*Disclaimer: Nutrition WOD is not affiliated with CrossFit, Inc.
When I was a firefighter, the absolute worst thing you could be labeled by other firefighters was a "Lance" which is short for freelancer. The reason was that going into a burning building is the ultimate team effort with your partner's life literally in your hands. While everyone wants to be the guy/girl who knocks down the door, runs in with the hose, and puts out the fire, it doesn't work that way. Everybody has a job and you don't get to just pick the one you think will be the most fun.
In boxes around the country, the stakes are not life and death. Still, we consider ourselves our brother's keeper and one label you don't want is "Cherry-Picker".
The reason is simple.
If you only show up for the WODs you are good at, you are a specialist, not a well-rounded athlete.
The fact is we all know we need to spend more time at the margins of our abilities in the gym. Greg Glassman wrote about this way back in 2002 in the publication Foundations (read it here). Yet, we often throw this fact out the window when it comes to nutrition.
Is a Nutrition WOD really that different from a regular WOD?
We don't think so. In fact, if more people would stop cherry-picking their diets and start putting more focus on their areas of weakness instead of areas of strength, athletes would be equally strong as they are fast as they are agile as they are healthy.
The Death of the Cheat Meal
One of the hallmarks of many diet plans is the use of cheat meals. The concept is at some point while following a particular plan of eating you can simply stop and just eat something completely different.
As nutrition coaches, we find this idea ridiculous.
We definitely believe in enjoying food, but should "cheating" really be the best advice for how to go about it?
How about just following a quality nutrition plan filled with real food with little added sugar, and then letting the meals that don't quite fit this mold just be other meals?
Cheating by definition means you are breaking the rules and that is a stressful way to live your life. It is a recipe for disaster and certainly not a long term solution. Would this really be any different than going to the gym and once a week and deciding to take it easy during a WOD because of recovery needs or otherwise?
Would you write on the board next to your WOD time, "I cheated"?
So do yourself a favor and bury the cheat meals. They are certainly not healthy.
Going Out To Eat Does Not Mean Forgetting How To Eat
I grew up in a typical middle-income American home where money was tight and going out to a restaurant was something special you did on the weekends or holidays. I can remember driving 45 minutes to the closest "nice" mall so we could take my mom out to eat at Olive Garden for Mother's Day. We got dressed up for it too. It was an event back then.
Now, I wouldn't drive 5 minutes to go to an Olive Garden and I'm pretty sure cargo shorts and flip flops would look completely fine down here in Tampa.
We all go out to eat a lot more, yet we still give ourselves permission to cherry-pick those meals because they still seem special. We tell ourselves it is a social occasion and that means letting loose a bit and relaxing.
Except, if we are eating out a few times a week, how special can those meals really be?
Back at the Olive Garden in the 1990's, my parents might have eaten a bigger meal than normal, but that happened maybe once every month, not multiple times a week. They certainly didn't call it a cheat meal.
My point is our culture has changed and eating outside of the kitchen happens a lot more often. So you cannot continue to associate "bad meals" with socializing with family or friends. It sets you up for failure if you believe good tasting and satisfying are synonymous with unhealthy. Instead, we encourage everyone to go out and find the really great restaurants in your area.
You know the ones.
Where you can actually talk to the chef and get straight answers about your meal. Be adventurous with your nutrition because real foods are incredibly flavorful all by themselves. A real chef will know how to put those great foods together for an amazingly nutritious and delicious meal without having to hide behind garlic or processed foods. Once you find a good restaurant that you like, go find another. Before long you will have a group of 5 or 6 that you can rotate through and feel confident about.
Telling you to eat at home more does not solve any problems.
We all eat out more.
Telling yourself to have a cheat meal does not solve any problems.
We all eat "off plan" from time to time.
Cherry-picking meals will produce the same specialist results you would find in the gym if you only showed up on Olympic lifting days. Instead, treat every meal like it has a rightful and equal place in your nutrition lifestyle. Stop giving yourself permission to pick which ones count and which ones don't. When you do this, you will find life a lot less stressful and truly be on the path towards your own nutrition plan, regulating your weight, and becoming lean.