The 21 Day Challenge, Week Two: Allowing a Cheat Day

While week one of The 21 Day Challenge was probably more challenging from a physical perspective, week two of this challenge has been much more of a mental and emotional assessment. The first week I experienced carb withdrawal, hunger pangs, sugar cravings and the likes. But I built up a tolerance after a the first few days and got over the hump and no longer experienced those same feelings of withdrawal and wanting. I no longer really craved junk food as usual. This week, however has been more about how much I want to do normal things just to fit in. Have a beer on a Saturday while watching football, eat a burger with my brother before a concert, or wake up on Sunday morning and have a bowl of cereal. It’s not so much that I’m craving the food itself, moreso the activity. It feels normal to me. And not doing so is abnormal.

Ok, so I caved on Saturday. I couldn’t take it anymore and went to the bar to watch football and had a few vodka sodas and some wings. I drank a ton of water in between so while I did get a little buzzed, I hydrated enough that I wasn’t hungover or sick the next day. I actually felt fine and it felt good to actually sit at the bar with my friends and have a normal night. I gave myself that social exception and didn’t feel guilty doing so.  I needed it. Sunday night I went to a cooking class that my girlfriend got me for Christmas. We drank wine, made some Italian food and had awesome dessert. I knew going in to this challenge that I was going to do that so it didn’t feel like cheating. I woke up this morning and went hard at the gym to counteract everything I put in.

A note on cheating*

While I was originally against this, I actually think having a cheat day helped me more than anything. While I did see great results through 12 days, I felt as though I was starting to plateau – like I wasn’t going to see any improvement from there in terms of weight-loss, musculature, or just the physical feeling. But I think having a cheat day gave me a reset of sorts. My body got so used to no carbs and so few calories that it settled and went idle. I think feeding it with alcohol and sugar got it to start working harder and got my metabolism revving again. I’m going to work out harder to sweat out all the booze so I think the cheat day helped me in a way. I may even recommend it to anyone trying this. Just one day. Don’t go overboard, but have some bread or chips, have some alcohol. It will give you a mental and physical break and help jump start your final stretch heading in to the last week of the challenge.

As I did last week, here are the key takeaways through 15 days of (relatively) clean eating:

  • My posture is better. I sit up straight, and stand tall.
    • In addition, I’m getting better at core exercises like planks and hanging leg raises
  • My overall appetite has decreased – healthy foods like eggs, salmon, and vegetables keep me full for a longer period of time than say, a sandwich with chips. I don’t feel the need to fill up on anything other than what’s put in front of me
  • The normal gut area on my stomach subsided and my individual abs started showing on day 10 (includes working out 6 times in 10 days)
  • Walking 10,000 steps a day is much harder than you’d think
    • A few nights I noticed I was only at 8,000 or so and had to walk around the block in order to get my steps in
    • On days that I don’t workout, I find it crucial to walk as much as possible
  • The veins in my arms are popping more than usual. I don’t know the biological reasoning behind this but seems interesting
  • I went down one belt loop and pants feel a bit more loose on my waist
  • I stopped taking my acid reflux pills since I wasn’t drinking highly acidic things like coffee, beer, or wine
    • But as soon as I had two cups of coffee, I needed my pill. Especially after vodka/soda and wings
  • I now find myself meditating more at night
  • Waking up without a hangover on the weekend is one of the most rewarding feelings

My sleep has been much better. The first week was tough most likely due to calorie deficit, sugar and carb withdrawal that I’m not used to but now I sleep well through the night. I’m actually sleeping so well that on the days I don’t work out, I can sleep almost 10 hours.

I didn’t weigh myself before the challenge, but I imagine after Christmas and New Years over-eating, I was probably around 187 lbs. I decided to weigh myself at the gym today since I noticed I had to tighten my belt – I came in at 183 lbs. So I’ve lost 4 lbs. through two weeks. Maybe even more, considering I weighed myself the morning after my “cheat day” and I also don’t know how much I weighed on January 1. But I know I definitely lost weight on my stomach.

Overall, the cheat day allowed me to get a much needed fresh start. Coming in to the weekend, I was dreading this diet and couldn’t believe it was only day 12. All I wanted was a beer and a basket of fries. But now that I allowed myself a guilty meal or two, I feel refreshed and am excited to get back in to the thick of this challenge. Seven more days and I’m really excited to take my “after” picture and post the results.


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