This week I have seen various tweets flooding my Twitter feed from the #fitfam family about eating ‘clean’ aka. #eatclean and how numerous people are patting themselves on the back for eating egg white omelettes, chicken, broccoli and brown rice 6 days a week and how much they are looking forward to their cheat meal. It got me thinking about this whole concept of eating ‘clean’ and the weekly allowance of a cheat meal, or in some people’s cases a cheat day that turns into days and then a whole week or even weeks.
I have incorporated both things in the past and in my experience I found that actively restricting what I could and couldn’t eat led me to having an unhealthy obsession with food. I spent nearly every waking minute day dreaming about things I wanted to eat. I counted down the days (and sometimes hours) until it was Friday when I would have my scheduled cheat meal. Even my friends would ask me which day was my cheat day as we organised to meet up for dinner, I love them for asking as they were taking into account my healthy lifestyle but it was a bit depressing giving myself only 2hr window a week when I could go out for dinner and eat what I wanted.
What does eating ‘clean’ mean exactly? There are various explanations, but there is no one definition of what it is. It’s a lifestyle that people follow, it’s not a diet. Essentially it’s about eating foods that are not processed, refined and ideally additive free. I love eating healthy foods, however what my brain didn’t like so much is that I told it that I wasn’t allowed to eat certain things on six days and so when it came to Friday’s scheduled cheat meal what did I do? Yes, you guessed it – I binged and ate so many calories and crap in my scheduled 2hr cheat window that I would get headaches from all the sugar, an upset stomach from all the saturated fat and blow up with water weight overnight and wake up on Saturdays with a food hangover. I felt disgusting and was shamed with guilt every weekend.
Now let’s move onto the concept of a cheat/treat meal. There are many people who follow this way of eating, nutritionists and Personal Trainers recommend it, bodybuilders & fitness competitors follow it and for many people it works and helps keep them on track. Great news, but why doesn’t it work for me? It’s because I don’t like to think of food as being good or bad, or that it should be used as a reward/punishment system. I’m also stubborn and rebellious (Taurean & an Ox in the Chinese horoscope – double trouble LOL). If someone tells me I shouldn’t be doing something I will end up doing it. I once had a big argument with an ex-boyfriend when we were together because we were watching a movie at home and I was ploughing my way through a bag of Kettle Chips. He told me I should stop otherwise I would end up eating the whole bag. What did I do? I was so incensed that he tried to tell me how much I should be eating that I deliberately carried on until I had finished it and he got really pissed off with me. To me being told I can’t eat Kettle Chips/cake/Haribos = I WILL EAT ALL THE KETTLE CHIPS, CAKE & HARIBOS!
The relationship we have with food can be a funny and at times a difficult one. It’s also very personal to each of us and we need to remember a lifestyle that one person has chosen may work great for them but not so well for someone else. We have to find our own food path through trial, errors and ultimately, success. Once we have hit the jackpot and found something that works which we can maintain consistently and without it making us feel guilty, deprived or unhappy then stick to it.
When I was eating low carb and ‘clean’, limiting myself to 1,600 – 1,700 calories a day, entering everything I ate onto MyFitnessPal (I find it a really soul destroying app) and telling myself I could only have one scheduled cheat window each week my weight was pretty stubborn and would barely budge. Infact I even put on weight and got quite bloated. It was because I would end up having multiple binges during the week because I kept craving junk food and I would give in to it (I felt like Pookie in the movie New Jack City when he was after crack “That shit be callin’ me man”).
So I decided to change my mind set and the way I view food. I look at it as something that enables me to reach and smash my training goals. It gives me the energy I need to have a really good training session and I make sure I refuel properly afterwards to replenish my expended glycogen stores. I don’t tell myself I can’t eat junk food or certain foods are forbidden, if I want it I can have it. As a result of that I don’t crave it anymore and I no longer look at cakes and sweets with hearts and lovebirds flying around my head, I just don’t fancy it so much now and my epic binges have stopped. As a result of that I have dropped 3kg in two months and I feel great! 🙂