Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Cheat Day

Last night I was reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar to my son (and thanking the Lord in heaven that I was not reading Wheels for the millionth time) and found myself wondering once again whether author Eric Carle wrote the book after coming off of another crazy diet. If you're not familiar with the book, it follows the story of a very hungry caterpillar who spends his week trying to satiate his hunger by eating through pieces of fruit only to find himself on Saturday doing what most people who have lived on fruit for a week do: pigging out.

After a week of eating one apple on Monday, two pears on Tuesday, three blueberries on Wednesday, four strawberries on Thursday, and five oranges on Friday, he then arrives at Saturday and eats, "one piece of chocolate cake, one ice-cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon." As you can imagine, "that night he had a stomachache!"

And I think, "been there, done that!"

The caterpillar's diet sounds like one or two ill-fated schemes about to inundate the post-holiday airwaves with promises that America's overweight can eat whatever they want and still lose weight. And I guess that is true in a way, if everything you want to eat is clean, natural, healthy food in reasonable portions eaten in several small meals throughout the day. But I'm guessing it's more along the lines of cheeseburgers and pizza, according to the commercials.

I used to spend my Saturdays like our stuffed and woozy little caterpillar, because I thought that after a week of "being good" and eating well, I deserved a cheat day. I read in fitness magazines about diets that encourage people to have one day when they can eat whatever they want without guilt. I hear about celebrity trainers who give their clients a cheat day to go off of their diet. I even read message boards filled with advice from one fitness guru to another about carb-cycling, re-feeds, and splurge meals all designed to trick your body into revving up its metabolism and get out of a plateau. And it might work, I don't know, I'm not a dietician. All I know is that when I spent six days taking care of myself by eating well and one day abusing and sabotaging myself by having a "treat," I spent a lot of time being frustrated at how bad I felt and how little progress I was making in my quest to become a fitter person. It took me a long time to realize that a cheat day only cheats me.

Your cheat day only cheats you.

I can't say it enough! As you go through the holidays and attend parties, bake goodies, receive tempting calorie-laden gifts, and browse the grocery shelves, please remember that we live in a country where food - healthy or not - is abundant. Food is not a limited-time offer. People are. This holiday, focus on the people, not the food. You can bake yourself whatever Christmas cookies you want any ole time of year. If you really feel like you deserve a treat after being so "good" on your nutrition all week, go get a pedicure after a day of shopping for gifts! But don't let yourself be lured into thinking that you are treating yourself by eating something you know will sabotage all of that hard work.

Oh, and that caterpillar? On Sunday he ate through one nice, green leaf. And after that he felt much better.

You know, just sayin'. :)

1 comment:

Melanie said...

How true, I used to be famous for having cheat weekends! By the time Friday night arrived, I tried to eat everything I missed out on during the week because I knew come Monday morning I would be on a strict diet again. I finally realized it was an endless cycle that would never allow me to reach my fitness goals. I was able to finally reach my goals when I treated the weekends the same as the week. Pefect read as I approach my temptations of the Holiday season! Melanie