I recently spent three days back in the German south, visiting friends and working from our Stuttgart office before I leave the company at the end of June (more on that big change in routine another time!). During this time, I faced all manner of temptation. My former local's burger night, amazing gelato, alcohol by the hectolitre, soft pretzels, all you can eat schnitzel buffets, the work canteen, buckets of Reese's Cups, and then the small matter of two 7 hour journeys at 4am with nothing but bakeries open...
...and I'm proud to say I kept pretty much clean. In fact I'm really proud to say that. As opposed to resorting to my old motto of "all or nothing", I found a middle ground that allowed me to thoroughly enjoy my time there, whilst not putting my goals on hold.
Normally, I would schedule a cheat meal/cheat day in advance so that I could eat whatever I want relatively guilt free. However with my next check-in only a week away, I was not prepared to do this. So instead, I decided I would make a mini contract with myself in the train on the way down. What was ok, what was not ok. This really made it so much easier to get through the weekend without a slip up - I had concrete parameters as opposed to something soft like "Well, if I really want something I'll just have it." Commit the contract to memory, jot it down on the back of a receipt or type it into your phone.
My contract consisted of the following:
- What areas of my diet I would focus on. I chose Paleo and Intermittent Fasting. I relaxed Keto, and plumped for a relatively low carb approach instead; i.e not actively seeking out carbs, rather not turning everything down! I said I could have a side order of fries once. Otherwise I'd be having them with everything!
- Keeping sugar low, despite the relaxation of keto.
- Drinking more water and walking more- the contract can also conclude things you'd like to focus on more, not just how you can make allowances!
- Can I drink alcohol? What types can I drink? I decided yes, and allowed myself wine and spirits. I ended up having a few glasses of wine, and then whisky and cognac in small amounts.
- Back to Normal Date: As of the 20. May, I promised to be back to my full plan.
- Signature. Makes it feel more official, even if it is just a contract with yourself.
Another reason, why I didn't spontaneously designate part of the weekend a cheat day, is that a cheat day should be planned in advance. You should know for at least a week in advance "ok, Saturday is going to be my cheat day", or "awesome, next Thursday I'll have a cheat meal with the guys". You shouldn't wake up and decide to have a cheat day due to lack of motivation, or, something I have been guilty of before "ok, that all you can eat brunch buffet that I abused this morning can be my cheat meal". Doing that is stepping onto a very slippery slope.
But when you do cheat, I fully believe you should cheat properly. Don't try and "be good" by having diet versions of what you want. You won't get the same psychological benefit to keep you on the straight and narrow until the next cheat.
Whilst, as I said, I fully believe that you should cheat properly, I also believe it is ok to incorporate some form of basic structure. Maybe you decide to eat everything in a certain window, so that you're not spending 24 hours with a constantly open gullet. Or you might decide to try and stick to paleo foods, to avoid the "eating dirty hangover" over the couple of days afterwards!
I guess this entire post could be boiled down to "Have a plan and stick to it.".