We have all been there – after months of dieting you hit a breaking point and suddenly that ice cream or chocolate chip cookie looks more tempting than the thought of getting into your skinny jeans. Well what if I told you that all my patients cheat – and continue to lose weight. In fact, I highly recommend it.
Continuous, extreme caloric restriction is not an effective long-term fat-loss solution because it is simply not sustainable. The short-term victories achieved with this type of eating are always followed with rebound weight gain because, whether we like it or not, hormones will kick in to return the body to status quo. From a psychological perspective, there is no doubt this cheat meal helps with motivation. And from a physiological standpoint, this meal serves to increase your thyroid hormone and to lower levels of Reverse T3 that naturally increases with dieting (this hormone can block the action the active thyroid hormone that influences metabolism) and to generally boost your metabolism. This is the absolute truth! Remember that the human body is an adaptation machine. When we reduce calories overall, our body adapts by lowering our metabolism as a survival mechanism. And let’s face it – a zero tolerance diet policy rarely lasts. Having a cheat meal keeps our metabolism guessing and actually increases our long term success. This meal also prevents hunger, cravings and refuels our muscle stores of energy – particularly glycogen, which helps to maintain strength and endurance for your workouts necessary for our metabolic repair. Let alone helping your happy hormone serotonin and lowering stress hormones (like cortisol).
Quick guidelines for your weekly cheat meal:
- Have your cheat meal as your last meal of the day rather than your first, otherwise you will be more prone to continue cheating all day long
- Keep your fat intake low and your carb intake high. Don’t go over 100g of carbs or over one hour of eating time..
- Plan your cheat meal ahead of time and enjoy it at the dinner table or at a restaurant. Once you leave the table, you should stop eating (don’t be tempted to continue it through the evening).
Good examples of cheat meals are:
- Pancakes with a small amount of syrup and fruit
- High sugar, low fat yogurt selections like those delicious ones from Liberte’ – like Dulce De Leche Caramel.
- Small bowl of pasta with a tomato sauce
- Sushi or sashimi with white sticky rice or teriyaki stir fry with rice
- Carb-laden cereal with milk
- All cheat meals may include dessert such as cake, pie, cookies, puddings, low fat ice cream (such as the Low Fat Frozen Yogurt Double Chocolate Fudge Brownie Delight from Ben and Jerry’s), high sugar, low fat yogurts (basically those that are more like a pudding than a yogurt!), etc. One glass of wine, beer or mixed drink may also be included, if desired.
Bad examples of cheat meals are (the high fat and high carb varieties):
- Pizza (especially the deep dish kind)
- Creamy pasta sauce
- Cheesecake or any other high fat selections for a dessert options
- High fat dips such as artichoke or creamy spinach dip
How to prevent the cheat meal from going overboard
While a bit of water retention after a cheat meal is normal, if your weight is still up a few days later, it means that you may have overdone it or you included selections that don’t particularly agree with your body chemistry. In that case, you can choose to avoid things like sugar, dairy or gluten and opt for other higher carb alternatives. In fact, nachos and salsa, or sweet potato fries often make up my favourite cheat meals. If you have more than 40lbs to lose, aim to have a cheat meal every second week versus every week in order to expedite your weight loss efforts. Now, keep in mind that in order to implement a cheat meal, 90% of the week needs to be dedicated to eating meals that are in adherence with a balanced diet such as the one outlined in The Hormone Diet or The Supercharged Hormone Diet. Happy cheating!