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Cheat Meals: Are they really worth it (or even necessary)?

Saturday, March 17, 2018

My chosen approach for healing and the resulting elimination of excess body fat is nutritional ketosis, within Paleo guidelines. It's the only approach that supports my body in releasing excess fat. If you want to know more about this you can read here:

CICO Shove Off! 'New Kid on the (Nutritional) Block' Hits Mainstream

The upside of Paleo nutritional ketosis is that it allows me to feel better than I have ever felt in my entire life (even as a child), and it allows me to live the life I want and to which I feel called.

The downside of Paleo nutritional ketosis is that it requires an unwavering commitment to a specifically proscribed way of eating that doesn't easily adapt to social situations.

For the most part, this isn't a big deal for me. I don't struggle around food I choose to avoid (I've made complete peace with the chosen specifics of my journey). I don't battle with food cravings. If there isn't any food available which fits into my chosen plan I easily and happily fast until my next meal.

Regular "cheat meals" have never been part of my fat elimination strategy... not because of any real sense if virtue, but because I really feel no need to eat off plan for the sake of doing so. If I do stray off plan, it's with full awareness and within a very small margin... usually to adapt to a social event or celebration, and always with some basic 'rules/guidelines' still in place. I don't see the point, nor do I have the desire, to limit social engagements because of dietary needs. Everything has ceased being about the food. I've even discovered that I enjoy social engagements MORE now that food isn't really part of the "entertainment."

Most recently, however, I ran up against a situation that defied my usual tactics to stay on track. We purchased very expensive tickets to a fund-raising event that featured a gourmet meal. I went into the situation with my eyes wide open, knowing full well that I would have minimal control over the food provided. I did take what steps I could to minimize the potential damage: at the time we purchased our tickets we were allowed to specify gluten-free, which we did. Additionally, we were provided the menu ahead of time, so I called the event venue and spoke to the Chef (very nice fellow) to make sure that my meal was gluten/grain-free, and devoid of all other obvious foods to which I'm sensitive. Based on what he had to say I felt that the meal would be low-carb enough to allow me to stick to keto macros, so I didn't elaborate any further.

The meal served was truly AMAZING in every respect... and important to note, much to my surprise, I was eating the same meal that everyone else received! The chef designed the entire menu to be inclusive of all the guests, and with respect to any/all food sensitivities. Not ever in the last seven years has this happened! So, I was very happy to:
---have soda water with a slice of lime instead of a cocktail, or wine
---enjoy my bacon-wrapped steak tips appetizer
---have my half-cup of tomato bisque without croutons
---enjoy every bite of my field greens and pomegranate salad with vinaigrette
---leave the HUGE serving of potato gratin untouched on my plate... the two small carrots and two asparagus spears were sufficient, along with my brie and spinach stuffed chicken
---eat only half my chicken... and melt extra butter over all of it
---taste only one forkful of my cheesecake

...all in all, a very successful evening, I thought.

Despite my planning and care, and the Chef's very thoughtful consideration, I still woke up the next morning inflamed (every joint hurt and I was puffed right up) and completely out of ketosis. Even worse, my blood glucose was stupidly high. There was nothing visually in my meal, or by taste that could account for the metabolic drama which ensued.

...and despite the fact that I was right back on plan with my very next meal, it's taken me a whole week to regain all of my lost ground, and my sense of well-being.

Today... FINALLY... I'm once again cautiously optimistic. After a week of struggling to get back into ketosis, it seems I'm finally where I need to be for consistent elimination of body fat, and for feeling my best. There's even been a dip on the scale.

More importantly, my fasting blood glucose is finally back in normal range, and it's stayed there all day, and my ketones are finally rising. If I'm still in this place tomorrow, I'll consider this week-long metabolic ordeal over, LOL. The positives for staying the course despite how I was feeling include:
---no weight gain despite high inflammation and even higher blood glucose
---visible body composition changes continued
---as well as no diminishing of all the other health gains achieved in the two weeks prior to the dinner.

The best thing TODAY is that for the first time in over 10 days I feel terrific once again, and the benefits I look forward to with ketosis are once again evident:
---stable emotions
---high energy
---clear mind
---deep refreshing sleep
---my gut feels GOOD
---hunger is an afterthought, and were I choosing to eat, I'd be in complete control of what and how much I eat.

...all of which lead me to my pondering over the past week: 'cheat' meals... are they really worth it?

My current opinion for myself is a resounding... NOT one bit.

Before I even figured out how to eliminate excess body fat, I realized that whatever I did to eliminate the fat, I had to be willing to do for the rest of my life. Anyone who is successful at the elimination of excess weight, and keeping it off, has to come up with their own list of lifestyle "rules." Weight loss doesn't magically maintain itself, and it's wise to put some time into discovering what your own guidelines need to be. So...

I'm also continuing to ponder how to handle social engagements without derailing my progress. The usual everyday stuff is easy... I simply fast until I can eat food that fits my plan.

This event that completely threw me off is another matter. Had I not eaten the meal, others would have been very uncomfortable. I suppose I could have been even more particular when I spoke to the chef, but I so hate being so high maintenance. "Diva" or "food nazi" just isn't my style.

I don't have any answers on this one just yet (maybe some of you will have some to offer), but I am continuing to weigh these thoughts in the context of crafting my own realistic lifestyle... because getting to a healthy BMI, healing all of my chronic health issues, feeling my best all of the time... these things are NOT negotiable (less and less so as I age)... and I don't appreciate the social pressure to put these considerations second to social convention, fitting in, other people's opinions/agenda/comfort level, being (supposedly) polite/gracious/kind.

(people have been offended at my disinclination to eat certain foods, or even my choice to abstain from food in certain situations)

So, I have to figure this out within a social climate that prioritizes differently than do I.

I wonder... should we be serving social constructs, or should social constructs serve us?
(I suspect that social constructs are at least in part responsible for our obesity epidemic)

I wonder... do I have the courage to attend an event such as the one that started all of this and simply not eat (the food isn't the problem... I can leave the food, the people are)... or perhaps push the food around on my plate and hope no one notices... though... that feels dishonest and wasteful, and I don't like that any better.

I wonder... is it okay to simply take care of myself without apology, and simply leave people to struggle with their own reactions?

I wonder...

...and while I wonder, tomorrow I'm meeting with friends in the afternoon at a restaurant, and I'm choosing to do what is best for me (continue fasting)... and looking forward to seeing how it goes.

Perhaps it's simply the truth that will set me free....

From my friend, WATERMELLEN:

"I like the life I can enjoy when I diet."

To Life!! Yes, Even Life "Sentences"!!

Why I'm Still Here... my SparkJourney Saga

No more Mrs. Doubtfire... or Picture UPDATE at nearly 100 lbs. ELIMINATED!

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Losing a Lot of Weight

How I Am Eliminating 'EXCESS Weight'

(ponder this some and you come to see this SPARKjourney in a whole new light)

As of three weeks ago, I've once again recommitted to eliminating body fat, and I'm making progress (even though life is still annoyingly chaotic, even though inflammation is still a problem, even though distractions abound). I'm no longer "faking it until I make it." I'm all in and feeling great to have my head truly back in the game. Three weeks of consistent investment and I'm moving forward again. Now I just have to get over being annoyed at having to re-lose a few pounds, LOL.

(It occurs to me... next to my marriage, and raising my daughter, this is the longest I've been committed to and invested in anything... I don't know if this an inspiring, or sobering thought...)

I'm journaling the specifics of my keto/fasting journey here, if you're interested:

Isn't it funny how self-care seems to be foundational to meaningful change.

(I started my journey at 250 lbs. & over 50% BMI... Obese Class III)

(...it's best to never forget from whence you came. Those who don't acknowledge history are doomed to repeat it.)

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • PHOENIX1949

    559 days ago
    I love reading your blog, this one's not different.

    Cheat meals are not Worth it - for sure.
    599 days ago
    Very intriguing and thought provoking post. One I too have been pondering myself... especially when I ate 4 Whopper Easter Eggs last night in a moment of weakness because I stashed all the candy in my room to better gauge the amount my children were ingesting that I now realize and wish society had not created this need to stuff our children full of sugar at various times throughout the year... but 4 whopper easter eggs, the only thing I touched out of all their candy... one after another... and instantly felt the ill effects on my body and sat there wondering... now was that really worth it? NO!

    Anyways... thanks for sharing all that... I look forward to learning more about your journey... :)

    I did have a quick thought while reading your blog though... perhaps it wasn't only the food that triggered you to flare up but the extra hormones running around your body due to perhaps social anxiety and stress or something of the sort? Just a thought... as you did really well with your meal.
    613 days ago
    I think these things are changings today, there are so many people that chooses to abstain from different things - gluten, lactos, carbs, sugar, meat - I spoke to a hotel manager who said that "food exceptions" are more "normal" than "normal" today. Making others uncomfortable by not eating is a phenomenon that disappears, maybe also seated dinners or complete menus will change also. Buff├ęs or even social gatherings without eating at all will develope.
    627 days ago
    What a lot to ponder! Two months from today I will be in a similar situation. I am very sorry that that meal (which sounds totally appropriate) threw you off so much and for so long. Your insights and perceptions are very instructive and impressive.
    628 days ago
    Ramona, I wish I had answers.

    I am the person no one wants to invite and the person that does not get invited. Why? I suspect it is because those that choose not to invite me are too uncomfortable with my food choices and/or my choice not to eat in uncertain situations.

    I guess it isn't enough to simply enjoy my company while I have something to drink as they dine. Why is it considered rude to not eat along with others? Personally, I find this social convention ridiculous. I feel no need to force my choices on others. I feel no need to force others to eat simply because I am eating.

    Like you, I've paid the price even after careful preparation and I simply am no longer willing to spend a week or more in pain trying to recover from a single risky meal. For me, not worth it.

    It is uncomfortable being judged by others as rude, when I am simply choosing to take care of my health and well-being. People do not seem to understand that the foods I choose not to eat, literally make me sick.

    Hugs to you, lady! emoticon
    630 days ago
    I agree w/MTN_KITTEN's simple answer. It is perfectly all right to leave the struggling to others and do what is right for you! Not worth the pain and inflammation!

    glad you're feeling better now.

    Cheat meals? Not in my plan either. Not worth it.
    630 days ago
    I wonder... is it okay to simply take care of myself without apology, and simply leave people to struggle with their own reactions?

    Yes, yes and YES!!!!

    Thank YOU sooo much for this post. As I come completely off a long binge cycle ... I too, am asking myself if it was allll worth it. I found 30 pounds, I've been sick for 2 1/2+ months.

    As I eliminate foods that offend me ... I also have eliminated the words "bad, cheat" foods.

    630 days ago
    It would certainly be interesting and helpful to find out what was in the food that set you off. Although at the opposite end of the diet spectrum from you I totally understand your angst and concerns. I attended a wedding in October, the bride suffers from Crohns as well as being celiac. She also knew that I am vegetarian (as were several other guests) and arranged for special meals for us. A lot of the meat eaters wished they had asked for our meals as well!
    You have set a path for yourself that ensures you health and well-being, if that upsets others so be it. I am glad that you have made your efforts a total commitment, well done! emoticon emoticon
    630 days ago
  • JUSTME29
    I agree that for this whole weight loss thing to work, we have to find a sustainable plan, one that we can live with forever. For me, that includes the occasional junk food, fast food, whatever. I don't want to ban certain foods or food groups from my diet because I will resent that kind of plan. I'm fortunate not to have food allergies or sensitivities so for me it's a matter of eating healthy, lower calorie foods most of the time. When I choose to have pizza or donuts or whatever I don't consider it "cheating".

    For those that do have serious food sensitivities, I think they should be do whatever they need to in order to stay healthy. Being a "diva" or "food nazi" vs being someone with legitimate concerns about their health has a lot to do with the attitude and expectations with which one approaches a meal. Calling ahead and sharing your concerns with the chef, asking about ingredients and preparation, and then making a decision (like you did) is not being a diva. Demanding to be served a whole different meal than anyone else, and calling attention to yourself by interrogating the waiter is being a diva.

    If I invited a guest to my home who chose not to eat the food I provided due to food concerns, the next time I invited them over I would make sure to prepare something they could eat. I wouldn't be angry or offended, just disappointed that I hadn't provided for my guest.
    630 days ago
  • BERRY4
    Such a challenge to "dance" our unique "dance" in the presence of others!... (quote by me) emoticon
    You are speaking directly to my current question / concern. I also have an event Sunday at a local restaurant. I also am NOT eating. (Right now, it's the only time I feel good.) emoticon So until something changes, I want to stay the course. (No food. No GERD. Better sleep. Loss of weight. No hassles w/ meals.) -- I'm thinking the restaurant won't even let me in without paying. (It's a buffet-style; and it's a birthday party.)

    I'm not at your point re. letting food go when it's in my best interest. I still am dealing w/ a tug-of-war with what I think I want (after 50+ years), and what my body can cope with for best health. -- I haven't always been in this place. Seems frustrating to me to have to make such major changes. emoticon

    I still think the changes in our world SHOULD allow for individuals to make their own personal choices. (It certainly seems to apply to all other things "outside" the used-to-be norm!) -- And as you said, as we get older, it just seems the absolute BEST choice to make those decisions that directly affect us, in either positive or negative ways. And it is NOT selfish to want God's best for YOU.
    630 days ago
    I find that I am often attending dinner functions that totally derail the diet plan. You handled it well with all your preparation and yet is still caused issues. Makes me thankful that my issue is "just" the weight loss. But still... I struggle finding a balance between being true to my goals and not being that person that no-one wants to invite! It can be tough and is different with different groups of people- friends , coworkers, extended family... I personally believe that we each need to find a level of self satisfaction that is comfortable for our own personality and level of health.

    Good luck finding your "sweet spot"
    Thanks for sharing.
    630 days ago
    Perhaps make a donation to the charity and forgo the dinner altogether. It seems like it was an expense to your health and well being that you might not want to repeat.
    630 days ago
    emoticon for your trouble. Glad you feel terrific again!
    631 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/17/2018 10:16:46 AM
    Terrific blog.
    631 days ago
    Thank you for this. It is well-timed for me. I've been struggling at the top end of my fat release range because it feels 'so extreme' to get to where I've already self-experiment observed my body is going to need (whole foods keto range with food sensitivities avoided) to go for inflammation reduction and loss. Not a 'misery loves company' thing, but an 'oh here's someone who also found this and is finding their way successfully'. Successfully and thriving.
    emoticon emoticon
    631 days ago
    631 days ago
    Very interesting blog! So glad that you are back to feeling healthy again . .. and sorry that you had such a difficult experience.

    I'm with you: "cheat" meals aren't worth it. It's no favour to my body to eat something that will make it uncomfortable.
    631 days ago
    WOW!!!! I admire your courage and emoticon and emoticon


    - Nancy Jean -
    631 days ago
    631 days ago
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