My last entry got me thinking more about “cheating.” Why am I so concerned about “cheating”? Some of you might be thinking, “That’s no way to live – always having to stop yourself from eating something you enjoy.” That reminded me of a conversation I recently had with one of my good friends who is currently on a mission to lose some weight.
My friend is a very social individual. One night she’s out with one friend, and the next night she’s out with another. The common factor is a bottle of wine and dinner at some fancy restaurant. Besides the fact that she was spending WAY too much money on eating out, she was not eating very healthy, which didn’t help her at all when it came to her fitness goals.
She felt that there was no way her lifestyle and social calendar could uphold any type of “diet”, and she didn’t think that depriving herself from eating the food she enjoys was any way to live.
This is where we get into the whole “diet” vs. “lifestyle change” issue. I’m sure you’ve heard someone say it: “Diets don’t work. Lifestyle changes do.” Which is easier to do? Change how you eat for a month, or change how you eat for the rest of your life? I put my money on #1. The problem is, any results you saw from that diet will soon disappear, and you’ll be left at square one.
So I believe that to have any kind of lasting results, you must change your eating habits, or your lifestyle with regards to food and nutrition. However, what kind of lifestyle do you want to live? What is acceptable to you?
You’ve heard me talk about the 90% rule. Allow yourself a “cheat meal” only 10% of the time. Seems kind of strict, doesn’t it? Who wants to keep count of all their meals and how many of them were “compliant”? And who wants to wants to keep track of all the “compliance” rules?
This is where I blur the lines between a “diet” and a “lifestyle change.” I think if you’re going for a specific goal – to lose X pounds, to decrease bodyfat by X%, to fit into your old cocktail dress in time for your girlfriend’s wedding – you have to play full on. If you want more than snail-paced progress, you have to bear down, make sacrifices, and adhere to your “compliance rules”. You need to prioritize and say for example, “Right now this goal is more important than going out to dinner with my friends every night.” Do what you gotta do.
Once you obtain your goal, then if you want to maintain those results you have to take what you did and make it work for you in the long term. Go into maintenance mode, so to say. So maybe that means you don’t count your calories anymore, or you allow yourself starchy carbs even though you haven’t worked out. Or maybe you allow yourself a moderate “cheat meal” more than 10% of the time.
But you won’t go back to eating creamy pasta every night, making a run to the golden arches for lunch every other day, or eating a chocolate lava cake for dessert every single weekend. You have new habits and operate under new knowledge, so you can’t go back. “Man’s mind stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimensions.” — Oliver Wendall Holmes
What I’m saying is, do what needs to be done to get to your goal. Once you get there, it’s okay to take it back a notch or two. Understand, however there are consequences. You might experience a slight decrease in energy, you might not feel as lean or rock hard. You might even gain a little bit of bodyfat back. But it’s all about tradeoffs. To enjoy life, if you truly feel you need to take it back a notch, then I propose you do it. Make it work for you. But keep in mind the consequences and what consequences are really, truly worth it to you. I highly doubt after accomplishing your health and fitness goal, you’ll think going back to your original unhealthy ways would be worth it. At least, I hope not.
So yes, while I was trying to achieve my goals, I was religious about the 90% rule. I logged my food, I watched my calories, I made sure I always ate a protein with a fibrous carb at every “eating opportunity.” Now that I’ve gotten there, I don’t pay as close attention, but I am ALWAYS cognizant of what I’m putting into my body and how it’s affecting me. I still make healthy choices, but I don’t freak out if I occasionally eat a snack without a source of lean protein. And I occasionally allow myself the pleasure of a warm, chocolate lava cake.
So what happened to my friend? She made a sacrifice, stopped eating out every night, and limits herself to one glass of wine every other week. She logs her food, eats plenty of vegetables and lean protein, and limits her sugar intake. She’s well on her way to her fitness goals. But once she gets there, I have a strong feeling she’ll stop logging her food and she’ll probably drink more than one glass of wine every other week. And that’s fine because to her, it’s worth it. (What is worth it, and if it’s truly worth it is another conversation.)
You know yourself better than anyone else. You know what’s important to you. Live life to the fullest. To you, if that means occasionally enjoying a bottle of wine with an old friend, more power to you.
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