The six week challenge is winding down this week, and after yet another week of deprivation at social events all I can think about is my first day of freedom afterward.
A “diet” in the sense of some short term starvation fest to let you shed weight quickly doesn’t need to be sustainable. A “diet” in the sense of an eating lifestyle, by definition, has to be. The nutritarian diet, as defined in the Eat To Live book, just doesn’t seem sustainable to me. It’s not that it can’t be done by certain people. It’s not that it can’t be done most of the time. It’s not even that it couldn’t even be if one eats mostly at home or has friends that eat in a similar way. When you are in the situation where that isn’t the case however, I don’t see how it is sustainable.
It’s not that it is impossible to enjoy the foods that one eats that are core to the diet. I’ve actually taken a very strong liking to the Black Forest Mushroom Soup from the book and Caesar Dressing from the book. I’ve also built up a craving for the Sardinian Stew that I modified from a comparable recipe in the Blue Zones book into nutritarian compliance. I love eating pounds of fruits and veggies per day. But none of that makes up for the complete dearth of options in most restaurants and at most venues.
If I didn’t have a sweet tooth, I suppose it wouldn’t bother me that I didn’t get to eat a single cupcake at a friend’s birthday, or the cheesecake at my brother’s. If I had an allergy to shellfish I probably wouldn’t have missed the crab cakes at a friend’s going away party, or a similar allergy to gluten would prevent me from wanting to indulge in the four pizzas I made for guests one night. If I hated the flavor of alcohol I probably wouldn’t have minded missing the chance to sample over a dozen local varieties at a beer and wine festival, but even then that chocolate bark, or even just some candied almonds would have at least held me over for a bit.
Instead I steeled myself against the urge to eat those things by reminding myself that it was just for six weeks, or actually T-minus however many weeks were left in the program. No, I wasn’t going to cheat just one day, I was going to be steadfast on the program. So what did that leave me with? In some cases literally being able to get nothing but water, or maybe seltzer water, for the entire duration of an event. On one day where they were back to back it was a total of twelve hours of that situation. I had predicted these problems so shoveled food into my face before leaving that would at least not having me fighting hunger and a craving for those foods. But even that got stressful as I had to work that into my schedule rather than have eating being an integral part of the experience. Again, I would just remind myself it was for a limited time and then I’d be set free, but that mindset is the antithesis of where it needs to be to be sustainable.
I shouldn’t want to be set free from a way of eating that I’ve chosen. I should embrace it. The long term diet has a 90/10 rule when it comes to foods. Ninety percent of it should be the exact same way I’ve been eating, and ten percent can be the rest of it. That’s about 200-300 calories a day within which to eat any animal product, any added oil, any alcohol, any refined grains. So that’s about a chicken breast, a couple glasses of wine, a few ounces of cheese, a bowl of ice cream, or a third of a piece of cake each day. That isn’t too bad. It would have given me some slack anyway. But I think I need more slack than that even. It’s not a question of going into an all out binge mode, but realistically that’s not how the situations above would have played out.
The wine and beer festival alone would have been a few glasses of beer, maybe a glass of wine, and some fried food. That’d be two to three times that much. Forget about the pizzas later in the day, or the food and beverages at the events the day before and after. So 90/10 is good for most days, but I think there needs to be “free days” sprinkled in too. I did this exact same mechanism when I started doing Body For Life back years ago. One day each week I ate whatever and however much of whatever I wanted. I’ll get into the free day concept some other time, but needless to say that a diet that doesn’t provide flexibility to some degree to at least indulge periodically at events and parties isn’t one that is going to stand the test of time. I think back to a vegan celebration I attended years ago. Tons of nutritious and delicious food, but between added salt, added fat, and refined sugar additions probably 80% of that was off limits too. Pardon my French, but that’s fucking ridiculous.
Hopefully on the other side of the challenge I’ll have better perspective on how I want to incorporate free days and the ten percent slack into the diet. With only one week left of the challenge I better figure it out quickly so I don’t fall totally off the wagon and start a climb back up to my pre-challenge body composition that is as steep as the decent. But first, I’m going about planning my day of freedom, my first free day if you will. With it just days away I will be able to hold out, but I can already taste the homemade pizza and ice cream that I’ll be eating shortly after toasting the successful completion with a glass of champagne.