Okay, so I am going to talk about food again; specifically, what happens when you go off plan and then come back on. So, just a pre-warning, in case you are sick to death of hearing about my current eating proclivities, that’s where this is going. I started on plan on Oct. 2nd, and did not have my first cheat until Christmas. It was then, that I made my first discoveries about my body’s reaction to carbs and about how taste and preference and habits can change. I have had another cheat [actually two in a row sort of] and so I feel compelled to talk about what this has taught me so far. The reason I feel a need to share this is because when you have been on plan for a long time [ie.. longer than a few weeks or a month] and you are thinking about going off plan, you wonder things like: “How is this going to make me feel?” or “How much weight might I gain?” or “How damaging is this to my overall progress or my health in general?” I had many more questions than this, but you get the idea. I actually googled some of these questions trying to find out if others had written about their experiences with going off and back on plan. Hopefully, this will help others who are faithfully following their plan and making wonderful progress toward their goals to decide if, when, and how they might go off plan and then come back on. It can possibly just give you more points for your risk-to-benefit ratio list.
The trajectory of this post will change due to some influences over the past week, not the least of which has been Daniel Cox [I’ll end this post on a video note from him]. I will, however, continue with my original direction for a moment by saying that I chose Valentine’s Day as a planned cheat day. I love chocolate so very much that having a planned cheat day helps me to keep from caving to temptation by allowing me to say “later” instead of “no, thank you.”
On Valentine’s Day, I was only able to wait until about 1:30 pm before I caved to temptation. I had a little smartly decorated brown paper sack on my desk full of goodies and I chose one of my very favorites to indulge in: A 3 in. Hershey chocolate bar. I love chocolate and appreciate fine chocolate, but I am also devastatingly loyal to Hershey. There is something about the taste and the melt point and the teeth sink, especially in these little bars that are slightly thicker than a traditional bar and not as thick as a kiss, that does me in. So, I took that first bite…. and …. o. m. g. …. it was so wonderful! I ate that mini Hershey bar so much faster than I intended to. Before I knew it, I had eaten four of them; yes, I said 4 of them! I then began stuffing candy into my mouth like Charlie Bucket. The next piece was a Reese’s peanut butter heart, which was oh so forgettable followed by one of those long skinny Tootsie Rolls. Now, when I got to the Tootsie Roll, I was able to stop and take stock and realize that it didn’t even taste remotely pleasant. It tasted sort of plastic and watery sweet– so underwhelming that I spit it into the trash after only chewing for a few bites. After this orgy of candy eating, I felt slightly nauseous and out of control. I was horrified that I could be so seemingly in charge for so many weeks only to behave like a fiending junkie when faced with the opportunity to indulge in a planned cheat. What I learned? Candy, specifically chocolate candy, is a trigger food that makes me behave like a shameless, unconscious addict.
Later that day, I continued my planned cheat with wine at supper [first glass since September] and Lily’s pizza [2.5 slices] followed by buttered popcorn and Nestle’s Bunch-a-Crunch at the movies. The wine was heavenly as was the pizza, especially that pillow-like crust that sent waves of pleasure through my entire body. If it sounds like I have a sexual relationship with food, it’s because I do; you are not imagining this. Now, the Bunch-a-Crunch and the popcorn were big let downs, probably because I had already indulged so much this day that I had reached a saturation point of sorts, but more likely because they never were really that good and I am just realizing this. What I learned: good pizza is really wonderful and so is a great glass of Riesling after a five month absence, but I wasted a lot of time pining for popcorn and Bunch-a-crunch when it is not really that good, and finally, carbs make me incredibly sleepy and behave just like narcotics in my body.
Next day, I felt really ready to go back on plan and I did, but then came Saturday when Bean and I and the kids were out of town at a getaway to the Great Wolf Lodge where we found that our hotel had its very own Dunkin’ Donuts, Pizza Hut, and Dippin Dots outlets. Bean said he might not stay on plan while we were there and I found myself encouraging him by saying, “oh, that’s fine, I might not either.” Lesson learned- coming recently off a cheat makes me more susceptible to cheating again [it’s a slippery slope, folks] and being the addict that I am where food is concerned I found myself in rationalization mode. Good habits die hard, though, and so this day became about the battle between good and evil inside of me. I carried my OP snacks and water about and watched Bean and little beans eat fries, corn dogs, and chicken tenders and I walked around the water park irritable and complaining about the lack of a lazy river, about the temperature, about the wetness of everything [really], but even when faced with Cracker Barrel for supper, those good habits were still winning battles when I chose a low-carb option of a burger and turnip greens for supper. I was full and satisfied and did not need another thing that evening, but I lost my head again when sitting in the lobby of this den of temptation and it was me [I know, I cannot believe it or that I am admitting this] who suggested that we go downstairs and have ice cream in a waffle cone and then wake up to a breakfast of Dunkin’ Donuts and coffee. I suddenly had gone off the edge. I was in free fall and ready to make poor choices for the remainder of the weekend. Note: the ice cream was forgettable and not worth eating. I fell into a carb fueled sleep but woke anticipating those donuts. The donuts were really good- Dunkin’ Donuts knows how to make ’em and when they are fresh, they are divine. I found myself having a much better day in the water park. Bean commented, “wow, you seem so much more relaxed today.” The connection was clear– I was calmer and more relaxed because I was impaired.. like a junkie– I had slept after a fix and woke to another fix and I was feeling fine, medicated right into bliss. I continued this crazy binge with Bojangles for lunch, Chubby’s Tacos for supper, and raspberry thumbprint cookies from Francesca’s for dessert!
Writing about this makes me see the addict in me so much clearer. It is scary as hell and I can tell you that I was more than ready to go back on plan. The price of re-boarding the TSFL bus next morning was that I would have to go through days of irritability and would not be back into mild ketosis and feeling really good again for anywhere from a few days to a week. I also paid with the weight I would have lost during this week or so and I am sure there were negative effects on my blood sugar, triglycerides, and other body systems. What I learned, though, was that even though I have been following this plan for over four months I still have work to do toward reframing my relationship with food. Going back on plan was comforting on so many levels: I felt in control again, I was now back to structured choices within a defined scope, and I was eating those foods that had taken me to this new place that I love so much– my cereal crunch and my hot cocoa and chicken noodle soup.
And so now, here I am over a week after I went off plan [or as Daniel Cox puts it- “got off the bus”] and I am back into mild ketosis and feeling pretty darn good again. The downside is that I weigh the same as I did before my planned cheat, so I literally lost over a week of progress. This week was not has difficult as I anticipated, although I did have a meltdown about 5 or 6 days in where I over-reacted to something Bean did and got so upset I cried. Daniel is so right when he talks in his videos about having to feel our feelings when we can’t eat them anymore and, well, sometimes they just come spilling right out over the top.
So, in the do as I say and not as I do spirit, I will end with a video by Daniel Cox who is a fellow health coach.You should check out his YouTube channel if you are already on TSFL and he will motivate you in so many ways. I loved this particular video because it helps put going off plan into perspective and I like that he ‘gets real’ with his viewer in sort of Dr. Phil style. So, thanks, Daniel. You are an amazing inspiration. I don’t necessarily regret going off plan this time because of what I learned, but I want you to know that in part because of you…I plan to “stay on the bus.”