The question that seems to be asked more than any other, by people who are just starting out on the ketogenic lifestyle, is about “cheat days”. It always intrigues me when the subject comes up, because I’m not sure I understand the mindset behind it.
- I’ve decided to change my life, take control, and get healthy
- How quickly and how often can I cheat?
Does that sound like a focused, disciplined mind? It sounds like someone who is already resigned to failure. It sounds like me.
I’ve been there. I’ve made poor decisions, sabotaged my efforts. It is what it is. But I don’t want you to make the same mistakes. I want you to be successful. And you CANNOT be successful if you’re constantly trying to figure out how and when to cheat.
It’s that simple.
I’m a big believer in making things as simple as possible, breaking down choices to the most fundamental pieces in order to make the best choice. When you first start the ketogenic lifestyle, you’ll be faced with choices daily, hourly even, to stay on track or to let the old habits creep in. Thinking about cheat days is self-defeating. The choices you have are, at the most basic point, either: achieve your goals or indulge in immediate satisfaction. There is no middle ground or compromise. You choose one or the other. You can either eat some crappy food or you can continue to work on becoming the person you want to be, fit, healthy, and awesomer (‘cause you’re pretty awesome already).
And conquering this choice is a matter of changing your paradigm.
You are NOT trying to lose weight.
You are fighting an addiction.
You have to change how you view this effort, and it is an effort at first, fighting the old self in order to allow the new self to grow up. If someone is trying to quit smoking, drinking, or drugs, and they asked, ‘What about cheat days?’, it would be obvious that they are not serious about changing. Sticking with the ketogenic lifestyle is exactly the same. The more you focus on cheat days, the more you focus on not getting the results you want.
So here’s some practical advice, learned from many mistakes that I made, which I hope you will take to heart. In the beginning, for, at least, the first 21 days, you cannot, CANNOT, consider the idea of cheat days, cheat meals, cheat anything. You must, absolutely, with pig-headed determination and force of will, NOT stray from the proper ketogenic lifestyle. Give yourself 21 days to stay focused. If you cannot do it, you’re not committed. If you can do it, then you’ll notice a fundamental change in how you view your lifestyle. I promise you, the first 21 days are absolutely critical. Staying focused on your goal will cause you to change how you view what you used to eat and make you realize how you don’t need it, don’t want it, anymore.
But if you fail, realize that you’re human. Get up. Restart the clock to Day 1 and get back on track.
After the first 21 days, give yourself 21 more days to continue your focus. Do not cheat.
If after the second set of 21 days, you still feel the urge to cheat, then have a cheat meal. If that cheat meal is satisfying and you love yourself for it afterwards, then remember it and get back on track, reset the clock and go 21 more days eating correctly. I’m willing to bet, though, that you will not feel satisfied or happy that you indulged. You’ll likely feel guilty, gross, and groggy. That’s what cheating does.
But the darker side of cheating is the long-term mental consequences. Just like an alcoholic who has a “cheat drink” is likely to revert to more and more alcohol, a Ketovangelist who has cheat meals/days is likely to fall away. It’s not the ketogenic lifestyle that fails. It’s the lack of focus and discipline to stay on track that fails. More often than not, especially when a Ketovangelist has no support group, one cheat meal will turn into a cheat day, will turn into a cheat week, will turn into a complete falling away and reversion to the unhealthy ways that got you into this mess to begin with. The absolute, without a doubt, best way to avoid this is to avoid cheat days/meals altogether.
So if you have the urge, even after you notice how much fat you’ve lost, how your clothes fit different, and how much better you feel, to cheat, and you’ve given yourself the crucially important time of two 21-day cycles, then have an indulgent meal, snack, whatever.
Hopefully, you’ll regret it.
I know I did.