I was at a gathering last weekend and I ran into an acquaintance of mine who I hadn’t seen since I graduated from high school. We briefly caught up, finding out what the other had been up to since back in the day, so I let her know that I was actually a personal trainer now. After a series of unimpressed Carl Winslowian glances, we part ways for what I presume will be the last time.
Then, suddenly, it happened…
Its dinner time. I’m at the food table, loading up my plate with copious amounts of meat and fruit, when I notice out the corner of my eye the most precious looking piece of cake I have ever seen. As a fan of all things precious (shout out to Gollum), I consider it not only my right but my duty to devour said piece of cake with reckless abandon. As I load heaven on Earth onto my plate and prepare for action, I hear a familiar voice from behind me, filled with much admonishment, and I know that I’m about to get a tongue lashing of epic proportions.
“Cake?! Is that cake?! As a personal trainer I thought you would know better than to eat that.”
By the look of sheer horror on her face, you would have thought that I rappelled into her home, kidnapped her dog, and strategically hid raw meat all over the house. At this point I viewed her as an obstacle between me and my grub, so the only reply that I was able to muster was that one had to simply live their life; then I peaced out, leaving her to struggle under the gravity of such a profound statement.
It always amazes me how much you can tell about where a person is coming from by hearing statements like this. From what I gathered, I got a feeling that she was under the impression that in order to get and stay lean there are certain foods that you can never eat again. Having been in the same position as for several years, I can certainly relate. I went from the Abs diet to the Atkins diet to pretty much bathing myself in fat on the anabolic diet wondering why I couldn’t defeat the chub monster in mortal kombat…all while eating entire packs of chicken thighs every day. Let me say this loud and clear as to hopefully save at least one person from the pain and frustration that senselessly spinning ones wheels can cause: in the pursuit of the kind of body that you desire, no foods are off limits.
I think this point needs to be hammered home again and again until it sticks because a lot of people fail in achieving their fat loss or muscle gaining goals due to the fact that they’re stuck in this good vs bad food dichotomy and end up binging on foods that they’ve attached this mythical, grail-like status to. Luckily for us, it doesn’t have to be that way. If you want some of the best advice you’ll ever receive on fat loss, look no further than Jay’s sage wisdom to Steve Carell in The 40 Year Old Virgin – don’t put the food on a pedestal. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t food he was talking about, but the point remains just as valid.
After such a severe restriction of the foods that one loves, there tends to be a huge rebound (gorge-o-mania if you will) and then feelings of weakness and discontent rear their ugly heads, only prolonging the situation. How many of you out there have turned a cheat meal into a cheat day, week, month or even year? Maybe it’s just me then! By drop kicking the pedestal that you’ve put all of your favorite foods on, you’re one step closer to gaining the psychological edge in the fat loss battle. You certainly can have the foods you love as long as you stick to the following stipulations – they are both infrequent (I.E. once a week, month, etc) and portion size is controlled. Take me for instance: I love Cinnabons. Heck, I might even fight a silverback gorilla or 1990s Mike Tyson if there is a box of them waiting for me on the other side of defeat. So, every other weekend after my Saturday training session, I stand in line to acquire my large, guilt free Cinnabon and I am no less lean because of it.
I am by no means suggesting that you substitute your standard food staples for delicious treats; rather I am saying that you should include them into your overall plan. Yes, you should get your necessary amounts of protein, essential fatty acids, fruits and veggies, but after that anything else is simply discretionary calories. If you are training and creating a caloric deficit via movement, diet or both, then success is eminent, even if you have cake while doing so.