Cheat Day Triage: How to Recover from a Glutinous Feast

Ok, listen.  I’m going to be completely frank with you here.  This past weekend was a glutinous affair for me.  Between the ham, the summer rolls (yes, summer rolls, when you’re Asian, summer rolls are appropriate for holiday parties), brownies, and whoopie pies I stuffed myself beyond comfort.  Having learned from past experiences, I came prepared for dinner in stretchy Lululemon pants, thus to minimize the amount of overhang that proceeds such an event.

How Asians celebrate Christmas…with summer rolls.

If that’s any proof that I’m human and not perfect, I don’t know what else could be.  Knowing that I was amongst millions of other Americans who probably ate similarly this weekend, I figured I’d use this time to share with you my tricks for recovering from a so-called “cheat day”.

Now, before I proceed, I just want to express my distaste for using the word “cheat”.  For one, it assumes that we have done something bad.  That we have been unfaithful and have committed infidelity to whatever nutrition gods we’ve created.  This can lead to feelings of guilt and anxiety which, can be very debilitating and counterproductive to developing a healthy relationship with food.

Secondly, it assumes that comfort foods, desserts and other decadent goodies cannot be included in a healthy lifestyle.  I think that’s crap, and I believe in finding ways to incorporate the aforementioned into your life.  How exactly to balance “cheat” days with healthy eating is entirely a personal endevaor, and which I will describe in a future blog.  However, for a lack of a better word, (unless you can think of one to use), I will refer to a day of copious indulgence as a “cheat”.

The first thing that we need to do to recover, is to stop feeling guilty.

Stop beating yourself up about it, for real.  A couple of things here:  If you planned your week’s meals around indulging a little over the weekend, relax, you’re fine.  If you didn’t plan your week’s meals around indulging a little over the weekend, relax, you’re still fine.

If you’ve been following a meal plan consistently and have been eating superb, cheating 1 day isn’t going to throw you off.  And as a matter of fact, having the extra calorie intake can actually boost your metabolism and prevent plateauing.

Accept the fact that you ate things that you probably wouldn’t on a day-to-day basis, and move on.  Enjoy the fact that you had some yummy treats, and then, fugetaboutit!  Today is a new day, and you have the opportunity to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and make kick-ass food choices.

The next thing I would do, is to clear the house of any remaining goodies.

As much as I would love to have leftovers to take home so I don’t have to cook, I often turn down taking any home because I know, that having leftovers around will just continue the feast.  This means passing on taking any desserts home as well.  If they’re in your house, the chances are, you’ll probably eat them.

After this, I typically will follow a “cheat” day with a period of intermittent fasting.

Basically, intermittent fasting is practicing a period of time of not eating.  Eat, don’t eat, eat, don’t eat.  Depending on how I’m feeling, what my week looks like, and how much stress and sleep I’ve gotten, I will typically follow a cheat day with a 16-24 hour fast.  Meaning I will not eat 16-24 hours after my last bite of my last meal.

Intermittent fasting, or IF for short, has gotten a lot of attention not only from fitness professionals, but from researchers and main stream media as well.  By allowing my body a fasting period I accomplish a couple of things:

1. I allow time for my digestive tract to calm down.  Eating more food than what you’re used to and eating foods that aren’t necessarily “great” for you can be a burden on your GI tract.  Your stomach has to work a little harder to break down food, your intestines have to work a little harder to extract nutrients, and your colon has to to do overtime to push through the extra matter.  All of this extra work creates more stress on the body, so fasting for a period of time gives your digestive system a chance to recover.

2. By following a period of excess calorie intake with a period of fasting you can stimulate your body into releasing certain hormones that can actually boost your metabolism and increase fat loss.  John Romaniello, a NYC-based fitness professional and my biz coach talks about the hormonal response of IF here in his article Intermittent Fasting 101.

Another super useful resource that I’ve enjoyed, is John Berdardi’s ebook, Experiments with Intermittent Fasting, in which he writes about his 6-month experiment with intermittent fasting.  This is a free downloadable e-book that goes into greater detail about the benefits and various protocols with IF.

During my fast, I will prepare my meals for the next several days by using my crockpot.

I find that stews and hearty soups are a great way to break a fast, and give my tummy that extra time to recover while I still get food and nutrients in my body.  I will usually make a homemade chicken soup or my Crockpot Beef Stew.  The slow cooking process not only breaks down the food making it easier to digest, but also extracts collagen and gelatin from the meat which helps repair the lining of the GI tract plus do all sorts of wonderful things for the body.

I will also increase my water intake and drink teas that help soothe digestion.

Not only will drinking more water aide in digestion and help “move things along” but it will actually help maintain a feeling of satiety especially during the fast.  I will also drink ginger and peppermint tea, both of which aide digestion, during my fast.

Finally, I will pick up where I left off pre-cheat day and move on with my life and healthy eating habits.

Rounding up how we started, I will remember the cheat day, be happy that I enjoyed some treats, and then move on.  I make this point twice because I feel it is that important to practice.  By wallowing in your guilt and shame, you prevent yourself from making progress and taking the opportunity of having a brand new day to make better choices.

I know for some this is easier said than done.  But keep in mind, that you are a beautiful person and you are capable of accomplishing wonderful things.  Feeling sorry for yourself won’t get you past feeling sorry for yourself.  Pick up and move on, and work on having a great day, week, or month.

Now that you’ve seen my personal strategy of recovering from a cheat day, I’d love to hear your tricks.  But first, what are your favorite “cheat foods”?  I’m curious to hear what you like to indulge on.  Let me know by leaving them below in the comment section.

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