The Contrast

The Contrast
Lift Big, Sing Big, Look Great Doing It.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ask The Opera Bro: Cheat Meals and Sticking to a Diet

This "Ask The Opera Bro" is brought to you by another Text conversation. Again, anonymous.

I get this text a lot, actually. People come to me whenever they've indulged or gone over board, when they cheat on their diet. Which is fair, because I used to be a big proponent of cheat days followed by really long 36 hour fasts...but I don't practice that anymore. I didn't make a big "To Do" about stopping my cheat days and cheat meals because I felt that "If it fits your macros" was a natural extension. The better alternative that yields far superior results. But, my cheat day indulgences were somewhat legendary in my circle of friends and those who knew me during "the struggle."

Skinny fat Yeargain indulging in a doughnut cheeseburger. (July 2013 - 220lbs)

Here is another friend asking about the metabolic benefits...

I'll talk about this more in a second...

 Later on that day, my buddy got back to me...


This is a classic scenario. You crave something, you think about it so much...then you finally get it and you usually eat it so fast that you can't even taste it, you get a second helping, and you feel like absolute hell. Happened to me, usually happens to you, and you're left feeling sick, tired, and regretful.

The truth about cheat days:

What are cheat days?

Cheat days are when you decide to deviate from whatever diet protocol you are following for a day, or a meal. It doesn't necessarily mean that you have to go full potato like Mr. Johnson ^^^...but that's generally what happens, especially if you're in a very calorically strict diet or one that restricts food groups of "Unclean Foods."

*Side Note: Check out this kid eating all of this food:

Some people get to have all the fun...*



The Benefits of Cheat Days: Satiation and Fun.

If you're like me, you get hungry. Like, really really hungry. And, if you've stretched your stomach enough and have created that kind of resistance to food induced illness, you can certainly make yourself eat a lot of delicious trash. This day can be fun. I really loved my cheat days. You can go out to eat and say "YOLO" eat a whole pizza, whatever, fuck it. A pint of ice cream. A cheeseburger, fries, YOLO, three giant pancakes, tacos, jar of peanut butter, YO Fuckin LO. But then what happens afterward? You're bloated, sick, gassy, tired, delirious, and now you're left to metabolize all of those calories.

Are there Metabolic affects? Yes, but not as much as you might think...

"The metabolic rate typically increases about 6-8% for up to 24 hours after feeding. There's also large differences in between individuals, illustrated by the fact that the magnitude of the increase ranges from 3-10%. Those prone to obesity ("thrifty" phenotypes) tend to be in the lower range (3%), while the naturally lean tend to be in the upper range (10%). Either way, from a fat loss perspective it's not really justified to eat thousands of surplus calories to burn a few hundred calories extra." - Martin Berkhan from Leangains.

Is it worth it? In my opinion, No. 

If you go full YOLO on a cheat day, you're gonna put on some of the weight you lost during the week before, and you may literally stall your results completely...again, depending on how hard in the gym you went the week before. There are some people who can indulge in the things they want in a minor way, eat it, and say "That was great, and that was just enough for me to go back to tracking everything." For me it was almost all or nothing....

My experience with Cheat Days.

I've never really fully bought into the idea of "eating clean" but I did restrict my calories very aggressively myself for 5 days out of the week, I'd give myself an insane cheat day, and then I'd fast for 36 hours. I did this for MONTHS. I shit you not, I did this from May 2013 - November 2013. I lost a LOT of weight doing this, and I lost it very quickly. I'm convinced that the only way it worked is because I was in such an aggressive calorie deficit throughout the week that I was able to go full potato on my cheat day, eat upwards of 7,000 calories in that day and only put on 2 or 3lbs that I was able to peel off through the next week. I was also working out twice a day, doing hard workouts, lots of cardio and additional things like playing basketball (which is basically HIIT cardio), combine that with being a young man with a healthy metabolism and you have a recipe for success in pretty much any dietary scenario (as long as it's based on an overall caloric deficit.)

Sticking To a Diet: 


You know, it's true...I haven't. I haven't really talked about finding a reason to stick to your diet or how I do it. Frankly, I hadn't even really thought about it for a while. For one, with my previous indulgence in cheat meals and cheat days, I had a "living for the weekends" type of life style where I'd suffer during the week, and then on Saturday I'd be so excited about getting to eat awesome food that I'd wake up early just to get myself the biggest breakfast I could eat. Then when I discovered all the downsides, I found ways to eat all the things I love every day in moderation. So...

That's when things got real with my answer. I was speaking truths I hadn't even thought about before.

Layne Norton, who is a leading researcher, powerlifter, and pro natural body builder literally just released this youtube video where he talks about happiness and specifically in regards to attaching happiness with end goals related to your physique. The idea that you'll be happy when you reach (Blank.) Or, if once I get a six pack I'll be happy, once I can bench 300lbs I'll be happy, once I can do a muscle up I'll be happy. No, you won't. I promise you this. You will not be happy. Layne talks on this extensively in the video and illustrates the point: "You have to love the process." If you don't love the process, you are sunk, because the end goal isn't as cool as anyone thinks.

Let's get this straight. Food can be just as addictive as drugs, alcohol, gambling, or whatever has a negative stigma. We're capable of doing terrible terrible things to ourselves with food and it's as easy as going down to 7-11 and spending your entire paycheck on macros that will send you into a diabetic coma. OR you can whip out your phone and have it delivered to your home. Now, Chinese and pizza is not inherently bad for you, but eating a lot of it can negatively affect your goals towards weight loss, which, depending on how important they are to you, can really mess with your mind.

Real talk.
Two parts:

Jealousy - I am human, and I've invested a great deal of time and devotion to making my body better than it was, so when I see someone who "didn't have it as hard as me" doing things like lift more than me, look better than me, be leaner, bigger arms, or even sings better than me, I get jealous. Now, I never let the jealousy last too long, because I'm a grown ass man and I'm not allowing myself to linger on things like that. That was a kind of behavior I allowed myself to have prior to all of my hard work. No mas.

Jealousy can be a strong motivational factor for people to want to get into better shape, but I think it can be a poisonous one. For one, you will never look like that other person, you will always be different, so that end goal is impossible to accomplish. The pursuit of it will probably yield some incredible results, but stacking your progress against someone elses achievements gets too taxing for Ol' Yeargain, and I'd rather just focus on beating myself.

And now we're back to my current dietary philosophy...

How to stay motivated in your diet: You can't.

I'm really, truly convinced of this. You can't commit to an insanely restrictive diet without an eating disorder, a fear of body composition, the health risks of a food group, or a moral stance. There has to be a fight or flight scenario to keep a person to restrain themselves 100% of the time, or there has to be light at the end of the tunnel. A promise of some kind of dietary excitement. It's engrained into our psyche via media and social norms to want to eat these foods. We're doomed from conception. How to combat this? HOW??? This titan is too big, how could I win this battle? What do I do? HOW?!?!

...You don't, you eat those foods, but you develop control in other ways...

If it fits your macros/Flexible dieting.

I don't like the fact that I've become so God damned preachy about this lifestyle, but honestly, it's the only thing I can honestly reccomend in good faith to those looking to lose weight and remain sane. I literally won't recommend anything else, so don't ask.

Give yourself what you crave, but understand what the result will be. If you spend a day's worth of macros on McDonalds, you're gonna be hungry by the end of the night. It will taste good momentarily, but by the end of the day you'll wish you had eaten a big ass salad with some chicken breast so you can feel level headed and satiated, so you can go to bed feelin good. Suddenly you'll start finding ways to keep to your numbers and satiating your desires. You'll begin making more food at home. I ate a cheese quesadilla today that was bomb as FUCK, better than the shit I get at Taco Bueno and I spent a fraction of the cost for it.

Some of my favorite treats that I "indulge in."

My reward for my dedication to this lifestyle? Awesome food choices, confidence in my method, physique and strength gains, and a die hard love to help others with similar issues.

A quick snap of my work yesterday mornin on the gym floor. New PR's, some failures, but overall a love for the game.

You have to love the process. You have to be willing to chase after your goals and find joy in the chase itself, because once you catch it, you won't be happy. But, running after it will pump your body full of blood, make you excited, rejuvenate your mind, body, spirit, give you purpose, and make you hungry for more.

Until next time,
Lift Big, Sing Big, and Look Great Doing It.

The Opera Bro

P.S. Here is a video I did similarly on this topic...

1 comment:

  1. Miraculous compositions by a marvelous essayist, I should state.