Sausage, egg, and cheese on an everything bagel.
Beers
Grilled cheese with bacon on rye.
Beers
Pizza
Meatballs
Cookie Butter
Beers

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That’s what I ate Saturday August 30. A morning WOD at Long Branch CrossFit ran much longer than expected so I didn’t even get started until 1pm. Plus, I have no tolerance for booze anymore and fell asleep just shy of 10pm (‘fell asleep’ is putting it kindly). This prevented me from getting ice cream, cookies, and probably late night cheese fries. I don’t even want to know what I would’ve felt like had that not happened. I wanted to get cupcakes, too, but a run in with the local police (pay your dumb obstruction of view tickets, kids!), put a wrench in that plan. So I went about 80% of what I wanted to do and quite frankly, that was enough.

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It only took about 20 minutes after the bagel sandwich for a slight heartache to hit and a little bit of that wonderful bloat I had missed so much.  It wasn’t awful though. I definitely felt off but nothing I would tap out over. We headed out for beers after that, and this was my shining light in the day. I didn’t care about bagels, or pizza. I wanted a goddamn beer out of a goddamn tap. And it was delightful. All bitter and citrusy. I got a flight. Try em all! It took 6 oz for me to catch a buzz. Yea. That’s embarrassing. This would be where I had the grilled cheese with bacon. It was tasty. Hit all the spots: buttery, salty, crispy, chewy, cheesy. Even so, I turned to my PIC and said, “Honestly, it’s really not that big of a deal. I would be a lot happier with a steak and some veggies right now.” It’s really astounding how quickly your tastes change once you’ve cut the habit. Was it good? yes. Was it earth shattering? Worth all of the time I used to spend thinking about having one on my cheat days? No.

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After a trip to the police station (that’s a story for another day) and a few more beers, it was time for pizza. Here’s the thing that I forgot about carboy-grainy-sugary food. You feel immediately stuffed, but not satisfied, so you’re still hungry. So you keep eating. Shortly after housing more pizza than is appropriate for anything short of a small village, I was face down in bed.

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I spent the next 24 hours in and out of a coma.

I slept HORRIBLY. Tossed and turned all night (and all day). My head was throbbing. My stomach felt like someone had filled it with a water balloon.  I had no appetite whatsoever. And bloat? Holy Moly. See for yourself. I was not sucking in or pushing out in any of these pictures. They were not taken the same day, though maybe next time it would be good to use a newspaper. Then again, this is a blog, not CNN so get over it. By the way, I don’t know how the fuck these people take ‘ab-selfies’ all of the time. This was s nightmare. These people must have tripods set up in their bathrooms with remote controls set to snap at the right moment. This is why I don’t take picture of myself. It’s too friggin hard. Plus I look weird a lot of the time. Sorry my face isn’t in this…I know you’re bummed about it…but those pics just came out….wrong.

Before

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After

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I really wish could tell you I was pushing my stomach out to make a point. I was not.

The morning after.

The morning after. Yes, My bra is inside out. I told you I was out of it..

I didn’t think to check the batteries on my scale, so we’re not going to be able to reference my weight, but I think these visual aides will do just fine. And I don’t want to hear it that I don’t have a six pack. I know. That’s not the point, so spare me. I can’t test my blood sugar or ketone level. I can’t run my blood to check for inflammation levels. I can only do what we all do. Get up and look in the mirror and see wtf is going on. That’s how most of us do it, isn’t it? I’m pretty sure you’re not at home with your basement lab running your blood every day to see what your counts are. All I can do is use my eyes. And my eyes told me something went askew.

By the end of day one of recovery, I managed to drink some bone broth, and have some chicken with steamed veggies. You can see that although the balloon has deflated slightly, there’s still some….airiness…to my lower abdomen area.

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Day 2

 

No my tattoo did not vanish. I flipped the picture cause I was too dumb to take it the right way.

No my tattoo did not vanish. I flipped the picture cause I was too dumb to take it the right way.

Then…The cravings began.

They certainly weren’t lying when they said that wheat is addictive. I haven’t had cravings for sugars, carbs, or anything grainy in ages. I wasn’t even looking forward to the pizza and sandwiches. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.  The very idea of a grilled cheese used to be enough to make my mouth water. To occupy my thoughts for days. Until my cheat day finally came and, glory glory, I could finally sink my teeth into that crunchy, gooey goodness of buttered bread sandwiching melty cheese. These days? Not so much. Suddenly I’m talking myself out of going to get ice cream. Eating fruit every chance I get. It’s CRAZY. I cannot believe how quickly they came back. I allowed myself to cave a bit (fruit, honey, maple syrup) the first two days, but I have to start some real triage now. Cold turkey on the sweets to cut that cycle off….again. That alone is a reason not to have days like this.

So far, nothing about this day was worth it. What symptoms persisted past 48 hours? Glad you asked.

Bloat (very specifically to my lower abdomen – intestines…and bottom of my sternum – stomach)
Digestive discomfort (every time I eat, my stomach feels crazy full)
Slight nausea
Brain fog
Tired
Shit sleep quality
First breakout in ages 72 hours later. Damn you, dairy!

Things are starting to look normal again...but don't be fooled. I still felt like ass.

Things are starting to look normal again…but don’t be fooled. I still felt like ass.

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So a full week to even start looking normal again. Hmm…

After that,  I decided I would take a final picture when things were exactly as they started. Quite frankly, it hasn’t happened yet.  So, I can see now why I might be thinking I was stuck in weight loss, if every single Saturday night I sent myself into a week-long bloat period.  If you look at the pictures, you can almost see that it’s not just, “Oh you’re stomach is just full.”. It’s a swollen, angry gut.  My intestines were PISSED. What. The Fuck. Did you do?! What I might have previously looked at and thought, “i just have a chubby belly”, I now know was nothing more than an inflamed, swollen, angry gut.

Here’s the thing. I don’t think I would’ve even felt the reaction so drastically, or even recognized that it was from the food if I was still doing weekend cheats every 6 days.  I know that because I used to do it and I DIDN’T realize it. You think that’s just how you feel. You think that’s your baseline. It’s not until you haven’t felt that was in weeks that you can grasp the gravity of it. I didn’t know what it was like to feel great until I did, so I had no idea how long I was feeling shitty.

 You don’t know how feeling really GOOD feels, until you feel REALLY GOOD.

As the days went on, the big symptoms started to fade. I stopped taking pictures because, frankly, this shit was taking forever and taking pictures of your stomach is hard. Seriously. I don’t know how these people take ab-selfies all the time. It’s fucking awkward and your phone turns into a fun house mirror half the time. After about two weeks, it seemed my belly bloat had gone away for the most part.  My skin cleared up, sleep went back to normal and my performance improved. Still lingering, though, was the return of my stomach acid issue. If you remember, I had discovered that I likely was dealing with an inadequate amount of stomach acid production which was resulting in a very uncomfortable, extreme full feeling after just a couple of bites of food. I had remedied this by taking a shot of apple cider vinegar 10 minutes before meals. It worked like a charm.  After my D-Day, though, all of that was undone.  Still, almost a month later, I am still getting that air-filled feeling when I eat. Time to get back onto the ACV.

Here we are, a month later.

You may have seen a post about how I learned something unexpected. Boy did I. I have a whole new theory that I’m not even sure how I would go about testing.  I noticed in the week that followed my binge day, though I was eating ‘good’ food, I was craving and gravitating to the sweeter, denser ones. Lots of fruit, potatoes, coconut milk ice cream, ‘paleo’ treats and sweets.  All things that I generally do not have cravings for. Why? Well, I just gave myself a huge injection of dietary heroine and my body wanted more. Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain, told me that this is extremely common for people who have cheat days. This got me thinking, maybe it’s not even the internal, gut reactions that cause people to stall in their weight loss goals.  Maybe it screws up your neurology and changes what you crave and what you eat.

I probably wouldn’t have noticed this shift had I not been tracking my food and paying very close attention leading into it. I rarely have a hankering for fruit. I don’t often want a Paleo cookie or muffin, and I generally feel better when I stay away from starchy potatoes, which has not been a problem. One day of not caring, and suddenly I found myself housing a few apples, a muffin I had been saving from mmm…Coffee, and finding reasons to bake treats.  Maybe when we THINK we’re having one ‘chat day’, we’re in fact starting a cycle where we just replace those crappy foods with their Paleo counterparts in the days that follow.

Maybe we think if it’s fruit, it’s fine. Or if it’s gluten free, it’s OK. Do we ever really pay that much attention? We stop viewing fruit, nuts, and  paleo baked goods as better options for ‘cheats’ and starts believing that by eating them we are being ‘back on track’.  I wonder how many people, when they say, “It was just one day, I always get right back on track in the morning.’, are ACTUALLY getting right back on track, exactly as they were prior to their bagel and how many are going into a few days of increased fructose, sugar, and carbohydrate dense foods

So maybe your stalled weight loss isn’t  just from the lasting inflammation from your big cheat day.  Maybe it’s because your gluten-cheese-sugar filled cheat day was also followed by multiple Paleo cheat days. Maybe if your cheat day was with less offensive items like a coconut flour cupcake or a gluten free pizza, it wouldn’t trigger such intense cravings. I don’t know. It’s all a learning experience.

I want to make something crystal clear. I am not writing this because I don’t think you should ever go ‘off plan’ or have a ‘cheat day’. I don’t think you should make your food choices the thing that runs your life. I do, however, think it’s important to understand the impact that your choices have so you can make an informed decision.  Some days, yea, it may be worth it. For you, you might not particularly care about a little bit of inflammation in exchange for pizza and beers. This is a very ‘to each his own’ conversation. It does mean, though, that when you’re going off on gluten-filled, sugar-pumped food every weekend because you ‘were good all week’, you need to understand that it is not vanishing into thin air when you go to sleep. There are lasting implications. It’s just a fact. However, here’s something to ponder: when did we decide that we ‘need’ to be able to have cupcakes and french bread? Nobody NEEDS these things. We WANT them because they taste good. When did it become fact that you’re depriving yourself, or not living life to the fullest, or that it’s impossible to enjoy yourself if you don’t eat pie? When did eating junk food become a requirement for happiness? Here’s a hint – it’s not.

All in all, I’m happy I went through this test, though unhappy that I sit here, weeks later, still not feeling 100% back to normal. I’ve read that a gluten reaction can take up to six months to leave your system. That once you poke holes in a healthy gut, it can take 3-4 weeks for it to heal again. I’m still picking up too many Whole Life Challenge, Paleo-approved treats and just perpetuating this cycle. I decided to start tracking again, as much as I hate it, just to get myself back to feeling as great as I was the morning of August 30.

I know this was lengthy and it’s time to wrap it up, but I’m not exactly sure how. I want to tell you that you shouldn’t feel like I’m taking away all of the things you love to eat. I don’t want you to feel like you can never have a pizza or a beer. I just want you to understand that everything you put into your body has an effect. Nothing doesn’t count. It doesn’t matter how ‘good’ you were in the days before or how ‘perfect’ you plan to be in the days after. Every. Single. Thing. you put in your mouth does something in your body. Call it a cheat meal. That doesn’t change things. When you cheat on a test, you still get the good grade. When you cheat in a workout, you still put up the good score. When you cheat on nutrition, though, your body knows the truth and reacts accordingly. You can’t fool it. Just be aware, be responsible, and realize that these choices may be standing in the way of your goals.

Sure, three are lean people and top athletes all over Instagram with their pictures` of pizza and cheese fries, telling you they got a six pack by eating oreos and donuts. Sure, maybe they did. Here’s the thing to remember, though: They have been working for years to get there. They have EARNED those meals after years of diligence. They are also the 1%. Remember that 5% body fat and a washboard stomach are NOT an indicator of health.  What I talk about here, are things I believe will help the 99%.  My people. Not the swim suit model who tells Star Magazine that all she eats is ice cream.

For some, cheat days are part of what keeps them sane in their efforts to eat better. I get it. I did it for a long time. Here’s the thing though: You can’t live with the habits of someone who is maintaining if you’re not. Sometimes you have to just buckle down and stick to your plan for weeks in a row. Luckily, that includes bacon, and butter, and steak, and every vegetable known to man….and the occasional coconut flour cupcake.

I was going to do 30 days of Zone next and test that out…then I realized I would only be able to have 1 tsp of butter per meal. I don’t think I’ll be trying Zone.