When I start people off on my program, the first month can be a little rough. It’s very restrictive but there’s a point to it all. I’m not some cruel food tyrant damning my clients to a life of clean eating, free of any indulgences. I’m trying to educate them on what they need as individuals to look, feel and perform better. As I tell everyone I work with, there’s no one way that works for everyone. What works for me, may not work for you. So basically, you’re all unique snowflakes. So you got that going for you, which is nice.
As I mentioned previously in The Death of Paleo, eating real food is a great place to start, but just because something is a real food item doesn’t mean that it’s going to be good for you personally.
I do give my clients a light at the end of the tunnel. On day 22 of Phase 1 of my program, I allow them to have a treat meal. But keep in mind that this isn’t a free-for-all. There are rules that I give them as well. The most important rule is that it is a meal, NOT an event. There will be no balloons and confetti. There will no parade and marching band. The mayor isn’t handing you the key to Food Town (although that would be pretty sweet, right?) It’s not your last meal on Earth. Stop eating like it is. It’s simply a meal. Eat it slowly and enjoy it.
You’ll here the phrase 80/20 thrown around a lot in regards to diet and nutrition. This means that 80% of the time you’re good, and 20% of the time you say f*ck it and burn the village to the ground. That may work for some but not others. Because when that 20% becomes an event and you stumble home like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man in a food coma, that’s when it happens. That’s when 20% becomes 30%. And then 30% turns into 50%, which eventually morphs into 80%. Now you’re back at 80/20 but it’s the inverse.
If you follow the 80/20 and have the standard 3 meals a day, that’s 21 meals in a week. Take 20% of that and that’s 4 meals each week where you go off the rails. If you’re someone who is trying to lose weight, that doesn’t seem like a good way to do it. Those 4 meals will probably set you back each week, depending on how much damage you’re doing per meal. I know I can do some damage.
There will always be people out there who can eat whatever they want and have no external change to their body, but for the rest of us, we need rules.
If you’re at a body composition (body fat percentage and lean muscle mass) that you’re happy with and, more importantly, can maintain with little effort, then you have a little more wiggle room with your indulgences and treats. Whether you choose to actually have them, and how often you have them, is up to you. If you’re not at a body composition that you’re happy with, or can maintain easily, then keep it to one treat meal per week and see how you do. But remember, it’s just a meal, not an event.