The day off occurs at the weekend. And it’s the one bit of discretion you are allowed here. So I get a delivery of two days’ food on a Friday evening. The next delivery is on a Monday evening. That means that on Saturday, or Sunday, or indeed Monday, I can revert to a ‘normal’ diet.
It is up to myself what day I choose to do this. Monday is out obviously. Pointless as a day off. So it’s either Saturday or Sunday. Now obviously you can see the attraction of having Saturday as your day off. A nice brunch or lunch, a few treats, and then a nice meal in the evening and maybe even a little drink as a reward for all the hard work of denial all week.
But then, that would leave you with Sunday as a grim wasteland, and Sunday should be, in an ideal world, a nice, leisurely day, with maybe a nice family meal, eaten together.
We don’t have family meals right now. Right now I am finding I am having to leave the room once the others tuck into their dinner. If I’ve just eaten my diet meal, as nice as it might be, I can’t sit there and watch them eating a roast dinner or pasta or something, without wanting to get involved. So I eat my rations and leave. Which doesn’t make for a nice Sunday mealtime.
So I’ve come up with a compromise. I take a day off, but I run it over the two days. I define a ‘day’ as 24 hours. I stay on the diet until lunchtime on Saturday, then relax things a bit, and then I keep eating until Sunday brunch, after which I revert to the diet.
This means neither day is totally miserable, and I’m still technically taking only one day off, right? My diet guru Ken Taylor perhaps wouldn’t agree, but I have to admit I haven’t discussed this approach with him.
The other trick is that I plan in advance what I want to eat during my day off. It’s basically one dinner and one brunch, and a bit of snacking, so you need to make sure you make optimal use of every eating opportunity. I say I plan it – it would be more accurate to say that I spend the week obsessing about what I’m going to eat on my day off, going through options, weighing them up and whittling them down.
The first week, I screwed up because I ate bits of pizza people were having and then there was pasta on the go and I ended up grazing on that, and then there were other bits and pieces, and in the end I never had my dream meal.
So last weekend, I was disciplined. My wife agreed to make the fixings for burritos, something everyone would eat, so there’d be no alternative dinner to distract me. We agreed on a meat-free brunch on Sunday lunchtime-ish, which I would have with some reasonably healthy toast. And for snacks I was determined to have a crisp sandwich and also an Avoca salted caramel and pecan brownie. The latter, unfortunately, come in packets of five.
Saturday, after eating the Taylor Made Diet lunch, I went for a swim. And the sea is developing a little chill now, so you’d need a cup of tea afterwards, right? And yes, yes, I should be staying on the diet until dinnertime, but wouldn’t it be nice just to have a half a brownie with that? And the kids have made popcorn, so I better have a little nibble of that too. So far, so good.
Then I had a good long walk with a friend, which ended in Fallon & Byrne with her eating what were basically chips. So it would have been rude not to tuck in, and I’d had the big walk, hadn’t I?
Dinner went as planned. I had three and a half small burritos, and a lot of a burrito is veg, right? And then another bit of brownie obviously.
Then I’m sitting there that evening and I suddenly realise that I don’t have a slot for my crisp sandwich. Because I can’t have it for breakfast (obviously only a philistine would eat a crisp sandwich for breakfast) and then it’s brunch and then I’m back on the diet. So at 10.30pm I have a little crisp sandwich with a glass of milk, and it’s so nice I have to have another one.
Brunch the next day was followed by another brownie (if you cut them into segments and then eat all the segments, it’s not really like eating a whole one).
No surprise then that my weight loss for the week was just two pounds, which is fine and all, but it should have been three.
Lessons learnt: don’t pig out on cheat days. Most bread probably doesn’t really agree with me and it undoes a lot of good work. And most importantly: stop obsessing about food. Stop thinking about it. It only makes things harder.
But I am of course already thinking about my next day off. Burgers maybe.