To cheat or not to cheat (Meals)
When it comes to something I believe everyone can agree on (high fives’ and knuckle bumps) I’d say it’s a cheat meal. Say, a deep dish pizza, side of onion rings, finished off with a slice of tirimisu? Yeah, baby.
We’ re all looking for an excuse to eat whatever the hell we want – I mean after all, we’ve earned it, right? But wait you say, aren’t I the one always going on about the importance of eating healthier, cleaner and making wise choices? Yes, I am. Back to that in a minute.
Here’s the deal: I believe in the cheat meal concept. Exactly what that is seems smothered in secret sauce, so I’d like to delve into the confusion like a bowl of Neapolitan Ice Cream.
Once upon a time a certain diet came along to the masses. I don’t want to name names, but it took the world by storm. It strongly advocated eliminating a certain macronutrient from our daily diet, and the benefits – like weight loss – were bountiful. Years later, we’ve learned that when it comes to this particular macro, it isn’t about elimination, but rather what types and how much of it we choose to consume that matters.
“It’s choice, not chance, that determines your destiny” – Jean Nidetch – The Founder of Weight Watchers
Legend has is that Ms. Nidetch, a 1960’s housewife and mother, went to the grocery store one day where an acquantance she ran in to mistook her for being pregnant. Embarressed, she set out to lose the weight she had struggled with for so long. She did, and in the meantime built a platform to help others do the same. The technique seems simple enough, learn what to eat more of, and what to eat less of.
Too much of anything isn’t good IIFIYM the acronym gone viral, has most definetly earned it’s share of controversy. What’s the difference? Big, huge. A meal is exactly that – a meal. Not continuos servings of something just because you’ve figured it into your “count.”
So back to the topic at hand. Why a cheat meal? Studies are showing that incorporating one into your weekly routine may be beneficial for two immediate reasons. Speaking from experience, when following a strict nutrition plan, say a caloric deficit one for cutting, I’m looking at steamed broccoli, but all I’m thinking about is fried okra. Yes, fried and dipped in tarter sauce. So, I go get something fried and snarf it down. Then I feel bad and get mad at myself for not being able to stay on track. Sound familiar?
The mental side of following a plan is tough. Notice I did not say diet. The very word causes anxiety. Working with people I have found that words do matter. People understand a plan, like a business plan, very well, but use that word and people flinch.
I am not a doctor, nor do I claim to be one. That being said, with the amount of research done on this topic it seems there is evidence that the metabolism gets a boost during a restrictive phase. Why? It isn’t simple but some bullet points to remember: A plate of our favorite caloric deliciousness is high in all three macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Two hormones to keep in mind – Grehlin, also called the “hunger hormone” that stimulates appetites and promotes fat storage, and Leptin, a hormone made by fat cells, that decreases, or surpresses the appetite.
How does this make sense enough to justify eating a plate of our favorite guilty pleasure? More studies seem to show that consuming a cheat meal increases the hormone leptin, the “anti-starvation” hormone and as a result tricks the body into thinking there is plenty of food. While restricting calories those levels drop, and giving it a boost seems to help.
Mind over Onion Rings
Wait a second, star blazer. Feeling the need to boost your metabolism and mental state everyday because it fits in your macros isn’t the concept here. This only works if you have discipline. Results take discipline. Have a plan, and by that it is suggested to strategically place your cheat meal around specific times. I typically will have mine on a day after a hard workout, when glycogen stores are low and need replenishing. If you have a company dinner or are planning to spend saturday night out schedule it for those times. Restaurants and caterers typically do not skimp on fats no matter what they tell you – I know it to be true having worked in the food and beverage industry for years. How many times did I hear, “Oh go on, just order it!”
Having been at this for some time it works similar to the treat system when I was a kid. After working really hard I got a reward. Growing up fast food was hardly ever allowed. I was blessed to have parents who cooked. But those times were, if I raked all the leaves in both the front and back yards, I got to go to the King and have it my way. And did.