When I was deep in my cardio days, I lived for Fridays at 5pm. I was done with work and workouts for the week, I had worked my tail off at the gym, teaching 10 group fitness classes, logging miles and miles on the treadmill and squeezing in some lame weight workouts between hour-long “toning” classes. Ahhhhhhhhh! THE WEEKEND! What’s up Bud Light!!? Yeah Mexican chips and salsa!! Hey there cookies, pizza, Wendys, bagels and chips! I LIVED for the weekends…not because I had anything particularly exciting to do…more that I lived for what the weekends represented–RELAXATION AND REWARD! Bring it on!!
And didn’t I deserve it? Hadn’t I been a good little exerciser all week long? Besides, hadn’t I burned up THOUSANDS of calories during the week? So what if I wanted to eat crap straight from Friday night to Sunday night? Right? Well, Miss Kelley Vargo (my workout partner at the time) can attest to all the good those weekends did me come Monday morning sprints at 6am–doing penance for eating and drinking everything in sight for 48 hours straight. Was it worth it? Monday-morning-nauseous-Jill did not think so…but come next Friday night, of course I would always be ready to roll again.
In retrospect, there were 3 things going on here:
First, I had the mindset of work-and-reward. Almost like I was owed the ability to eat and drink anything I wanted because I worked so hard in the gym all week. It’s funny, because back then if I had a really tough workout or say, taught 3 60-minute fitness classes in a row (which was common), I would give myself permission to eat whatever I wanted, as if the workout was powerful enough to overcome all the crappy food. I was never making any physique process because I was constantly killing any chance at it by making poor diet choices. Ironically, now the opposite is true. If I hit a hard workout, the LAST thing I want to do is eat a bunch of crap. Besides making me feel gross, it would blunt any gains I had made in the gym and I can’t have that happening!
Second, I wasn’t evaluating my own food choices and instead giving myself permission to eat based on what other people were eating. For example, I was dating a 6’3″ 250-lb guy who was eating for his size, and internally, I was going, “Well, he’s having it, so I can too” when really it shouldn’t have mattered what anyone else was eating. This is often the case when a bunch of women go out to eat together. When one woman orders some not-so-healthy option, it gives the rest of the women in the group permission to do the same and join in. It’s like saying, well, if we are all going to indulge, it is ok and doesn’t count, right?! Unfortunately, you are alone with yourself when you wake up with the damage the next morning–it is your journey alone and no matter what your friends order, you need to understand what choices YOU want to make. 1 + 1 does not equal zero
Finally, I was completely EXHAUSTED from working out for hours all week. Physically, of course, but also mentally. All I wanted permission to do was RELAX. Food is fun and fun means I am relaxing. Also, mental exhaustion simply did not leave any room for will power. All my mental effort had been used up watching the minutes on the treadmill tick down. Also, the long-duration cardio was actually making me hungrier and increased my cravings, so much so that the sheer willpower I used during the week to keep them at bay was on its last legs come Friday night–at which point it was “game on.” Come Friday, all I wanted was permission to relax with food. I see now that this is more of a habit than anything and that there are plenty of other ways to relax that don’t involve eating to my hearts content. We tend to associate the weekend with relaxation and being able to “relax” on our diets. Which, for many, may be ok, however, for many, a balls-out all-you-can-eat 48 hours is WAY too much if physique change is the goal. It certainly was for me. I was stuck looking like this:
The bottom line is this: I am all for relaxing and I can certainly understand the desire to loosen the reigns every now and then. In fact, letting loose on the weekends is recommended sometimes to reset and maintain balance, but it is important to do it in a conscious way, knowing the physique consequences. And unfair as it may sound, some people can simply indulge and get away with more than others. I know for me, if I drink wine two nights in a row, I am in trouble. While other people can drink multiple glasses every night of the week with no negative physique consequences.
Just as I am writing this and discussing with my mom, she tells me, “But it’s fun. Sometimes you just want to lay around and eat.” LOL I get that and I have done plenty of it. But the end result is always disappointment. It never feels as good as you make it out to be in your head. And then you have no one to blame but yourself and so continues the cycle of guilt and remorse.
So how to end the cycle? My answer is to give yourself “preemptive cheats” during the week. Not so much “cheats” as much as giving yourself small tastes of things that satisfy you throughout the week so that by the time Friday comes, you have not deprived yourself so much that nothing less than an all-out binge will satisfy. Do yourself a favor and take the edge off earlier in the week–a spoonful of peanut butter here, a slice of bacon there, a couple sugar-free candies, etc. You have mastered this (let’s call it “moderation”) when you get to the weekend and treat it like any other day of the week. You eat on Saturday just like you do on Tuesday. You are eating 90% clean 100% of the time versus 100% Mon-Fri and then 30% on the weekend. The former method will keep you leaner in the long run and help you reach your physique goals over time. Not to mention the week days aren’t so unbearable. Good luck! Let me know how you do! ox Jill