I have a bucket list. You might expect to see one or more of the following:
- Climb the Rock of Gibraltar – I’m not in a Citicard commercial. Besides, have you read anything on this site? I’m petrified of heights. It’s why I’m so short; that way, I’m not scared to walk around in life.
- Ski in the Swiss Alps – Ummm…in this economy? And I’ve never been skiing before; it seems like a waste to go on the bunny slopes in Switzerland when I can wait for a little ice in Texas and go sliding in my fake UGGs.
- Go on a cruise – You have watched the news lately, haven’t you? I wouldn’t go on a cruise if you paid me (unless it’s a million dollars; then I need to rethink that emphatic statement).
But that is not the type of bucket list I am talking about here. Nope. This is a foodie bucket list. But before I charge—taste buds first—into this subject, I first wish to reveal my philosophy on cheat meals.
Let’s start with the terminology. Cheat meal. Treat meal. Splurge meal. Refeed. Refuel. Reward. Lapse of judgment meal. “I will regret this in the morning” meal. “I earned this and deserve looking and feeling a beached whale” meal. Whatever you call it, it doesn’t matter. Remember Romeo and Juliet? A “rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” Romeo is still a stupid boy no matter his last name, and pizza would still taste just as lovely if it were called broccoli.
Now that we have that out of the way, let me tell you how I treat…umm…treat meals. When I am in off season, which means that I don’t have a competition within sight for the next 12 weeks, I allow myself one to two cheat meals a week. My typical cheat meal days are Saturday evenings and Monday evenings. Why those days? Good question! Well, I am a firm believer in scheduling a cheat meal on the day that I am weight training a muscle group that I either want to grow or that uses up an inordinate amount of energy and calories. Saturdays are usually a shoulder or back day and Mondays are always a heavy leg day. Additionally, I like feeling like a normal person (notice I said, “feeling like” because I know for a fact that I am not normal at all), and it’s nice to enjoy a meal of my choosing on a Saturday night—either with a close friend or by myself in front of the TV and a rented movie. Later on in this blog post, I’ll talk through the emotional toll that a cheat meal can take and how I mentally prepare myself for it. It’s another reason why I try to keep one of these cheat meals on the weekend. As for the Monday cheat meal, if you’ve been following my Tweets, then you’ll know that I’m pushing a lot of weight on that squat bar. I’ve even gotten up to 250 pounds for sets of three! I need to replenish my glycogen stores, and what better way to do that than with a burger?!
There were two words in the paragraph above to which you should pay special attention: “allow” and “scheduling.” It is rare that I act on total impulse when it comes to foods that are not on my off season diet, and I never cheat on my contest-prep diet. I may switch my cheat meal days around, or I may evaluate why I am having a craving and determine if I really do need to have something that is high fat and/or high carb, but I rarely go crazy and off the beaten path of my regularly scheduled meals without the pre-determined mindset and reasoning behind that decision. I’ll give you an example. This past week, I experienced mad cravings. I had my regularly scheduled cheat meal on Monday, after training legs, and had bought a pizza from Costco (cheap and yummy) and had Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar ice cream with a piece of chocolate cake. I’m within six months of my August competition, and want to try to eliminate ice cream and cheesecake from cheat meals until after I finish contest season. I didn’t eat the whole pizza and had several slices leftover and stored in a Tupperware container in the refrigerator. I have immense willpower and had chosen to not throw out the leftover slices. But this past week, I had immense cravings. Guys…close your eyes. Girls…you know that the week before your cycle starts, the cravings are abominable. They take over your mind like a dictator taking over a country. Well, I was experiencing that. Tuesday, that leftover pizza sat untouched. Wednesday, that leftover pizza sat quietly in the back of my mind but also remain untouched in the back of the fridge. Thursday, I touched the Tupperware. Literally…touched the Tupperware. I then slapped my hand, closed the fridge door, and trained light legs. Friday…I lost it. I’ll admit it. But I made a conscious decision to go ahead and move my cheat meal from Saturday night to Friday, and I devoured the leftover pizza (and a Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino and cake from Breadwinners). And when Saturday came, I didn’t have my cheat meal. I cut my carbs down, stuck to egg whites, old fashioned oatmeal, chicken breast, and spinach throughout the day, upped my water intake, chewed gum, had a diet Coke, and felt better for it.
Point is…I made choices. And those choices led to other choices, like dominoes falling methodically. That’s the key to cheat meals (or whatever you want to call them). Understand why you are having a cheat meal. Is it to get in extra calories that your body isn’t typically used to in order to ensure optimal muscle growth in the off season and optimal reaction to the contest diet when the time comes? Is it curb a craving so that you don’t binge out of control later on because you completely deprived yourself? Is it to provide a little mental relief here and there? After all, contest dieting wears on mental prowess with the same vigor that a marathon runner wears out the soles of her Nikes. Just know that I’m a firm believer in analyzing a situation and understanding the “why” behind everything. So dig deep into your psyche and determine your “why” for your scheduled cheats.
Below are a several pointers, ideas, and personal tidbits regarding me and cheat meals, and I just realized I never did get to the foodie bucket list. I think that will have to wait for another blog post, but as a sneak peak, I can tell you that Stephan Pyles’ Heaven and Hell Cake made the list, and rightfully so. But you already knew that because you’ve read the “About Jodi” page. Right?!
- Plan backwards. This is important with any goal-setting process and a strategy very commonly used (or should be commonly used) in education and lesson planning. Ultimately, it means: Know the date of your contest. Determine how long you need to diet in order to look the way you need to for the contest. Once you have that date set, determine how many weeks prior to that can be spent with only one cheat meal a week. Backwards plan from there and see if there are weeks that you can have more than one cheat meal a week or if there is a point when you can afford a cheat day.
- Know which foods wreak havoc on your body. The longer you eat clean foods, the more sensitive your system becomes to anything “dirty.” For example, fettuccine alfredo will have me doubled over in pain like the Bird Flu. The obnoxious amounts of butter and heavy whipping cream kill my stomach, and one experience of that years ago was enough to make me say, “NO!” to fettuccine alfredo.
- Understand that the day after a cheat meal is typically the hardest mentally and emotionally. If you experience any form of depression or mood swings, the sugar, fats, and processed foods can trigger a downward slide in your mood. Additionally, having sugar makes you crave more sugar. So you have to arm yourself the next day by getting onto the treadmill first thing in the morning, eating a very clean breakfast, drinking lots of water, knowing exactly what your meals are for the rest of the day, understanding that you will need to cycle your carb intake to a lower level and drop your fats considerably, and ensuring there are lots of green, fibrous veggies included in those meals.
- Spitting equates to cheating. Seriously. Saliva begins the digestion process by breaking down the food particles, so if you think you can munch on a piece of chocolate cake or nibble an Oreo cookie and then spit out the now-used morsel without experiencing the drawbacks of calorie intake, you are highly mistaken. Either eat it and enjoy it, or don’t eat it all. Nothing halfway!
- Speaking of enjoying, that’s exactly what you should do when you have a cheat meal. Don’t wolf it down. Savor it. Experience it. Commit the taste to memory. I can still remember my first experience with flourless chocolate cake at a restaurant in Chicago, Illinois, called The Wild Onion. My grandparents took me there after I had gone three months without having any sugar. I ordered the flourless chocolate cake for dessert after having duck enchiladas with mole sauce. I remember every single bite and can still taste it to this day. Did I mention that I was 24 years old at the time? That memory has survived 15 years, and it’s all because I took about 20 minutes to eat that dessert, putting my mind, body, and soul into every bite. Your memories are snapshots in a photo album, and if you treat your treat meals right, then you’ll have a scrapbook that you can take out come contest diet time. I literally can walk into the bakery section at the grocery store, open the door to the pastries, take a good whiff, and say to myself, “I remember what an apple fritter tastes like from when I had that warm, gooiness on my vacation in Destin, Florida.” And then I can walk away, buy my egg whites and broccoli, and never look back and never gain a pound. Mental power: build it.
- I’m full of Jedi-Mind Tricks. Here’s one: I always keep some tasty treat in my house, like a Snickers peanut butter bar or a package of Oreo cookies. It’s typically hidden on top of the refrigerator (where I can’t reach it without hauling out the ladder) or in the pantry behind all the seasonings (where I’ll knock all the seasonings over and have to re-organize). Eventually, I forget about the treat. Then, when I go out with friends or have a meeting that involves yummy food, I think to myself, “If I haven’t eaten something bad when it’s been available in my house all along, why would I sabotage myself here just because others are eating differently from me?” It works like a charm every time.
- Speaking of Snickers bars, I remember reading an article on Theresa Hessler in Oxygen Magazine when I first began competing. She said something along the lines that when she was tempted to eat a Snickers bar, she would think about the other girls she was going to be on stage with. Would they be eating a Snickers bar too? No. So she knew she couldn’t do that either. You may not know who your competition is until the day of the show. You may not know what they will look like either. But if you keep your “opponents” in mind and treat this like the competition it is, then you will do everything you can to rise above the others and make your mind as strong as your muscles. Mind over pizza. Mind over cake. Mind over matter.
I could go on forever about cheat meals, so rest assured, there will be another blog post in the near future about this topic. Feel free to leave your comments and share your philosophy as well as ask questions. We are all in this together!