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
– 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.