The truth you need to hear about your cheat days.
“Cheat days, junk refeeds promote an unhealthy lifestyle and can lead to eating disorders. Junk food and sugar is a drug and you can become completely addicted. My story and NLP was my saviour.
Bodybuilding and the fitness industry can be such an amazing thing to enter. It can really enhance your life so much, bring you health, vitality and strength and masses of confidence.
It can help people physically and mentally in such a positive way and show people they’re much stronger than they ever knew.
It can be quite an extreme sport in some ways but people at the top have a responsibility to show that it can be a healthy hobby or career if it’s done in the right way.
I hear so often of people entering fitness competitions or strict regimes off the back of an eating disorder. It seems that competing and being on prep can be a way of helping people keep a lid on bad eating habits. Maybe always bubbling away underneath ready to explode. It doesn’t have to be like that.
Or there’s the flip side where people with a healthy relationship with food enter into bodybuilding and then end up with an eating disorder.
It’s something I’m really interested in.
I know that it effects 100’s of people and it’s an incredible stress and constant torture for people. Going around in circles, never getting to the bottom of it and really throwing away all those negative habits. “Why can’t I stop” and just disgusted in your behaviour and so frustrated and confused.
For the people that have come into fitness off the back of an eating disorder I wonder what happens when the shows stop? Or if for whatever reason the strict regime has to stop. Maybe a break from training due to illness or operation? Then does the eating disorder just come back?
I think some work has to be done to really conquer it.
When I started bodybuilding I was introduced to cheat days. I’d never ever overeaten in my life before this. I’d never eaten a soft baked cookie or a blueberry muffin. I’d never had a dominos pizza or any of that other processed junk before!!
But from these cheat days I started having full days where I’d be eating 6-7000 calories in one sitting. It was a fun event to start with. It was something I shared with other people and we’d laugh and see who could eat the most. So in my brain I related it to something positive and happy times. Also the way that these types of food release dopamine. As human beings we are hard wired to seek out such behaviours.
It then became a habit just like any kind of addiction Like smoking or drugs, it wasn’t something I was in control of anymore. This kind of eating is so harmful! It rewires your brain and the way you think about food. I would start to crave these junky, processed foods to the point of driving to 24hr Asda at 1am in the morning. Filling my basket with as much food as possible and then pig out until I could no longer fit any in. Sometimes if there was more food left I’d make myself sick not to get rid of the calories but to make more room in my stomach so I could eat more.
I’ve thrown food in the dustbin only to go rummaging back through it, wipe it down and eat it. I’ve even bagged it all up and put it in the big dumpsters that the whole apartment blocks shared and then had to jump in to find which liner was mine so I could get it back out and get that food!!! Like any addict, doing things they wouldn’t normally dream of so they could get the fix.
I was a little different in my bingeing that I never felt guilty and I didn’t try and do extra gym work to undo the damage.
Part of the reason why I did it is that it never really made me gain fat. I could do this maybe twice a week and still drop fat on a comp diet and won quite a few shows whilst doing this kind of thing.
So it was like a green light to me to reinforce that this behaviour was ok to do.
For a few years I didn’t even think there was any issue with what I was doing. I thought it was just what we all do as bodybuilders. Strict food and then a big cheat day like a treat for all the strict days.
It was probably around 2014 when I changed a few things. Firstly my life took a big turn and I became a lot more settled and self aware. Plus I’d just passed 30 years old which I think is a time where you start thinking about your future a little more than when you’re in your twenties.
I started wanting to feed myself good quality food always. So instead of sitting in and bingeing on absolute crap I’d go out to a really nice restaurant and have a lovely meal with great company.
Over the last 3 years I’ve managed to get out of all the old habits. It was very hard sometimes and will power is 100% not enough to rely on because this is something that needs brain reprogramming.
Overeating is usually because you want to change your state of mind. Maybe it gives you a warm feeling of calm, stops anxiety, soothes boredom.
We’re programmed to get away from any sort of pain (including stress, anxiety), and we want to feel good and happy. So if we’ve programmed our brains into thinking food is something that gives you pleasure and it’s an instant fix then it’s always going to override any of the long term plans we have of gaining pleasure you’d get out of getting the perfect body after only eating healthy foods for one whole year. That is unless you keep your long term goals at the front of your brain. You have to work at this and constantly remind yourself of what’s more important!
There’s lots of things we can do to completely change our thought and action patterns. But it can be done. I am living proof.
I’ve taught myself to look at foods I once devoured like a fat pig, and now I’d rather wait 3 hours to get home and cook my fish and asparagus. This will seem insane to some people and they’ll think, I could never get to that point.
We have to listen to our destructive inner voice and laugh at it. I used to actually convince myself I would miss the overeating and certain junk foods too much to stop. Like I’d be missing out on life if I no longer had them. What a joke!!!
I’m always thinking of raising my standards. I do still eat some sweet things like cake or dark chocolate but I don’t need it. I don’t feel like I’m gonna die if I don’t get it right now. I can have a little bit and then stop.
You can’t believe what it feels like to eat something nice and then say “I’m full” after having years of a little devil in your head convincing you to keep eating until you can’t breath or you pretty much go unconscious with sugar spikes.
I much prefer to cook my own things, as much organic and fresh as possible. My main goal is my health and looking healthy all the time.
I would usually freak out on a weekend if I didn’t get to binge a little. Even just a meal out with three courses and some chocolate after would be enough to settle me. But now I’m happy to stay in all weekend and just eat some fish or steak with salad.
I hope maybe a lot of guys and girls will realise that the binge eating and promotion of junk days is never a good thing. It causes so many issues within your body. Mad inflammation and hormonal imbalances. You can’t binge and then under eat all week to compensate. It has no place in bodybuilding or in the fitness industry!!”
Written by Rosie Rascal