I’m famous for falling off the wagon. And because I live my life online, so many of my episodes of nutritional debauchery have been well documented.
I think my penchant for excess is probably equal parts genetics and conditioning. When I was a kid, I had these crazy contests with my cousin to see who could eat the most. My grandfather—one of my favourite people in the world—also kept a drawer full of chocolate stashed away for the grandkids. And one of my grandmothers made the most amazing peanut butter marshmallow squares. They were seriously mind blowing.
So many of the good times in my life were associated with food. And so I naturally linked “treats” with the happiness I felt back then. In hindsight, that’s not a great way to develop a healthy attitude towards eating. Add to that my genetic disposition for sugar addiction and you’ve got a fine recipe for dysfunctional eating habits.
One of my greatest challenges in life has been overcoming obsessive compulsive eating. As Ryan will take great delight in telling you, I have a tendency to go to extremes. I’m either super militant—eating 100% primal—or I fall completely off the wagon and stuff my face with whatever crosses my path.
But that’s not the way of the Shapeshifter!
We train to live. We don’t live to train. A balanced approach to fitness and health involves the ability to act in moderation. That’s why we wove the often ignored elements of Lifestyle into our Body Redesign system.
Diet isn’t just about nutrition. Food is entangled in a complex web of social and emotional factors. If you want to succeed, you have to arm yourself with strategies and tactics that help you deal with these issues. That’s what the Lifestyle wing of Body Redesign is all about.
One of the most important lessons in the Shapeshifter Lifestyle is the fact that it’s ok to NOT be perfect…
You’re allowed to indulge from time to time. You can let yourself go and enjoy a great meal, or even a day of feasting with friends and family. You can unleash the nutritional Kraken—as long as you have a plan for reigning it back in.
Here’s a great tip from our friend Sue Heintze for those times when you simply let loose and celebrate life:
“Don’t Panic! Forget about the past—you can’t change it! What you can change is the future, so let’s wipe the slate clean and move on—you have control from this point forward. There is no point in dwelling on what you can’t change and wasting energy on guilty thoughts. We all tend to over think things and make them a lot more complicated than they really are—keep it simple and realize that it’s all onwards and upwards from here!”
—Sue Heintze, author of Female Fat Free Solution
That’s important advice, because dwelling on your “indiscretion” inevitably leads to the most dangerous post-feast trap:
“Oh well, I already messed up on my diet. I might as well just eat what I want today and I’ll get back on track tomorrow…”
Sound familiar? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone down that road of excuses. You know where it leads, right? Three weeks later—and 10 lbs heavier—you look in the mirror and curse yourself for your weakness.
Don’t fall for that self-justification. Just get back on the wagon and continue on your journey. Renowned physique coach John Kiefer puts it beautifully:
“Avoid Post-Disaster Morning Temptations! So you had a little accident with food, huh? You have no idea how that entire pizza ended up in your stomach. Not a big deal. You go to sleep—more like pass out—and wake up the next morning to ravenous carb cravings. All you can think about are breakfast pastries, pancakes, cheese-blintzes covered in blueberry compote, muffins and hashbrowns. Stay away. The chemical process triggered from last night’s binge alters the body’s perception of reality and makes it believe (from a hormonal point of view) that it needs carbs. If you feed into the temptation, the desire will grow; if you ignore it, it’ll go away within a few hours and stays away. Coffee aids in the battle, regular or decaf.“
—John Kiefer, author of Carb Backloading
That’s been a big one for me. I always felt ravenous the day after a session of nutritional debauchery. The morning after a feast, a storm of hormones and neurotransmitters is raging through my body—begging me to feed again.
But don’t worry, I’ve got good news for you. If you can get past those first few hours, you’ve got it made. Stick to whole foods like animal proteins and lots of veggies. Your body will quickly rebalance, and you’ll feel your old self again before you know it. But if you let yourself indulge again, the whole vicious cycle starts over.
My good buddy Brad Pilon has some excellent advice for helping you get through that tough morning-after period:
“Increase the volume of liquids you are drinking the day after the blowout. Water if possible, keep it high for the entire day. The day after that drink normally. This will help keep hunger in check, clear out the ‘brain fuzzies’ that can occur after a day of overeating, and tends to help prevent the massive water retention that can last for several days after a big blowout.“
—Brad Pilon, author of Eat Stop Eat
Or you may just want to eat your frog…
“Eating your frog means doing the thing you don’t want to (but know you should) first thing in the morning.
After a big blowout you need to eat that frog first thing the next day! Even if it’s not your regular routine, do a quick high intensity workout as soon as you get up. It will kick start the detox process by oxygenating your body and rebalancing your hormones.
Post-workout, take a very hot shower for five minutes, exfoliate your full body by massaging in circular motions from your extremities towards the heart, then follow with cold water for 30 seconds. This intensely stimulates your circulation to accelerate the detox process from the outside in. Not to mention, it feels awesome.
During the day, eat only whole foods high in fiber, protect the liver by drinking green tea and take a high dose of Vitamin C (several thousand milligrams). This will work like a charm to restore normal digestion and accelerate your metabolism.
Do all this and you are guaranteed to wake up the following day….looking forward to eating your frog!“
—Belinda Benn, creator of the Get Lean Program
There’s one big advantage to Belinda’s “eating your frog” approach. It’ll cause you to immediately shock yourself out of your nutritional trance.
When I have a big blowout, I often wake up the next day feeling completely out of it. And when you’re in that state, it’s easy to slide back into the comfort of a decadent breakfast, or some leftovers from the night before. There’s nothing tastier than a slice of apple pie for breakfast. But it’s just not worth it…
Doing something like “eating the frog” is a great way to snap out of that trance. But it can also be something very simple. Just going for a walk in the fresh air can be enough to bring you back to life.
And this is something you can plan for too. How about making yourself a “Post-Feast Action Plan”? City planners draw up all sorts of disaster plans to cover every eventuality. Why not make yourself a “Day After” protocol like my buddy Dave Ruel:
“Here’s my ‘Day After’ protocol. I start the day by drinking 500ml of water immediately upon waking. Then, if I feel up to it, I will do some light cardio just to get a sweat going and feel a bit better about the fact that I splurged the night before. I will take a few supplements including doubling up on a high quality vitamin C supplement and a quality multivitamin (again doubling up the dose). Potassium seems to help with replenishing as well. I ease up on carbs that day and make sure to get tons of greens and high quality protein sources along with three cups of green tea spread throughout the day. Finally, my overall water intake is increased by up to 1L for my total daily intake.“
—Dave Ruel, Author of Anabolic Cooking
But you know what else? It’s not all doom and gloom. There may actually be a silver lining to the occasional dietary debauchery…
“Go “low” after a cheat day. After a high calorie cheat day, fat burning hormones like leptin are maximized. This is a phenomenal opportunity to go low calorie and low carb to maximize fat loss on this day. The low calorie intake will create a large calorie deficit in the face of heightened fat burning hormones, a clear recipe for heightened fat burning and fat loss. Additionally, glycogen stores will already be packed out from your cheat, so avoiding carbs the following day only makes sense.”
—Joel Marion, author of the Xtreme Fatloss Diet
So let’s bring it all full circle. Don’t get down on yourself if you have a blowout. Enjoy it instead. You might even be doing yourself a favour, as long as you get back on the wagon right away. Just don’t let it happen too often.
It’s also important to consider the quality of the foods you’re pumping into your body if you want to take advantage of the occasional “cheat” to boost your metabolism and replenish your muscles.
The biggest thing to factor in are foods that you may be especially sensitive to. For example, a lot of people have trouble with gluten, which is found in breads, pastas and anything else made with wheat. If that describes you, then feasting on foods made with white flour could short circuit the benefits of overfeeding.
Make sure you stay away from anything you suspect you might be sensitive to. If you want to be certain, you can always take a food sensitivity test. I’m actually waiting for the results of my own test right now…
Even if you don’t know of any specific food sensitivities, you can still take action to reduce the impact of any incidental food sensitivities you might have:
“If someone ate foods they were sensitive to and therefore had excess inflammation, they might consider taking some proteolytic enzymes a few times for the next couple of days, on an empty stomach, to help get rid of some of the excess inflammatory byproducts.“
—Bryan Walsh, author of Fat Is Not Your Fault
I tried this on Bryan’s advice, and it worked wonders for quickly resetting my digestive system.
But feeling better isn’t the only benefit. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Have you ever noticed that the morning after a big feast you barely recognize your own reflection in the mirror? You end up looking like a big bag of water.
The inflammation Bryan’s talking about forms part of it. But as Shaun explains below, this also has a lot to do with how your body reacts with carbs:
“Plan for extra water the day after a cheat day. Remember for every gram of carbohydrate you consume, your body will hold almost 3 grams of extra water the next day. That’s why you hear people always talking about “carb-bloat” the day after cheating. Doubling your water is great damage control to get you back on track.”
—Shaun Hadsall, author of 14 Day Rapid Fatloss
And let’s face it, that bloated bag of water staring back at you in the mirror is the biggest cause of “morning-after” panic. That’s when you either decide to throw in the towel—giving in to that slice of apple pie in the fridge—or go the opposite route of an obsessive compulsive torture workout.
Neither is a great solution. Instead, as my friend Vinny says, you just need to get back to work:
“My best “damage control” tip after blowing your diet would be quite simple: get your butt in the gym the next morning and continue as normal. Shuttle all those amazing foods you ate into your muscles and take advantage of the opportunity to have an amazing workout and “re-set” your metabolism and mindset. But keep in mind, if you totally blow your diet on a Friday night, it does not mean you “punish” yourself and train four times as hard the next day nor does it mean you need to fast the next day or cut all your carbs — this is just obsessive compulsive behaviour. Don’t beat yourself up. Just get back on track and focus on one-meal-at-a-time! Freaking out and worrying will just create cortisol for nothing. The key is to make sure you’re compliant to your diet at least 90% of the time and don’t sweat the other 10%.“
—Vince Delmonte, author of Stage Shredded Status
I think the most important takeaway lesson from all this is to have a plan. And I don’t just mean a “Day After Protocol.” That’s important too, of course. But you need a daily plan. You need a routine and habits that support long-term healthy living.
Grab a pen and paper and write down what you stand for. Really think about this. Include all the nutritional habits you believe in. Create a roadmap for your ideal day. And then slowly start chipping away at those things, creating good habits one step at a time.
If you fall off the wagon, your safety net will be there waiting for you. Take out your list and review what you believe in. Once you make that kind of promise to yourself, you’ll be more likely to WANT to remain consistent to what you wrote down.
But more importantly, those new habits that you form will be like magnets pulling you back onto the wagon. Habit and routine are THE most powerful force directing our daily lives. The more you replace negative habits with positive ones, the easier it’ll be to get back on track when you stumble.
So if you fell off the wagon during this past weekend’s holidays, don’t beat yourself up over it! It happened to millions of other people too. It happened to me. And it’ll happen again.
Instead, use today as an opportunity to prove that you can indulge and still get back on track. Show yourself that you’re capable of moderation. And make sure you resume your efforts to build a network of positive habits that’ll make it even easier to get back on track the next time.
If you have your own post-feast tips or tricks, I’d love to hear them in the comments.