Reflections on a Cheatfest Birthday Celebration

I started a post on Monday night- Day 29. I wish I had saved it, but I’ll do my best to recap. I shared how great I was feeling, and how paleo was really feeling like a lifestyle. Paleo is easy, etc. In fact, for my birthday, I think I’ll enjoy a margarita and a small dessert, but other than that, I’ll stay paleo.

Ummm.

TLSP already knows how this panned out. I failed, miserably. I think that might be the biggest downfall of the 30-day challenge: it has an end date. All this time, I had intentions to continue beyond the 30 days, but everytime I spoke about the challenge, I was excited to tell people that it ended on my birthday. I’m thinking a name like “30 day kick off” might be more appropriate.

Now I have some confessions to make:

Cheatfest Chronicles

5:30 am: Worked out with my favorite 530 AMers: 27 birthday burpees plus Michael. (I have to put this in here… it is pretty much the only healthy thing I did for myself all day!)

7:00 am: Hit up Thunderbird Coffee, thought about treating myself to a birthday latte, but like Lyssa, I just couldn’t do it. (side note: I did ask the barista if they had almond milk. She replied “no, but we do have almond flavoring”…) I walked out with a black coffee and a breakfast taco…and I even threw away the tortilla.

8:15 am: My class greets me with all kinds of baked treats, including a spinach quiche. I’m still hungry (one taco didn’t cut it!), so I decided that a spinach quiche isn’t all that bad!

10:00 am: I shared my desserts with my class. Have you ever tried to tell 10 year olds that you are not eating sugar on your birthday? It’s tough! So I ate a chocolate covered coconut macaroon. It tasted like liquid sugar/crack. (Sidenote: Ordinarily, my students are not allowed to eat sugary snacks during the day. Since this was a special day, I made an exception, but only after they did birthday burpees in my honor.)

11:30 am: Lunchtime- it felt good to eat pot roast and vegetables. Followed by a chocolate cheesecake cupcake. Oops.

8:00 pm: Birthday dinner at Hula Hut was an all-out planned cheatfest. Fajitas, chips, margaritas, and dessert nachos! Delish.

10:30 I’m not done. A certain TLSP-er decided to derail my plans of making it to Molotov in favor of Whole Foods cream cheese brownies and gelato.

11:00 Enter sugar coma.

I honestly didn’t feel awful when I went to bed. I felt bloated, and stuffed, and anxious to get back to eating clean. But not awful. The next morning, however, was a different story. I woke up really congested- my ears and nose felt clogged, and my eyes were itchy and watery. I am really wondering if this could indicate a food allergy/intolerance- but it would be pretty hard to narrow it down considering that I added EVERYTHING back in at once. The other thing that was really surprising to me was that I was in an absolutely horrible mood. I’m sure this was at least in part due to a lack of adequate sleep, but I also really feel like it was due to how crappy I ate the day before.

Aside from a few tough days right at the beginning of the 30-day challenge, I found that I was in a really great mood overall. It’s not that any of my normal stressors went away, but somehow it all seemed easier to deal with. I felt more content, happy, and better able to focus. The day after my birthday- this was gone. I was easily frustrated, annoyed, and just unhappy. Today I feel a little better, but I still feel like I’m in a bit of a funk.

The good news though: I’m back on track. I’m really anxious to get back to that happy place feeling again. I do think these next two weeks leading up to Christmas will be a little rough, and I’m going to have to work on a plan to be able to enjoy myself at holiday parties but not find myself eating 5 desserts in 1 day. I know I can do it though. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by great friends- TSLP and others- who support and encourage a healthy lifestyle.

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7 Responses to “Reflections on a Cheatfest Birthday Celebration”

  1. It was a glorious planned cheat day! I don’t regret a single bit of it.

    However, as a result of the cheat dinner three things happened:
    1. I had a 12 hour headache
    2. my ability to manage my workload was significantly decreased.
    3. I broke out with blemishes (which shows inflammation)

    Back on the Paleo Wagon for me!

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  2. I’ve been worried for going in for a large cheat meal after reading your posts but it is bound to happen with all the holiday parties on tap.
    I’ve been good even though the challenge has ended as week 4 was when I finally hit my stride. I’ve been trying to keep it going though I did add a couple of small cheats this week
    - a couple of pieces of 88% dark chocolate
    - a small piece of pecan pie at the work holiday party – was too sweet for me.
    - 3 wheat tortillas when I picked up dinner on Wednesday – my stomach didn’t like very much Thursday morning :)

    If I can survive the 4 or 5 holiday parties this weekend, I think I’ll be able to stay on track

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  3. I can confirm the ‘cheat meal hangover’ in spades. It’s such an odd phenomenon, that I can’t help but wonder if that is what a lot of people feel like all the time, and they just chalk it up to allergies, sickness or even just the normal state of being. That’s truly a terrifying prospect to me.

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  4. Ryon, I seriously think I lived most of my life as one of those people you referenced. It is truly hard for me to put into words how good I feel when I am eating paleo- but I am acutely aware of it because I have been on the other side. I honestly used to pop advil like it was candy to try to get rid of headaches and I blamed bad moods on anything I could. Now, I can tell that when I eat well, I feel great… And when I don’t, I can only blame it on myself and fix it with good nutrition. This is so much more empowering than feeling like I suffered from constant allergies and stress.

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  5. I think we all did, Lisa. I experimented with a ton of different diets, and was for a while very self righteous about my “healthy” lifestyle (I had become a vegetarian for a while, believe it or not!). I think though, that becoming vegetarian made me feel LESS like shit than me previous diet of processed crap and McD’s did, so I was convinved that I was feeling great.

    If you’re interested in an amazing chronicle about this sort of thing, check out Lierre Kieth’s “The Vegetarian Myth”.

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  6. Ryon, your comments bring up an interesting topic–the amazing adaptability of the human body. Believe it or not, approximately 70% of the human population suffers from food allergies. That’s the MAJORITY of the population suffering from allergies and likely not even aware of it. That’s because the body has an amazing ability to adapt to the different environments and situations it finds itself in. For instance, if you have an allergy to wheat, the symptoms of that allergy lessen or even disappear as you continue to consume it. Of course, coping with such allergies takes a toll on the body, and its overall ability to fight disease or maintain a state of optimum wellness.

    Although we know that certain foods are obviously toxic (candies, processed foods, etc), one can have an allergy to the healthiest of substances, from kale to broccoli and even berries. Of course, certain foods such as dairy and grains are common culprits.

    The reason I delve into this discourse is to remind us all, that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ diet out there. Sure, Paleo is fantastic, and I believe that it puts us on the right track, but one must continue to listen to their body. As I mentioned above, even the ‘healthiest’ of foods could be an allergen to you, and negatively impact your health. Besides dairy and grains, eggs and bananas are also common allergens. In fact, one can even develop allergies due to the over-indulgence of a specific food–a fact that highlights the necessity of a eating a varied diet.

    For more information on food allergies and genetic food intolerances (new research studies show that foods can turn on and off specific genes!), Dr. Keith Scott Mumby–a British allergist–has an excellent book called Diet Wise, Let Your Body Choose the Food That’s Right for You.

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  7. Veronica,

    I think you have touched on a few very important points here.

    The first is merely that surviving on a diet is hardly the same as THRIVING on a diet. The survivability of the human animal which has led us to become the preeminent species on the planet is the same survivability which has allowed us to construct advanced societies and cultures upon a diet (grains) which is wholly unnatural, and yet upon which we can survive.

    Adapting to and surviving on a diet of wheat (or whatever food you want to) though is completely different than consuming the optimal mix of fuels upon which each individual’s body utilizes the most efficient and to the greatest efficacy.

    Kurt over at the PaNu blog brought up this remarkable point when he hinted that the lifespan and health improvements that caloric restriction bestowed upon monkeys may not have been due to intrinsic advantages of caloric restriction, but due to the fact that the caloric restriction may have mitigated the harmful and unnatural effects of the high-carbohydate and thoroughly un-natural monkey chow that the moneys were subsisting upon. That is, a monkey living on its natural diet would display the same traits that calorically-restricted monkeys on highly-processed monkey chow would. It would be an interesting experiment!

    It’s my personal (albeit unfounded) opinion that it makes the most sense that on a broad basis, a paleo-style “unbrella” of unprocessed foods (this includes dairy) comprises 100% of the foods upon which each and every human can not only survive, but thrive. each individual will vary from another, but I do believe that each individual’s optimal diet lies within this umbrella.

    The address the second thing you brought up, I firmly believe that there are spectrums of adaptation to all sorts of foods, and that foods can’t be said to be intrinsically “good” or “bad” (with the obvious exceptions of processed foods of any sort), which includes dairy, alcohol, etc. That’s why a dogmatic approach to diet is probably not sustainable, and questions such as “is such and such off limits, or OK?” not easily answered with a “yes” or “no”! Hence your point that individual experimentation is absolutely necessary to find the perfect diet for each individual. Food allergies and knowing one’s own body is an essential part of finding this and are one important example of differences between individuals.

    As an example, the gene to digest lactose beyond a certain point in childhood originated in northern European peoples around 4000 years ago. Hence, many persons of Asian descent lack this gene and ability to deal with dairy products.

    Art DeVany likes to bring up a similar point to yours. To state it my own way, all life feeds on other life (this is a point driven home especially eloquently by Lierre Kieth in “The Vegetarian Myth”, and life, by definition, does not voluntarily give itself away generously to be the energy source for another being.

    In short, NONE of our food wants to be eaten.

    Animals have legs and hooves upon which they run away from us. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes don’t have such locomotion, so they rely on chemicals (lectins, poisons, etc) to avoid such a fate. The trick, then, is to DIVERSIFY our toxin intake by varying our food input consistently, even within our own personal diet “umbrella”. Consuming a monoculture of foods can easily overwhelm the pathways in our bodies that deal with specific toxins.

    Interesting stuff…

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