Photo by Hillary Ehlen
This summer when you set out to find a food truck and have a cheat meal that is not within the boundaries of your diet, let me give you some pointers on how not to sabotage yourself.
A lesson in what not to do.
- Don’t split your prize meal with anyone. Eat it all. In fact, order two.
- Don’t eat half and take the rest home. If you’re going to cheat, go all in and clean your plate. No one likes a quitter.
- Do order a beer with that fry bread taco. What would be the point of going Downtown if you couldn’t get a malty high-calorie craft beer?
If you’re going to fall off the wagon, I suggest falling off so hard that you hit your head and break your leg. This will do two things:
1. Hopefully, you’ll feel either so sick or so gluttonous you won’t want to eat like that again for a long time—or at least a few weeks. Whereas, if you only take a few bites, split it with someone or try to be sensible, you might get the unwise idea that you can do it again too soon. Next weekend perhaps and the next after that. Which could amount to more calories over time than if you’d just gotten that one big splurge out of your system.
2. Eating that big cheat meal can actually help you lose weight.
Here’s how. It’s called adaptive thermogenesis. When you reduce calorie intake, your body responds by decreasing calorie expenditure. So all the while you’re working hard at making good choices and resisting temptations, there’s this jerk inside the control room making sure you’ll never be successful. As soon as that chump realizes you’re cutting enough calories to make weight loss progress he turns down your metabolic dial trying his best to keep you fat. And he’s very good at his job. His job has an extremely noble purpose. He is there to save your life.
Let’s say you fell off a cliff while hiking in Yosemite and lived, the dude with his fingers on the dial has a sworn duty to save your life by turning down your metabolism. Thus you conserve energy which will keep you alive long enough to hopefully be rescued. When you cut too many calories for too long you sound the alarms awakening this sleeping protector.
Let’s review. Cut calories = he turns down the juice. Cut more calories because you’re diet is not working = he turns down the juice even more. You give up. Go back to your life and even on a sensible diet = you gain weight. Only when he trusts you to not do something stupid again, will he will give you back your metabolism. By then you might have put more weight on than before you started your restrictive diet.
Instead of continually cutting calories to lose weight and engaging in a fight you will never win, let me share a secret strategy. Go ahead and eat that fry bread taco with all the fixings. Order a beer too. A cheat meal once in awhile will let the guy who takes his job a little too seriously know there is enough food coming, he doesn’t have to turn down your engine fires.
If you are on a weight loss plateau, you could try tricking this adaptive mechanism with high-calorie days or cheat meals. Not only are they glorious; they fool your 200,000-year-old biology into thinking there’s plenty of food, so therefore, there is no need to conserve all that fat.
You can’t have high-calorie binge days every day, but when they do happen, they are actually beneficial. To keep losing weight and keep the dude with all the metabolic power from being too trigger happy. On non-cheat days, eat plenty of calories of whole real foods, mostly plants.
Want to know more about losing weight without counting or restricting calories?
Check out C.J.’s Bestselling weight loss book WTF am I supposed to eat? A dieter’s manifesto, available online through Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, Wal-Mart and other book retailers.