I’m writing a post today because the past couple of days have been more challenging for me than usual. I had a killer leg workout on Monday night with my trainer followed by 30 minutes on the stairmill. I notice that my appetite usually kicks into overdrive for a day or two following a leg workout (those big muscles want to suck up plenty of calories to recover), but it’s been especially noticeable yesterday and today.
Up until this point, I haven’t really felt physically hungry (except maybe first thing in the morning) despite being on a restricted calorie intake. The last two days, however, I find not only am I physically hungry throughout the day, but I tend to get hungry within 90-120 minutes of my last meal.
My willpower is already a bit compromised due to being hungry, and to top that off, I have come in to work every day this week with a new treat sitting on my desk from a well-meaning, if oblivious, co-worker. First, it was a full-size Hershey bar adorably disguised as a snowman. Today it was a massive tray of nuts and trail mix. You would be surprised what qualifies as “decadent” in my perspective now – after weeks of chicken and broccoli for every meal, even a chocolate protein shake in unsweetened almond milk sounds like an indulgence, so both of these items are quite appealing at this point!
So let me just take you through my thought process and how I handle these situations. It is not that I am just blessed with more willpower than most people. I love sugar and fat just as much as the next person, and I don’t have some superhuman affinity for broccoli and chicken. I have engaged in my share of emotional/stress-eating in the past as well.
Here’s what it comes down to – I have very clear goals with a deadline. And I have decided that above all other things, executing the plan I have to reach that goal and being successful is the absolute most important thing in my life right now. I am competing in April, I want to win, and I want the physique that can only come from killing it in the gym and relentlessly eating clean over a long period of time. It’s not enough to be mediocre, to be good, or to be great – I want to be extraordinary.
If I were not competing in April, would my mindset be different? Probably a little bit. I would pick and choose the times that were special to me to enjoy something off plan. Those exceptions might or might not coincide with the holidays. For instance, I am staying in Charlotte for Christmas this year and won’t be with my family – so indulging on Christmas wouldn’t be in my plans because Christmas will mostly be like any other day of the year for me. If I was comfortable with potentially extending the timeline for reaching my goal, then I might choose some other special times to indulge. But I DO have a deadline, and although I still have 16.5 weeks to go, I am not ready to deviate from the path I am on. I will get a cheat meal when and if my coach decides I need one as part of the competition prep plan. Until that point, I will continue eating chicken and broccoli.
So, here is the choice:
A. Eat my meals as planned today and choose not to indulge in my cravings, OR
B. Make up an excuse for giving in, like:
- “I’ve been good so far, so I have earned a cheat”
- “I still have 16 weeks to go until the show, so one day of eating off plan won’t make a difference”
- “It’s the holidays so I deserve a treat”
This brings me to one of my favorite sayings, you are not a dog – don’t reward yourself with food. Rewarding your hard work in the gym and clean eating in the kitchen with junk food is like an alcoholic celebrating 30 days of sobriety with a beer – find another way to reward yourself! The other thing is “cheating” when it’s not a part of your program is never that simple – there is almost always a domino effect. These consequences often last far longer than the actual enjoyment you experienced for the 5 or 10 minutes you were eating crap. Let’s say I binge on trail mix for 10 minutes thanks to one of those totally unjustified excuses I gave – here are the consequences of those 10 minutes of pleasurable eating:
- I probably just eclipsed my day’s allotment of calories in that 10 minute period thanks to the calorie dense nature of trail mix. This means no calorie deficit for the day (i.e. no fat loss), and in fact, I am probably now in an energy surplus (i.e. excess calories are being stored as fat). This means at best, I will make no progress toward my goal today, and at worst, I took a step (or two) backwards.
- I am uncomfortably full and bloated due to the amount of calories and sodium and sugar I just ingested.
- I may briefly get a boost of energy from all of the sugar I just ate, but will experience a huge crash shortly after, and will probably be lethargic for the rest of the day.
- Guilt will set in almost immediately because I am realizing the consequences of my actions now that the feeding frenzy has stopped. I’m also going to feel weak-willed for giving in.
- I am going to feel guilty, bloated, and crappy for the rest of the day. If I still have to work out that day (which today I do), then I am going to have a crappy workout because of all of the above. Or I might even skip my workout because I feel so crappy, physically and mentally.
- I am going to wake up the next morning still dealing with all of the above – feeling full/bloated, lethargic, and guilty. I may also have stronger cravings the next day because my body wants more of what I indulged in the day before. So now I am facing the same challenge, but even more difficult, and with a less than stellar track record!
I hardly think that a tray of trail mix is worth all of those repercussions. The alternative is:
- I put the tray of trail mix and the chocolate bar in a drawer in my desk so it is out of sight and out of mind.
- I eat my chicken and broccoli as planned and forget about the temptation in my drawer (which is what happened within 20 minutes).
- I eat according to my plan for the day, I have an awesome workout, and go to bed knowing not only did I stay on plan, but I did so despite temptation, which makes me feel stronger and more confident about my ability to be successful the next time I am faced with a challenge.
- I keep kicking ass for the next 16.5 weeks, have a bomb ass body on stage, and walk away with a trophy!
Seems like a no-brainer, right? The next time you are tempted, I encourage you to really consider the choice in front of you and the consequences of your actions. Love yourself more than you love doughnuts, ice cream, candy, or whatever form your food temptation takes – you will be much happier in the long run!