Friday, April 26, 2013

Did You Cheat?

by Tracy Zimmer

So many people claim to be on a “diet”—a term used very loosely these days.  Many dieters confess to “cheating.”  Some cheat on the weekends as a reward for a good week of eating, others don’t make it to the weekend, and are lured in by non-diet food mid-week.  I have done the weekend cheats and had great success, but would be lying if I said I resisted mid-weak temptations now and again. 

I love to eat.  I constantly think about food—if it’s not the food I’m eating, I’m very aware of what others are eating around me.  In the past I have dieted strictly for months, and I’ve eaten like a savage for weeks.  I have felt great adhering to my diet, and guilty about eating shitty food.  I can’t seem to find the middle area: where people wake up and decide what to eat throughout the day, grazing on snacks to hold them over till lunch, or dinner, or whatever.  I want to know what meals I’m going to eat as part of my diet, or I want to eat something that will give me instant gratification—usually ice cream, peanut butter, donuts, cakes, etc. 

Over the past couple of years, I can think of many hilarious/shameful situations as a result of my cheating.  Most involve family, Cristi, or Steel since I’m around them most.  Here are some examples:

Hilarious: I can’t remember what diet I was following when Cristi started working at Penn but I was very consistent during the week and had a cheat meal on Fridays.  After I cheat it is very noticeable the next day—I hold tons of water because I tend to gorge myself on sugary treats, and my face gets puffy.  I remember deviating one week, and when Cristi and I were benching, she looked at me and asked, “Are you ok?  Looks like you were crying or something.”  I answered, “No, I just ate a bunch of food last night so my eyes are puffy.”  I knew exactly what she was talking about, and we both laughed about it—the day after cheating effects were new for Cristi!

Shameful: Unlike Cristi just noticing the puffy-post-cheating look, Steel knows the look and always calls me on it.  Since I typically ask him for diet suggestions, the weekly regimen is cut and dry, but I’ve deviated quite a few times.  In fact, I cheated about 10 weeks out from competing and I remember Steel was pissed.  I gave him every reason to doubt me and asked if he thought I could stick it out.  He answered, “Well…given your track record…” So when I see him after unplanned-cheating (that’s more like a feeding frenzy), rather then say, “Hi” I’m usually greeted with the question, “Did you cheat?!”  I’m never really prepared to answer, “Yes,” but the truth always comes out.  I remember once Steel asked about 7 times before finally I admitted to it, which is just awful!

I know I can stick to a diet.  I also know I can eat copious amounts of food in one sitting without recognizing any satiety till I actually feel sick.  We’ve all indulged at some point.  Whether your vice is sweet, savory or of the bottled variety, I’m always fascinated when others say they can eat “A LOT”—whatever your definition of a lot is, I don’t believe you. 

When I cheat, it’s either all or none.  I’m the ultimate enabler when I want to be.  Food is definitely a drug, and sometimes I just can’t get enough….

Ice Cream-my FAVORITE food-I don’t like mint chocolate chip, but anything else…bring it on!  Ben & Jerry’s pints are single servings as far as I’m concerned.  Breyers and Edy’s have some great flavors.  And yes, I’ve eaten an entire container of these in one sitting.  All ice cream is better with whipped cream!

Peanut Butter-Skippy's is the best!  For such a dense food/spread, I tend to ignore the recommended serving.  Come on—2 tablespoons?  That’s nothing!  When I’m committed to my diet, I don’t eat it at all.  Otherwise, I tend to enjoy heaping spoonfuls, and once in a while, the entire container. 

Baked Goods- I can’t decide if it’s the texture of cakes, the frosting on top, or the crunch of certain candy toppings, but I LOVE pastries.  I’m not talking about the boxed grocery store items or stopping in Dunkin Donuts.  When I’m in the mood for treats, I will typically go out of my way to get—what I consider—the BEST!  Here are a few great places:
  • Crumbs Bake Shop in Rittenhouse Philadelphia (best cupcakes)
  • Fritz’s Bakery in Langhorne, PA (best sticky buns with whipped cream cheese icing)
  • Termini Brother's in South Philly (best cannolis)
  • McMillan’s Bakery in Haddon, NJ (best cream puff éclair)
  • Riehl’s Bakery in the Newtown, PA Farmers Market: This place is a gold mine for donuts, Danish, whoopie pies, cookies, cakes, and breads!  Love this place! 
I recognize my nonsensical cheat meals could be problematic.  I’m not proud of eating tons.  It’s definitely not normal, and I get mad at myself for a few days, but looking back I don’t care.  When I do it again, I will care at the time, but I know I can stay on track.  If I didn’t have physique goals, and didn’t love lifting and competing in sports/activities that require weigh-ins, I can’t imagine what I would be like.  Lost that’s for sure!  Dieting, and cheating, is all a matter of choice.  You control what you put in your mouth. 

Tracy is an Assistant Strength Coach at the University of Pennsylvania. She holds the USAPL PA State squat record in the 148lb class with a lift of 402 lbs, and recently finished second in bodybuilding at the Steve Stone Metropolitan Competition in New York.  She can be contacted at

All About Being a Lifer

What's a Lifer? Someone who isn't in to something for just a day, a month, a's for life. Whether its training or your family or your doesn't matter. You work at it, you build on it, you see the big picture . You don't miss workouts because it means something to you. You are like a Shakespearean actor- no matter what is going on in your life, you block it out when it's time to train. You walk into the weight room and all else disappears. Worry about it later.