Today is a big day for me. Well, yesterday for you, but today for me. Today is the day that I start doing weekly cheat days.
Here’s the thing, I haven’t always had the best relationship with food. In fact, it’s been a constant up and down battle for the last 7 years. Throughout that time, the only cheat days I have given myself were on holidays or when I was on a vacation.
Part of me felt as though I was constantly waiting to fully enjoy my life. Sure, I would enjoy the times when I would allow myself to splurge, but I would often binge because I honestly didn’t know when I would allow myself to enjoy that certain food again. Overall, it just led to an unhealthy relationship with food.
Now, this may trigger some people, and there may be some people who have no idea what in the world I am talking about, but if you have ever had a bad relationship with food, you know exactly what I mean and where I am coming from. It’s like food – something that is supposed to be used to fuel the body – is the only thought that is ever on your mind.
I want to change the way I think about food. I want to learn how to actually enjoy food and eating again, and I want to feel as though I am deserving of enjoying food. So to reshape my brain into overcoming the fears that I have attributed to food, I need to face them head-on and actually put in the work to do so. That work starts with weekly cheat days.
My Motivation For Starting Cheat Days
My motivation for starting cheat days came from another YouTuber that I started following.
Stephanie Buttermore is big in the health and fitness industry and started her journey on YouTube as a physique competitor.
Over the last year, she has done something that I find truly inspiring. She has done what she calls the “All-In Challenge.” Essentially, she was tired of never feeling full and constantly restricting herself just to look the part of a physique competitor. She would do these massive cheat days, but then would go back to restricting herself until whenever her next cheat day was. So, in an effort to retrain her mind into knowing what it meant to feel full and satisfied again, she ditched the diets and the meal plans for a year and just ate whatever she wanted.
Through the first 6 months, Stephanie ended up putting on 42 pounds (this was here peak). She was eating everything she wanted and said on most days, she was probably consuming 4,000 to 5,000 calories.
Around this time, that is when she says her body had finally relearned what it felt like to feel full again.
Over the following 6 months, she still ate whatever she wanted, but she ended up losing 20 pounds because instead of listening to her mind tell her when to stop eating, she started listening to her body.
She admits that there were some hard days throughout the year where she felt fat or was being body-shamed on the internet, but she stuck with the plan and never gave up.
The Science Behind Cheat Days
There are many people on the internet who do weekly cheat days. Some do it to refuel their body, and others just do it to keep their sanity. What’s miraculous about the human body is the fact that it will always find a way to bounce back to a normal state. Individuals might carry around a few extra pounds for a day or two, but most of the weight is water weight and the body will end up flushing it out.
Then, there is what’s called TEE (Total Energy Expenditure). Total Energy Expenditure is “the number of calories burned by the human body in one day adjusted to the amount of activity (sedentary, moderate or strenuous). It is calculated by adding 30% of the Basal Energy Expenditure (BEE) calories to the BEE for sedentary activity.”
To save you all of the headaches, it’s basically saying that the more calories you eat, the more your body adjusts to the calories you consume and will find various ways to burn those calories whether it’s fidgeting with your fingers, shaking your legs, or added energy to perform physical exercise.
The last bit of scientific information that I am going to share with you is that one pound of fat is approximately the equivalent of eating 3,500 calories. One would need to consume 3,500 on top of their normal consumption to gain one “true” pound of weight. This doesn’t include that TEE coming into play and increasing the energy one would feel from consuming 3,500 extra calories.
Just to give you some insight, a Big Mac from McDonald’s is 550 calories. You would need to consume just more than 6 Big Macs in order to gain one pound of true fat. That’s a lot of food…
What I am getting at is that one cheat day isn’t going to break you. It would take a massive consumption of food in order to see temporary changes to the body, none of which will be permanent.
Why I Was Fearful Of Cheat Days
Still, though, I get it. I get how hard it can be to look at a donut or a burger or a nice breakfast and be scared because you think it’s all going to go straight to your ass or love handles.
The reason I have been fearful of doing cheat days is similar to one of the reasons Stephanie describes in her video – everybody tells you that cheat days aren’t going to ruin your physique and won’t cause you to get “fat”, but you feel as though you will be the one exception. You feel as though all of the hard work you have put into your body will be washed away with the first bite you take no matter how much science and research tells you otherwise.
I can’t tell you how many times I have passed up on opportunities to go out with family and friends because I was scared of the food that was going to be there. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt embarrassed for allowing myself to have two cookies while everybody else had one. I can’t tell you how many times I have binged and found myself hovering over the toilet moments after because I ate myself sick.
Welcome to the truth, my friends. This is what it’s like to have an eating disorder.
I have allowed my fear of food, my fear of getting fat, and my fear of being different to control my life for far too long. That’s why today I am taking a step in the right direction and facing my fears of food by starting weekly cheat days.
My Goal With Starting Cheat Days
I have many goals for cheat days. First and foremost, I want to get my life back. I want to be able to go out and enjoy my time with family and friends. I want to be able to take my niece for donuts on the weekends without feeling guilty. Moreso, I just want to taste all of the amazing flavors this world has to offer.
I also want to reshape my thoughts around food. I don’t want to constantly question the food I am putting into my body. While it’s one thing to be healthy, being overly obsessed with food is just as unhealthy as not caring at all. I want to find that balance, stay healthy, but also enjoy all types of food. There isn’t one food that is going to instantly make us “fat.” That’s something that I need to realize and overcome.
My last goal: to reintroduce some foods into my diet and strengthen my relationship with food. I need to realize that food is fuel – not the evil I often attributed it to be. We all need food in order to fuel our bodies to perform basic functions. Without it, we simply couldn’t live.
The thing with me is that I have restricted myself from certain foods for so long that I have completely forgotten how I do feel when I do consume them. How can I honestly say what’s good and what’s bad if I don’t know how my body reacts to it?
My goal is to continue to do cheat days until I overcome any negative emotions towards food. I want to be healthy, but I also want to find a balance that allows me to enjoy life as well. Eventually, I would like to stray away from cheat days, but I want to do so only when I have retrained my mind to be able to eat all foods without having any fear.
What’s On The Menu Today?
All of this leads us to today. What’s on the menu for my first cheat day?
For brunch, I am having scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes with chocolate chips and coconut shavings on them, pure maple syrup, and some fruit. I know that this may sound like a common breakfast to some, but I haven’t allowed myself to have a big or this good of breakfast in years.
For dinner, I am having a Pizza Hut pepperoni and mushroom pizza. This is more of a nostalgic meal for me as my dad and I would eat this on a weekly basis as I was growing up. I kid you not, I think the last time I enjoyed it was about 7 or 8 years ago.
For dessert, I am having vanilla ice cream and a bowl of recesses puffs. While I do enjoy ice cream nearly every night, it’s always sugar-free frozen yogurt. But today, I am going to have real, whole ice cream… and my favorite cereal, of course.
If I am hungry throughout the day, I’ll probably just snack on something.
Again, this may seem like a normal diet, but that’s how controlled my diet has been over the years. I would normally only treat myself like this if I were on vacation or a holiday, but that’s all ending today. Now, I am treating myself like this once a week until I can build my relationship with all foods.
Before You Go
Tomorrow’s post is going to be a follow-up of today. I want to share my honest thoughts on the day, how my body feels, and what comes next.
Ultimately, it is my hope that I can reshape my thoughts around food and inspire others to start doing the same – to start seeing food as fuel instead of seeing food only based on the nutrients they have.
Today is a big step in the right direction. My life goal is to improve little by little each and every day, and today I am doing just that.