07 November 2015

What to do after a cheat meal

This whole week  has involved researching “benefits of red meat” pieces to build on for the next article. The goal is to prove a simple, up-to-date reminder for those that may be confused by the the cancer study published by the World Health Organization. It’s still in the pipeline, but yesterday ended up being a pretty bad day in terms of nutrition, one of the first in a good number of weeks, which means there is more subject matter to cover.

Further, there’s a fantastic blog post by Mark Sisson of Mark's Daily Apple outlining 5 things you’ll learn as a Primal lifer. The first two, “Indulgences won’t kill you” and “you don’t really need the” speak directly to this. If you’re wondering what an “indulgence” may be, you may want to call it a full-on cheat day consisting of numerous party style sandwich quarters, sausage rolls, spaghetti bolognese and a Big Mac Meal with a McFlurry for dessert. In any case, it’s always good to take stock of everything after eating bad meals. It’s important to listen to your body and how it feels. This awareness of the immediate after effects usually allows for not just a quick refocus, but also dissipates any guilt there may be. There’s a distinct piece of mind that can come with knowing that you wanted to eat garbage, knowing why, knowing what would happen, and knowing that won't be a big deal. In reality, the term “cheat-meal” itself has a over dramatic connotation. It makes it seem like it’s deliberately built into your lifestyle (it shouldn’t), and that you should feel bad about it (you shouldn't). Regardless, here’s a simple run down of the typical thoughts and feelings the morning after a cheat day.

One - You don’t feel like slept particularly well
It may 6:30 in the morning or 4 hours later, but whichever it is, you don’t feel rested. There’s a definite haziness and you may not actually be sure when you woke up and how long you laid in bed before climbing out - it could’ve been 10 minutes, but it but it could be more like an hour. You’ve had those excellent sleeping sessions where you shut off the alarm and stayed curled under the covers until your body was naturally ready to go - this isn’t that. You’re awake, but not because you slept enough. As a result you don’t have the usual alertness or readiness for the day. If you don’t have to work today, you’re especially grateful, because if you did, it’s definitely be a tough one.

Two - There’s a brick in your stomach
This one is obvious, but still worth the noting mentally. You may feel like everything you ate yesterday is now densely compacts and squeezing through your gut. You can sense that a big bathroom session may be in order, but it at the same time just isn’t happening. If it did work for you, oddly enough the brick is still there and you don’t feel any more relieved.

Three - Your mind hasn’t recharged
Where normally, you wake up partially forgetting about whatever you were doing or thinking about yesterday, this morning it’s all still fresh in your mind. It’s almost as if you haven’t set at all. The stress at work, personal problems or whatever unpleasantness life is throwing at you is still there and you’re still acutely aware of it. Linked to not having a good sleep, if mornings are usually calm and relaxing time to yourself, or a furious mix of chaos and efficiency as you feed, bathe, clothe, and transport three kids to school on your way to work, this morning is neither of those.

It's more important to take stock than it is to exercise
While most may say the best thing to do after a bad day is sweat everything out, it's not. Food is much more important to long-term health and with that, comes food awareness. Also, by associating a cheat day with a punishing workout afterwards could easily culminate in further guilt and anxiety the morning after. Not being up for intense workouts, leading to more bad eating is the cycle manifested.

Whether or not this is an accurate depiction of how you feel after a day of eating garbage, it’s important to be acutely aware of what your mind and body tell you. Do you feel extended motivated to go to the gym and work off all those extra calories, carbs, bad oils, preservatives and sugars? Do you feel guilt for falling off the wagon and now are at risk of turning a cheat day into a cheat week? However it is, it’s important to take stock of this process, not to beat yourself up about it, but so you can remember it. Remember what the days after are like for you can be the best motivation there is to maintaining your focus and dispelling the urge. It also empowers you with ownership of the choices you’ve made. You knew it’s been a tough week, and you just couldn’t be bothered to do anything harder than grab food you wanted out of a drive through window. You also know that as bad as it may make you feel, it won’t lead to you writing off the rest of 2015 and start planning for a fresh and fit New Year. It won’t kill you, and you don’t need it. You just wanted it, had it, and will ironically forget about it. Full awareness no guilt.