The Cheat Day

My cheat day used to be the whole week. The way I can justify food borders on the clinically insane:

“I have a sudden-death craving for salty fried grease so I must be missing nutrients. Hel-lo, french fries.”

“Wisconsin cheese curds are my squeaky key to fighting osteoporosis.”

“Dark chocolate fights cancer!”

What’s even worse is I’m supposed to be following a macrobiotics program, which among other things advocates:

– Whole grains
– Beans & legumes
– Leafy veggies
– Broccoli-family veggies
– Soy
– White fish
– Laying off the red meat
– Laying off most other meat too, including eggs
– Ditto on nightshades
– Nix on dairy

The fact that it’s a self-prescribed program doesn’t make it any easier.

When I first started on macrobiotics a couple years ago, I immediately saw and felt the benefits. I was discovering food groups I hadn’t even heard of. I realized I could eat squash despite having a childhood aversion to the mass of stringy orange stuff my mom used to cook. I found that vegetarian curry with tofu is just as good as chicken curry.

Most importantly, I felt really good. Healthy. Energetic. Vibrant.

Alas, I don’t always remember this. It’s amazing what pops into your head, fully-formed with complete sensory input, the minute you radically change your eating habits. Instead of cravings for my newly-embraced brown rice, leafy salads and tofu, I wanted:

– Little Debbie’s Devil Squares
– Mashed potatoes with butter, Bacos, sour cream and chives
– Extra-sharp cheddar cheese aged 7 years
– Those crunchy little orange cylinders that come in pretzel-snack mixes
– Fried chicken skin–just the skin.
– Crab rangoons
– Ham and scalloped potatoes (with more ham)
– Spaghetti carbonara
– Jumbo hot dog with bacon and cheese
– Steak fries with melted cheese, bacon bits and ranch dressing
– Bacon anything with bacon on the side.

So that’s where the cheat day comes in.

Originally I had one cheat day every three months. I really wanted to shock my innards into my new regime. Alas, over time my system has stretched a bit thin, until laziness and convenience came back far more frequently in the guise of chocolate ice cream, parmesan & garlic potato chips, slices of smoked Gouda…I see you understand me.

That is, until last week. I’ve been doing a fitness challenge at work and walking every day. Somehow it’s making me pay attention to things I’ve let slip, such as proper eating habits.

So I decided my new cheat day was Saturday, and spent the work week eating only mostly-macrobiotic stuff (I had previously added tomatoes, peppers and eggs back in).

And I hated it. I was SO HUNGRY. It didn’t matter that I was eating six times a day. I wanted my chocolate and potato chips and all the other crap I’d been shoveling in. But I stuck it out…

…until Saturday, when I served myself up what I’d been looking forward to all week: A few sunny slabs of cheddar cheese and a bowl of ripply, crunchy potato chips.

And you know what? I hated that too. Beyond the first few tastebud satisfaction bites, I didn’t feel good about eating it. I felt sludgy and weighed down. I felt I was negating all my hard work from the week just past.

I cancelled the rest of my cheat day.

So maybe my cheat day needs to be every other week or once a month. Or maybe I need to pick a better class of non-macrobiotic food to indulge in. Or just have a few bites and not expect a full meal.

Or, maybe, food is not the reward I thought it was.

At least I know: I CAN follow a program if I put my mind to it, and I CAN listen to myself when I’m eating something I know isn’t working out.

And so can you.

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2 thoughts on “The Cheat Day

  1. i completely understand. It’s almost like your stomach and your mouth are at war…

    Mouth says ‘OMG, nummy crunchy stuff. Must have!!’

    And when the food gets to the stomach, it gets grouchy ‘oh, you did NOT send that stuff down. Bad mouth! Now i have to hyper-acid to clean up this mess.’


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