eat complete crap on weekends and I also no longer eat only “clean” meals during the week. I eat whatever I want, when I want. Plain and simple. My weekends and week days do not have different sets of rules as to how I eat. I just EAT. Personally, this makes my life a heck of lot better. I don’t stress over food at all. I’m able to enjoy food, no matter what day it is because I call the shots on what I eat and when. Having a ‘cheat day’ just doesn’t work for me.
What do you think of cheat days?
Do you tend to eat differently during the week or on weekends? The only difference for me is that I may drink more alcohol on Friday or Saturday night because I don’t have to get up and go to work! 😉