Do I cheat? Yes. Do you cheat? Yes. Does Mark Sisson cheat? Yes. Does Art DeVaney cheat? Yes. Everyone cheats, but without a doubt everyone cheats to a different degree.
The word cheating kind of annoys me. It implies guilt for enjoying something. I grew up a Lutheran with a Roman Catholic mother, so I've had enough of that. Is it really that bad to have a meal that doesn't follow paleo guidelines?
When I talk about cheating, I'm not referring to my use of butter, cream, and cheese in moderation to enhance a few dishes each week. I'm talking about this:
After a day at Lincoln Park Zoo and a 3 mile hike to Wrigleyville, my fiancé and I went to Lucky's Sandwich Shop. If you like watching Man vs. Food, you may have seen the episode where he conquers the Lucky's challenge.
Anyways, we decide to get a sandwich before hopping back on the EL to get home. A Lucky's sandwich consists of meat, cheese, cole slaw, french fries, and bread with optional bacon, a fried egg, lettuce, or tomato. Those ingredients are all on the sandwich. Add dollar beers into the factor, and you've got a recipe for disaster, right?
Here is my reasoning and ensuing game plan for incorporating cheat meals into a paleo lifestyle.
I expect to eat a diet that resembles the paleo philosophy for the rest of my life or until veritable research proves to me that there is a better way to live. My main problem is that I love food....a lot. There are a lot of meals I can make work within a paleo structure, but certain things like sandwiches, desserts, and certain ethnic meals are impossible to make in a paleo way. From time to time, I miss falafel, breaded & fried food, and chocolate peanut butter cups. Most of the time, I don't.
So how can you go about cheating without ruining your progress?
1) Use cheats as a reward - This is the standard advice, but it works. Only allow yourself a cheat meal if you've done something exceptional. Just don't find too many reasons to cheat (Friday is not a reason to reward yourself).
2) Use cheats to deal with social situations - We've all been the one person at a restaurant, requesting no potatoes, no noodles, subbed for veggies. It makes me feel like a tool and sometimes, I want to eat a meal the way a chef intended it to be eaten. I think this same logic applies to alcohol in social situations as well.
3) Work in your cheat meal after a tough workout - After a tough workout, your glucose and glycogen levels should be quite low. This makes the impending insulin spike less detrimental and can even help stimulate some muscle growth.
4) Remember how cheating makes you feel - There are some times where a cheat meal will leave me feeling like crap, tired, and even ravenous for more bad food. Remember which meals make you want to barf and sleep (hopefully in that order...RIP Jimmy) and you'll be much less likely to want them again any time soon.
5) Look in the mirror the next day - A sudden intake in processed carbs will leave you puffy for at least 24-48 hours. Use this time to take a look in the mirror and remind yourself that this food will lead to you looking puffier and puffier over time.
You have to live and you can't always work life into our ideal little paleo structure. I can sincerely tell you that over the last 9 weeks, my cravings for crap have consistently decreased, so I expect cheating to become less of an issue for me in the future. In the mean time, stop looking at cheats as a transgression and start looking at them as opportunities to keep you on the road to long term success. How do you work cheating into your game plan? Please comment!