Sunday, March 4, 2012

Last night... I Ate a Cheeseburger.

 So shoot me. 

Here's how it went down:  Yesterday was one of those days where the only thing that would make it better is if you had a big pile of grease to chow down on.  Yes, I know, emotional eating is a bad idea, but once in almost eight weeks, I think it will be okay. 

I've also had a few people say it's better for your metabolism to have a cheat-meal once a week or so. I'm a little skeptical of this, but I thought I might try it out since I already wanted a pile of grease. 

I went to Cheeburger Cheeburger since I've dealt with them before and I know they use fresh ingredients, and they don't add anything (like stabilizers and the like) to their beef.  I ordered the ten ounce burger with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and two fried onion rings.  I also asked for a small order of fries. Hey, I figured if I was going to cheat, I was going to cheat in style!

The fries came out a little undercooked. Normally I would just deal with it (having worked in a restaurant, I cannot stand picky food people), but I thought "this is my first french fry in... how long?! I am not going to pay five bucks for fries that aren't great." So I sent them back. They were obviously annoyed, but I wanted yummy, delicious fries, darn it! 

Anyway... it was all extremely delicious. I didn't eat the whole (small) order of fries, but I really enjoyed the ones I ate! And the bun was awesome. I really thought by this point (almost eight weeks into GP) I would have lost my taste for bread, but this bun was really awesome. 

So here's what happened about an half hour after I finished eating: I had a headache (just annoying, not terrible), my back pain flared up, and my stomach was obviously bloated. D'oh. This lasted until this morning. The rest of today (and it still hasn't gone away) I've craved sugar. Any kind of sugar. Fruit juice, cupcakes, chocolate, chocolate milk, candy... anything! I did have some dark chocolate, but I managed to steer away from anything else too terrible. 

So, really... is it worth cheating?  Maybe. I suppose it depends on your reasons and how often you do it.  I don't want to be one of "those" people who freak out at other people for deviating. I don't think you're not truly primal if you cheat, and I think it's probably more than okay to cheat every once in a while. For some people this means cheating once a week. For others it could mean cheating once a month or so. 

I guess I would say if you have a lot of weight to lose, you can't really afford to cheat often (unless my friends are right and cheating once or twice a week helps your metabolism--if this is true, can anyone find me some info on it?). 

I really hope the sugar cravings go away tomorrow.  Anyhow, I have to workout with the trainer, so I'll at least have to focus on something other than food for a while. Ha!


  1. It isn't necessarily just a primal vs SAD thing. Sounds like you have gut issues (dysbiosis of some kind) and will do better without grains until it completely heals. Someone with a healthy gut could probably afford to cheat without those dire consequences (although probably white flour and refined sugar would give most people a headache who are not used to those anymore).
    Kind of cool that your body tells you so forcefully, though. Sounds like you can trust it and if it ever stops bothering you, you don't need to worry too much!

  2. I keep gluten free bagels and gluten free bread in the freezer (made with rice flour and keeps forever if frozen). I am pretty good at sticking to paleo but when I occasionally want something traditional like a PB&J sandwhich, it's a way that you can do it and still not do anything bad to your gut. (and i switched to sunflower butter intsead of peanut butter to stay primal).

  3. Cheats can have metabolic benefits, but only if you've been on a calorie-restrictive diet for a period of time and when you cheat you consume more calories than usual. Essentially, the body gets used to and adjusts to a restriction on total calories and the influx of more calories tricks it. Another method of tricking the body's metabolism is to never eat the same amount of calories per day (e.g. eat 1000 cals one day, 3500 the next, 2000 the day after that, etc), but have your average weekly or monthly caloric intake be a net deficit. Usually, you only need to use these cheats if you have reached a plateau. They do work, though.

    The most common benefit of a cheat is entirely mental. It allows you to fulfill certain urges that you've had so that you can stay on track the rest of the week. Also, cheats tend to cause most people guilt, thus further motivating them to stick to their new diet. In most cases a cheat isn't going to derail a diet, nor is it going to cause any weight gain, because it is only one meal/day in a week. Having a reasonable cheat meal or even a cheat day once a week isn't going to cause any negative effects to your diet and it may actually improve your progress and peace of mind.

    Just a word of advice if you are going to use cheats every now and then: Don't ever weigh yourself the next day. The reason is that many cheats cause people to retain water. So, you may gain a pound or two in the day or so surrounding the cheat, but this typically disappears as quickly as it came.

    1. Thank you, this is very helpful!

    2. No problem. As your husband points out to the unpleasant person below, even Mark Sisson cheats every now and again (so does Robb Wolf). If you were raised primal from birth then you probably wouldn't have any of these cravings, but you weren't raised that way. Instead, you do have cravings for certain things and they can drive you nuts. The entire point of a cheat and/or the 80/20 principle is that if you were asked to cut out certain foods completely, then it would completely sabotage your newly acquired primal lifestyle (you would simply fall off the wagon eventually). Instead, recognizing that you have built up certain urges and allowing you to fulfill them in a reasonable manner tends to make people more determined to stick with the primal blueprint (or any other diet, for that matter).

      The key word here is "reasonable". For instance, if you are going to consume, say, 600 or so more calories on a particular day in an attempt to give your metabolism a little kick in the rear, then you probably shouldn't have all of those extra calories be in the form of carbs, because that will spike your insulin and your body will store those extra calories as fat (which is counter-productive). Or, if you are having a little cheat to make your sweet tooth go away, it doesn't make sense to gorge on an entire cake. I am sure that you know what I mean... Also, it helps if that when you cheat that the foods chosen also have some health benefits to go along with the detriments (e.g. wine has empty alcohol calories, but also has lots of anti-oxidents).

      I did forget to mention another cheat-- intermittent fasting. I know, it kind of sounds like the exact opposite of a cheat, but really it is a cheat if you're both primal and trying to take off fat. As you know, if you stay in the range of 50-100 grams of carbs per day you will probably take off a pound or two a week without any real effort. You've essentially trained your body to use fat as its primary source of energy and by staying in the 50-100 grams of carbs range, you've put yourself in the position of having control of the fat-burning "switch" in your body. Basically, when a primal person fasts, it causes the body to immediately switch to burning body fat for energy with minimal impact on metabolism. Even dropping your total carbs below 50 grams a day will cause your body's fat-burning switch to turn on, though not as much as fasting.

      Fasting usually scares most people because hunger certainly isn't an enjoyable feeling. However, you're not the same person you were before going primal. For instance, if a carb-eater decides to fast, not only will he be ravenously hungry, but he will be low on energy (actually, his energy will crash), his body will go into starvation mode, his metabolism will slow down and his body will begin consuming whatever source of energy it can (usually a combination of fat and muscle). This is not the case for somebody whose body has become acclimated to the PB. People who eat primal have trained their body to use fat as the primary source of energy. So, when a primal person fasts it is almost like turning on a switch where your body goes from using dietary fat for energy to using body fat for energy (sparing the muscle tissue). Also, there is no drop in energy levels or metabolism, because all that has happened is that the body has found another source of the same energy (fat) that it always runs on. Sure, there will be some hunger, I won't lie. However, you won't be ravenously hungry.

      As with anything else, "reasonable" is the key word. 24 hours of intermittent fasting a few days in a month or one day a week isn't going to hurt, just as it didn't hurt good 'ol Grok when he had to do it (albeit involuntarily). In fact, it might actually be good for you. Other than warmth and protection, the primary purpose of stored fat is as a source of energy, might as well use it.

  4. Aside from a couple tropical drinks on vacation we haven't cheated. Maybe when you're in the mood for an extra treat you can have something that is all or nearly primal but extra special. A chocolate mousse made of dark chocolate, whipped cream and stevia sweetener. Or creme brûlée which is mostly creme. Chocolate covered strawberries. Something like that.

    We just got back from Aruba and lost two pounds during vacation. That's a first. We have a timeshare so cooked most of our meals but had four meals out. We had the restaurant skip the rice, potatoes and bread and give us extra vegetables. For breakfast they gave us extra bacon and sausage instead of home fries and toast. I don't see why eating primarily while away from home is all that hard.

    1. Very well done, Polly!

      I really don't think having a cheeseburger once every three or four months is going to be a big issue.

      I actually can't stand stevia. I'd rather not have the sugar in it.

      When I traveled with the kids (the first week of GP) we just went to the grocery store and bought bags of vegetables and rotisserie chicken. It was hard since it was the first week of GP, but I suspect once you get the hang of it, it probably isn't a big deal.

      Good job on the weightloss!

  5. Here is what I have to ask: You know what you have to do. You know what is good for you. So why do you do otherwise? It doesn't make sense to me. At all....

    1. Eating Primally is a series of choices in this day and age. One hamburger bun every three or four months is not going to do any long term damage. If I ate it every day, or even weekly, then maybe it would be a bad idea. Given that I'm pretty faithful to eating clean and I eat a ton of vegetables, I don't see a problem with indulging every once in a while.

      If you are the type of person who can't stop once they start, they it might be a good idea to not give in in the first place... but this is not the case with me.

  6. That's not it. You cheat and then you come on here bitching about how it makes you feel bad. Nothing, but nothing, tastes good enough for the ten minutes you spend eating it to make up for the next day or so that you feel bad. So why do you shoot yourself in the foot? Eating Primal/paleo is a choice you've made, and you are saying that you can't even keep up with your own choices.

    1. First of all, please watch your language when posting here. There is no reason to be belligerent.

      This "bitching" as you call it, is me being real. I'm not going to be one of those people who says to everyone "oh no, being Primal is so easy, and I never cheat, because I don't need to!" Those people are usually liars, and do not serve well the people they seek to convert to the Primal lifestyle.

      I don't have to post when I cheat. I could very easily say "I never cheat" and no one would know the difference.

      I chose to eat a hamburger. Big deal. I started this blog to help others who are considering becoming Primal and really wanted to know the ins and outs of it.

      It would be wrong of me to say "I ate a cheeseburger and had no issues, and the whole world is sun and roses!" It's not bitching. It's being honest.

      I'm sorry you're such an angry person.

    2. I guess we've got someone who's even better than Mark Sisson himself. Mark, of course, would not dream of attacking people over a freaking cheeseburger. Heather obviously -- OBVIOUSLY -- is not doing what you say she is. Like most of the human race, she isn't a robot. Sometimes she deviates from the mathematical equations some would have govern her eating choices. She is honest enough to note when she deviates (doesn't Sisson himself allow for occasional deviations?), and that's it. She is not shaking her fist at the universe or "bitching."

      Seriously, who acts like this? Someone opens her life to the whole world and a stranger decides abuse is the appropriate response?

  7. It's hard to go low(er) carb in a high-carb world. I appreciate that you posted about the cheeseburger (yum!) because it shows that you are human; you are just keeping it real! So thank you. :)