LGN 58: Why We Eat – Cheat Day!!!

Inside: Jump start (blow me away); Joy comes in the morning; Emotional eating; No carbs; A tough week; Discipline/habit; Cheat Day – you need it; Walking the line;  I’m standing while I write this

In an effort to not be sedentary today (like I was yesterday) I’m writing this while standing.  Got the laptop on the end of the kitchen bar.  It’s a good setup and I’ll be using it more often instead of sitting on my duff.  Maybe I can earn some brownie points by remembering to tuck the hips and pack the chin, too.


Okay.  Let’s get to it.  Oh!  First, let me say that sometimes when I write, the tone implies that I think I know what I’m talking about.  I know more about some things than others, but I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, personal trainer, fitness anything.  I try to take in a lot of information and life and gauge firsthand and secondhand experience.  Good writing is usually assertive writing but it can come off sounding preachy.  Wanting to motivate or inspire can come off sounding judgmental.  Talking about my personal successes can come off sounding insulting like, “I do/did it.  What’s your problem?”   Talking about my personal failures can come off sounding like I’m attention-seeking or self pitying.  And so on.

This is a touchy subject for a lot of people.  Body image is a sensitive area that can involve a lot of pain and trauma.

When I get excited about something and want to tell you about it I later realize that I may have appeared to be on a soapbox.  It’s easy to read into what I write and that’s okay, really.  Just know that my intentions are to share my experiences.  For one, it may help other people.  For two, other people may be able to help me.

Having said all that, let’s go.

Phase 0

This was one tough-ass week, y’all.

A bunch of us at the gym are doing a diet/training regimen that involves big lifestyle changes.  Last weekend I intentionally misbehaved and went to one extreme.  Hello, Olive Garden.  Part of that is because I was down after not finishing Tough Mudder and then after I was home the big storm blew through and the power went out for hours.  So boredom, fatigue, the need for actual nutrients and energy.  The perfect storm for misbehavin’.

And misbehave I did.

Then on Monday — minimalist eating.  Vegetables and water.  Then protein, vegetables and water.

I’ve always known that I’m a bit of an emotional eater (and spender), but the schedule and allowed foods stripped away that crutch.  I mean, really.  How can I fill the void of my own mediocrity and passivity when I can’t just cover it up with food?

When I’m bored at work in the morning or am procrastinating, there’s no morning homemade mocha.  That morning ritual is gone.  That’s where I would ramp up, get a euphoric caffeine jolt, and generally think about things without thinking about things.  I’d get lots of ideas for music, art, writing and all that as neurons fire at will and unfettered.

Strip away that crutch from one day to the next and what are you left with?  Just yourself and hunger pangs.  Psychological taste bud to brain pangs.

Oh well.  I adjusted.

Over the Hump

Wednesday night was the toughest.  When you strip carbs out of your diet you will feel the effects after a few days.  It will feel like an illness.  Maybe it is.

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Crankiness
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Soreness
  • Poor sleep
  • Vivid dreams
  • Bathroom hijinx

And the rest.  Every soreness or exertion from the previous week (including Tough Mudder) hit with a vengeance that night.  It was a rough one.

Well, Tuesday night after training was rough, too.  I went into the grocery store a little unsteady on my feet and literally (and I do mean literally) was salivating walking past the fruits and other carby items.  It was a physical pain.  But I did see a woman that I wanted to marry on sight.  She actually smiled at me, too.  Not just a pass-in-the-hallway-polite-nod smile either.  A hello-you-look-like-you-just-came-from-getting-your-butt-kicked-in-the-gym-how-are-you kind of a smile.

Trying to form the right words for my marriage proposal helped to distract me from the food lust long enough to get me out of there with my dietary integrity intact.  I was too sore and stiff to get down on one knee to propose, though, so maybe some other time.

Anyway, I felt a lot better on Wednesday morning.  That’s not to say that the eating was easy.  Don’t get me wrong.  But it was easier to deal with and not freak out.  I made it harder on myself by not preparing as well as I could have for eating while at work.  I did okay, but if I had just sauteed some vegetables beforehand I would have enjoyed eating more.

I mean, raw cucumber slices soaked in balsamic vinegar is delicious in its simplicity.  Sauteed red onions, bell peppers and garlic with seasoning and coconut oil plus olive oil is a feast.

The Volume of Vegetables

I also realized that I don’t know how to measure vegetables.  There’s a big difference between fluid ounces and ounces.  If you try to pack down whatever you’re measuring as if its a liquid, you’re going to be trying to stuff an uncomfortable amount of greenery into your gullet.

I have no idea what a cup of vegetables looks like so I finally got the bright idea to do some googling and found this:


There must be something out there that’s more comprehensive but this is pretty good so, yeh.

I’m still a little confused about raw vs. cooked.  I can’t eat a number of brightly colored fruits and vegetables raw without, at the least, oral itching and minor throat swelling so I sometimes go for frozen vegetables.

Whatever you may read on the internet or wherever, a cup of raw vegetables takes up more volume — more physical space — then when cooked.  During a prolonged period of cerebral flatulence the other day I microwaved a few cups of raw mixed greens with baby spinach.  What looked like a LOT turned into a soggy fraction of food.  At least to the eye.

So good luck to you in that regard.  It got a lot easier for me after that, though.  I had been eating cups of cooked collard greens up to that point and was wondering why my stomach was off and why my off-gasing was visible like a green heat shimmer.

Cheat Day!!!

I have been so looking forward to this day.  There will be carbs.  We do have parameters so I can’t do anything crazy.  No pizza or cheesesteaks the size of a fat baby or Famous Dave’s bread pudding.

Thing is, after a week of carblessness, regular food tastes so much better.  Eating sauteed vegetables almost feels like cheating.

I’ve been dying for a homemade (and Starbucks-made) mocha.  I made one.  With half and half, which is not advised but … I’m gonna.  The first sip was sweet as syrup to my re-calibrated taste buds.  It’s still only half gone.  Urge satisfied.

I’ve got a substantial breakfast in front of me that’s actually healthy and I’m looking forward to it: chicken breast, collard greens, baked sweet potato.  Maybe I’ll have breakfast foods later.  Coconut flour pancakes!


The cure for what ails you

Did I read that there are people who want to skip cheat days??  Wow.  That is hardcore.

I am not one of those people.  I can understand, though.  It seems like if you shed pounds during phase 0, it seems logical that maintaining the austere pattern means you’ll just keep shedding more indefinitely.  Also, we’ve spent a week building up our discipline and working on new habits — something that many of us have never been able to do for any length of time before — and all of a sudden we’re supposed to jeopardize those new habits by regressing to carb frenzies?

That’s how it seems.  But I can tell you from experience, and the secondhand experience of friends who are well into the process of losing tens and hundreds of pounds, that you have to have cheat days.

A colleague and I call it “nuking the weight loss plateau from orbit”.  Fire up the Granola Gay and bomb that F’er with carbs.

Weight loss is never truly linear.  Our biochemistry is too complicated for that.  If you graph it, weight loss is a steady downward trending line for a while and then it stops if you just keep trying to push it.  It’s like a roller coaster.  You have to go back up a little before you come down again.  It’s like watching a goldfinch fly.  Up and coast down, a few wing flaps up and coast down again.

Also, you aren’t expected — I think — to lose … okay.  If you’re one of the people who lost a lot of weight in Phase 0 (I’m not), you probably won’t lose that much every week.  The number-of-pounds-shed progress from here on out will be steady but less drastic.  What with the training, though, you’ll be building some grade A muscle so — I’m looking forward to putting those two factors together.

Virtual Starvation

From what I understand and in very layman terms, if you lose weight quickly (or moderately but for a long time, which was my experience) your body will think you’re starving.  It will fight back and try to become more efficient at maintaining your reserves.  Reserves = fat.  The instinct is to eat less calories, eat even less carbs, exercise more and more intensely.

Your body will see this as a full-on assault against your survival and will fight you for every calorie.  So you end up in a vicious cycle.  Your beautiful mind and your awesome bioware will be at conflict.

You have to throw your body a bone, so to speak, to reassure it that, “Don’t worry.  We’re not starving.  There’s plenty of food around.  We just have a few days between cornucopias.”

That will let it chill out, kick back and get in line with your goals.  Like, you can’t force it.  You have to coax it.  Challenge it to the max and then back off to rest, to heal, to adjust.

I mean, doing this kind of program without a cheat day is like training for a marathon by running a marathon every day. It just won’t work for 99% of the population.  You’d just hurt yourself and then spend months trying to recover from injuries.

Walking the Line

One last thing.  Like I said, this past week has sucked in a lot of ways.  The Underground Athlete community has helped me get through it, though, whether virtually or in-person.  Thanks, everybody.  Kathy and Mike, too, for all of the organization and tools you’ve been sharing with the group.  Seriously.

Justin for helping to keep things in perspective and even — I don’t want to encourage you too much for this — for kicking my ass in the gym.  I don’t enjoy the actual exertion while I’m there sometimes (especially this week when I was cranky, weak, and freakin’ exhausted), but I get it.  I get what you’re doing and why.  (I’m still standing as I type this, by the way.)

It’s good for me to actually be hungry.  Normally, I would just shove food in my face at the first sign of anything resembling hunger or thirst, sometimes healthy and sometimes not.  But to actually be truly hungry.  Not starving, but hungry.  That is a great thing.  To get hungry enough so that real food explodes with flavor, that’s a beautiful thing.  So that the sweetness of sauteed vegetables or especially fruit gives you that same rush as a pastry used to.  Amazing.

It’s like … reconnecting with food.  Mindful.  It’s very Zen.

Of course, there’s all the other aspects of the plan that I still need to get right.  And I may be slow to adapt sometimes but I get there in the end.

Don’t get me wrong, everybody.  I’m not the golden child here.  I missed a lot of meals.  Sometimes my stomach couldn’t handle more food so I didn’t eat before bed and went to sleep in hunger pain.  Sometimes the scheduled meal was too close to training so I’d skip it and feel like the walking dead.  Then I’d overeat when I got home.

I could solve a lot of that by getting an earlier start but … that depends on good, sound sleep.

My sleep was often fitful.  Sometimes because I pigged out right before bed time (on what I was supposed to eat but too much of it) and affected my sleep.  Sometimes because that’s just the effect during the first week of going carbless.

Sometimes I felt great.  More often I felt like death warmed over.  Like I had one foot in the grave and the other about to step on a banana peel and suddenly I heard the words, “One more set and then a Finisher.”

I guess we’re all figuring this thing out.  The cool thing is that while we’re all going through grumpy periods and worrying about getting things wrong or not adhering to the program 100% or 75% or whatever, the changes we’ve made are already a HUGE improvement over what we were all probably doing last week.

Like, we’re aiming for Mars but messed up and landed on the moon.  We’re upset that we didn’t make it to Mars or are traveling slower than others but then turn around and realize that we’re watching an Earthrise.

Hm.  That was a weird analogy.  I think it’s time for food.  I’m looking at you baked sweet potato with black pepper, hot sauce, olive oil and garlic salt.  Let’s git bizzay!

Oh boy.  Training on my own on off days??  I foresee trouble there.

Go get ’em, my people!  (By the way, if you do your computer stuff while standing and with music playing in the background you will find yourself fidgety-dancing, which I can only assume burns calories.  Take that, Sitting Down!)

Click here to see all of my LGN (I want to Look Good Naked) and functional strength training posts.


Add Yours
  1. garyarthuryoung

    I wasn’t able to eat all of my breakfast. Only got halfway through the sweet potato before I felt sated.

    I think my satiety thermostat is kicking back in. And yet part of my brain says, “C’mon, you deserve it. It’s your cheat day.”

    This is progress.

  2. Janna

    Nice. Sounds like quite the week.

    I love what you said at the top about how it sounds when you write about stuff you’re really excited about. This is exactly my challenge with blogging in general. I write when I have the fire of some new excitement under me, then it fades as it naturally does, and I look back at my writing and it sounds preachy/self-congratulatory/whiny.

    But your writing never sounds this way to me, so maybe this is more of a self-criticism issue than a real objective problem?

    Anyway, I love following your journey, it IS inspiring. 🙂

    • garyarthuryoung


      Whoops. Caps lock. I thank you.

      Yeh, it’s something I’m self-conscious about, too. I have been called out once or twice but what can you do.

      The journey is ongoing. I’m definitely out of my comfort zone so far. Adjusting, though.

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