If you practice a Paleo diet, you know what “cheat day” means. To many, this represents the one day each week when they loose their minds and splurge on every sweet-sour-tasty-tangy-salty-fatty-carb-loaded-fried-deliciousness they can get their grubby little hands on.
Nothing stirs up more emotions in the CrossFit community than the debate over diet and nutrition, especially when the word Paleo is involved.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term cheat day, we need to bring you up to speed on some terminology. First you need to know what Paleo means.
Paleo is short for Paleolithic. And a Paleo diet refers to people whose eating habits reflect those of our Paleolithic ancestors. The earliest interpretation found in CrossFit is: Eat a balance of meats, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and NO sugar (this being defined as no processed or artificial sugars). That’s it. If it is not on that list, it is not Paleo.
A cheat day, or “cheat meal,” is when someone falls off the Paleo wagon. Jonesing for a donut and eating an entire box of glazed orgasms is a perfect example. Cheat days are for athletes that have their diets dialed and locked in place. Cheat days are scheduled events that occur only once a week and vary in duration based on the need to satisfy urges to ensure a successful week of healthy eating.
To some people, the Paleo existence is akin to a religion. They do not veer off the approved paleo path. (These people have way more willpower than me or are really good liars.) A little bit of cheating, regardless of how insignificant it may seem, is still cheating. Doing so on an exam, in a relationship, or worse yet, a workout is still cheating no matter how you try to spin it. But it’s also important to accept that fact that everybody cheats.
Personally, I give myself permission to flex a bit IF I feel the urge. I find that allowing myself the opportunity to address a craving actually helps me avoid those cravings all together.
Inevitably, even the best-intentioned Paleo Practitioners will occasionally fall of the wagon. If you fall into this category, please do not despair. You are simply satisfying urges that could otherwise spell disaster if left unchecked. Appreciate it for all it’s worth. Just be sure to make these instances of taste-bud madness special and worthwhile, and in order to do so, make them the rarity.
If you’d like to learn more about improving your diet (and your performance), pick up these two books: The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf. And The Zone by Dr. Barry Sears. Both are easy and fun reads filled with tons of valuable stuff.