Tuesday, November 16, 2010

People Talking About Cheat Days, huh? Maybe they don't have conditioned hypereating, huh?

THE END OF OVEREATING, which is a great read and is doing some serious paradigm shifting stuff to my brain, methinks, comes down pretty hard on cheat days. The author, as I recall, doesn't so much call it that. He's too fricken scientific. :)

No, it's more about the whole cues/urge/food/reward thing we're wired for. If we indulge in those cheat foods, it can set back weeks and weeks of rehabituating the brain and lessening the pull of trigger foods (usually some combo, worse a trio, of salt, fat and sugar--like, well, most of the menus of popular places like Chilis or McD's or TGIF and Pizza Hut, etc.)

For anyone who wants to try cheat days, I suggest you read that book--every fat person should, frankly--just so you understand why it MAY not be a good idea.

I say "may" cause some people do fine. Usually--the way I've noticed, anyway-- those folks don't do cheat days. They don't go out of control. They do cheat meals (fave food item and sides in normal portions) or one cheat meal ITEM. Like having a cup of mashed potato with butter they denied themselves all month. Or a small slice of cake added to an otherwise controlled meal. And these people account for the cheat by cutting back in the days before or after or both. Calories always have to be accounted for, after all.

If the calories are allocated, and the cheat food or meals don't set you back in terms of control (by reopening the trigger/appetite/cue-reward cycle), then sure, you're okay doing it.

But I do think anyone who wants to do full out cheat days/big cheat meals (as opposed to a cheat item or cheat meal accounted for), needs to ask themselves if it's gonna backfire. Not just in terms of calories, but in terms of their own wiring. Their own behavior modification efforts. Their cue/reward issues. Their dopanine/serotonin levels.

The times I've had cheats in the last couple months, I had to make up for it in the meal/day/week that followed. That's just how it goes.

But I did notice this: When I cheat with something healthful and not cue-triggering (ie, not a lot of sugar, not pizza, not a burrito doused in sour cream and sauce and cheese, not mac n cheese), yes, when I decide I really want to have--say, steamed dumplings (which can rack up calories fast, really, the meat ones)--but it's not the "big bad trigger", I can be sane. I can enjoy it and then make up for it as needed. I try not to have something else heavy in carbs or calories with that meal. I gotta balance it with veggies and maybe lighter fruit. No noodles. No sweet n sour (which is like a killer trigger for a lot of folks, the fat-sugar-salt trimvirate of weight gain  right there).

But if I order a cheat-trigger, it's very hard for me to think rationally. I go all limbic or something. I go primitive and in total "eat-eat-eat" mode. That's why they're called trigger foods. You go shooting off into insanity. Food insanity.

If I have a huge, bit ole cheat day, having what I want, what I want will be 3000, 4000 calories for that day. Maybe more.  Seriously. Not a good idea. And the days the follow will feel harder to control. Loosen control and it's harder to get it back.

I haven't had an all-out binge in a good while, months and months. I can't even remember it.  But I recall well-enough that when I let the reins go and eat that whole pizza with some buffalo dippers, I want to overeat every day that week and more. The appetite comes back full force.

When I eat low-to-no sugar and up my protein and veggies, and the meals are mostly in the 400 to 700 range, I don't get as binge-y. It's as if my body stays calmer when the meals are less carby/sugary and the quantity is not huge.

I had a big caloric meal last night. A bit over 1000 cals. But that's puny next to a binge. And it was big in veggies mostly. I had like 7 servings of vegetables in that meal, and a miniscule amount of bread and a normal (normal for thin, not for obese) serving of beef. Most of the calorie stretch came from the oils (my estimate of the EVOO and butter used in cooking, cause you know restaurants are not discreet). The veggies themselves were negligible. The beef was not over the top. But because I didn't have dessert (sugar) and I mostly erred in fat/salt side, the next day, my appetite didn't wake up crazy. I felt normal today.

So, it's for each person to try and figure out what they can have and handle. I can't handle a cheat day (ie, just eat what I want). I can handle a cheat ITEM or couple of items but not in the "as much as I want" mode. In the "reasonable mode."

Thin, naturally so that is, folks follow hunger cues, so they can cheat and not go nuts.

I can't. Tell me to have a what I want day, and I'm gonna eat a whole pizza.

But tell me I can have one slice of pizza every Saturday, and I may or may not feel like I can handle it. If someone brings me ONE slice, not a whole pie, and I can have water and salad with it to fill up yes. If someone brings the whole pie and I see it, smell it-- I may well go berserk. I am a conditioned hypereater. I'm a binger. I'm an overeater. I'm a person with a freak appetite and a stomach that can eat the food allotment of two burly men and then some.

Know thyself....and don't cheat if you go berserk or don't account for the cheat calories.


Kimberly said...

When I was 370 lbs I allowed myself a cheat weekend, then it became a cheat day, then a cheat meal. That was to help ween me off of the 5,000+ calories a day that I was inhaling at that size.

Now? I can't cheat. If I stay on plan I am solid as a freaking rock. I veer from that and I am doomed.

Thinking that cheating is a good thing is only dooming you to failure. Why delay getting to goal because you want to eat something that isn't on any real diet?

Great post!

Beth at Obesity Strike said...

Ohhhh, I love the term "conditioned hypereater". I think I've earned that label. Excellent. I must get that book. I have a rule about new books so have to get it from the library...stupid rulz.

Anyway, no way I could have cheat days, for exactly the reasons that you describe, it's risky and deadly and not worth it.

Apparently (as my friend Lala told me) the serotonin reuptake cells in the brain decrease with the influx of these higly pleasureable foods (that you've mentioned) and once we remove those foods, the receptor cells increase in their uptake capacity and then if we engage in the heavy hitting foods, they pack an even more powerful biochemical punch than they did when we were eating them all the time. (does that makes sense?) Amazing.

I love the behavioural stuff, I find it really helpful.

Roxie said...

Cheat days would be the end of the world for me. I haven't really ever been an all out "binge" person. At least I've never noticed a string of bad eating. I do have a hard time with pizza. I love it and want it. But my binges these day end up being 2 pieces of pizza and a brownie. Thankfully, those don't happen much anymore.

{Absolutely, Positively} Josie said...

very interesting. i am historically a binge eater (always sugar), and i can very much relate to slipping a little - or a lot - one meal or day, and reigniting the monster appetite the following week(s). when i think about giving up cheat meals, i think of deprivation. but that's another problem all in itself.

even though i have found that when i "cheat" but still watch sugar, i am far, far less likely to go overboard by thousands of calories.

ps: i do (have done, more accurately) pilates, too! i love it and really want to get back into it because it makes me feel great and i see results fast when i eat right and do them! i use mari winsor dvds.

Colleen @ Goodbye, Fat Girl! said...

I am learning that I really can't be trusted around my weakness foods (talked about it in my blog post today). I'm so not at the point where I can just have one serving of such things, despite best intentions. I think that what you said about "know thyself" is really powerful. I have to know my limitations before I can control myself.