Fitness Quest: The Cheat Day

Image c/o CNN
Image c/o CNN

Fitness Quest is a weekly column in which the journey of losing 90 pounds is chronicled online in hopes of helping other people as well as providing a catalyst for motivation.

I’ll come clean: I have been struggling recently.

A week prior, I went to a Mexican restaurant for lunch with some coworkers. The food was authentic and looked delicious. Immediately, the waitress brought us over a sizable bowl of tortilla chips covered in refried beans and Oaxacan cheese. I wanted some but stayed strong. When my coworkers ordered three delicious tacos a piece, I went with a bowl of soup. It was worth it. The next morning, I lost weight.

A few days later, we went to my father’s house for a birthday party. Their gigantic kitchen was filled with just about every food that I would previously have devoured. There was buffalo dip, bean dip, wings, pasta, crabs, more pasta, more crabs (seriously), ice cream cake, various cheeses and… I just need to stop. I’m drooling at the thought of it.

It is hard to eat healthy in an Italian-American family. Every five minutes, someone asks if you need something to eat. If you say you are fine, they ask what’s wrong.

“Are you sick?” How come you’re not eating? What, my food isn’t good?”

I withstood the barrage of questions and stealthily navigated my way through a labyrinth of culinary temptations. The payoff was huge. I managed to lose two pounds that day.

Things were taking a turn, though. I began thinking about those foods. Apples and peanut butter are delicious but God, what I what have done for some of those tacos or wings.

I talked to my wife, Carrie, about it. I told her I was unsure how I should handle it.

“Is it like quitting smoking?” I asked. “If I cheat and eat something bad, will I be tempted to continue doing it?”

She said she did not know. Neither did I.

That night, I found an article from Men’s Health Magazine that Mike Patota sent to me and I printed out but left on my desk.  My laziness turned into a blessing in disguise for once. The article provided tips on dieting and exercise.

One of the tips suggested to plan a cheat day in advance. I had done this before on previous diets and felt like it was a slippery slope but I kept reading. The catch — which I had not realized in previous attempts — was to ensure that you readjusted your diet to compensate for those extra calories and make sure you still came in under your limit for the week.

What a simple and seemingly obvious point that I managed to overlook for years. There it was. I finally had my answer. I could take a cheat day. I just needed to plan accordingly.

Then, the cheat day came. I knew it was going to happen soon but I had not set a specific date. My son was home sick from camp and I took a personal day to take care of him. In the early afternoon, he bounced back. He’s a resilient little kid who quickly went from a lifeless lump wrapped up in a blanket on the couch with a bucket beside him to your normal four-year-old boy with plenty of energy.

When he got up, he said he was hungry. This was not surprising, as his stomach was empty and he was probably weak. I asked him what he wanted. I thought he was going to tell me he wanted peanut butter and jelly. He did not hesitate to tell me that he wanted chicken fingers, french fries and buffalo wings. The little dude is as thin as a rail. I don’t know where he puts it all but I sure as hell was not going to deny my son who, just hours ago, was nauseated.

I ordered him the food and got myself a chicken cheesesteak in the process. He ate the chips that came with my sandwich too.

I have to admit that the sandwich was delicious and sated my desire for something big and filling. It was not like that first cigarette a few weeks after quitting, though. As good as it felt to eat was as gross as I felt afterwards. I still came in under my allotted calories for the entire day but that sandwich was enough to hold me over for quite along time.

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