Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Does Cheating Aid Weight Loss?

I weighed in on March 19th, had two pound(maybe three?) loss from the previous week, and then I hit a wall.  ::smack::  I stayed the same number for over three weeks.

 It was really disheartening. 

 I was working out, not over-indulging in treats, and eating a lot of healthy things. So what gives?

I remembered seeing something on Mark's Daily Apple that some people have real trouble losing weight if they are having too much dairy. So I tried cutting back on dairy, but really the only dairy I eat is cheese and butter, and on occasion, sour cream. I didn't want to cut out butter since it has so many great benefits, but I did cut back on cheese by about 60%. 

It didn't make a difference.

Then I realized I would frequently forget to eat during the day. Either I just didn't feel hungry, or I was too busy juggling babies, school projects, and trying to maintain the household, that I would go to be and think "did I eat anything other than that egg this morning?"  Not good. 

I wondered if the accidental fasting was causing my metabolism to drop too low. A commenter offered some advice: try to eat more often, add in some fruit, and a "cheat meal" here and there would help. 

So I added in an apple a day, which was nice because I love apples and haven't really had them much lately. I am getting better at remembering to eat (the commenter was correct when he said that adding in fruit would cause me to feel hungry again), making sure I eat at least twice a day, with the goal being three-four times a day.  And, finally, I had a few treats over the weekend (keeping it as primal as possible). I was skeptical that adding in cheat meals would help aid weight-loss, but... 

Today I decided to weigh-in and since Saturday I have lost 2 pounds! This is the opposite of what I was expecting---yippee! There is a bonus, too. I feel better all around: emotionally, physically, and mentally. I don't know if having a few cheat foods/ingredients helped, or if it's the eating more, or what, but I like it!

The idea of taking one day a week and using it as a cheat day is definitely more appealing at this point. However, I don't want to feel like garbage the next day, so I definitely would want to find the least offensive cheat foods to chow down on. 

What is your favorite cheat food?


  1. We are visiting daughter on long Island and went into NYC for a day. Ate in Little Italy outside so i had ll my cheats at once-bread and tiramasu and pasta. Yummy. Also Umbertos sisilian pizza to die for once. Treats and cheats i was planning on. Feel pretty good but this morning my face feels swollen, i didnt sleep well at all and my mood has been more anxious the last few days. This is my first c heats of any duration since i began late december and i was curious. I have gone from size 12 jeans to a six since began. I never weigh myself- only go by clothes fit. I had an eating disorder from age 19 to 31 so weighing just reminds me of that particular hell hole i was in then. Im 63 now and was looking for better health and getting bone strength so i wont be a burden someday to my only child. Read Wheat belly then mark sisson and on my way. I wasnt even lookling for weight loss but nice to be slimmer. Removing wheat and sugar really whittled the belly fat. I would like to work up to a pull up this year in fitness. Who knows-it could happen.

  2. The cheat thing is more for overall mood and sanity rather than anything else-- people tend to get cranky after restricting themselves for a while, which then causes them to fly off of the rails. Plus, it leaves the option open to go out with friends/family without feeling like a complete weirdo. Just a note, I am glad to see that my instinct was correct, that you wouldn't use the cheat idea as a license to go berserk. That's awesome. It shows that your overall health and wellness is far more important to you than some transitory craving. To me this means that you're prepared to stick with this for life, rather than just as a temporary "fad" diet. Congratulations!

    Yes, it does almost seem counterintuitive that you need to eat a little more to lose fat, but sometimes that is the case. Like I said, it's like finding the sweet spot. Some people do very well on extended calorie-restricted, ketogenic diets, others do better staying just above ketosis-- everybody is a little bit different. However, most people reach a plateau on ketogenic diets due to the fact that they aren't eating enough, which causes their metabolism to slow to a crawl. Adding a fruit or starch is usually enough to get them out of this state and normalize their hunger mechanism. As long as it is working, then I would say keep doing it (steady as she goes). If you hit another plateau in the future, then you can cut the carbs back again and dip back into ketosis. Like I said before, the body gets used to stuff, but small tweaks here and there is often enough to get your body to do what you want it to. For those who don't like/want to count calories or macronutrients (which is most people), adjusting the carbs a little bit is often the easiest and most effective way to get things done.

    Just a note on dairy. Mark was talking more about lactose-containing dairy. Butter is almost all saturated fat, so it isn't a problem. Cheese can be a problem sometimes due to the fact that it is so calorie dense and that some cheese are pretty high in lactose. Cream can definitely cause problems for some people. The other thing about dairy that can cause problems other than its macronutrient profile is that some people have autoimmune responses to dairy, so this can cause undo stress on the body, which then causes cortisol to increase which can elevate blood sugar and insulin. My own personal opinion is that if you're trying to lose weight then ALL dairy should be kept to a minimum. The only exception to this rule is grass-fed butter-- eat as much of that stuff as you want. LOL

    As long as you keep eating primal, learn your body and make little needed tweaks here and there, you'll eventually get to the point where you don't need to lose fat anymore and you can then just maintain yourself. Once you're there, you don't need to track most of this mumbo jumbo anymore. It takes time, but you'll get there.

  3. Oh, and I think that you may be a little disappointed to find that my cheat isn't a food, rather it is a drink. Maker's Mark bourbon whisky on the rocks.

    Unfortunately, a lot of my friends are drinkers and that is what tends to happen when we all get together (we drink). Usually, I will only have 2-4 drinks on those occasions, and those occasions aren't very often. I choose bourbon because it has zero carbohydrates, it's low-calorie, it has antioxidants and when it is on the rocks you tend to sip it slowly (rather than chug it down like beer). Sometimes I'll even squeeze half a lemon into the glass for something that resembles a whiskey sour, but without the table sugar. Red wine is a better choice for most people, but I have G6PD deficiency, so the sulfites in red wine really screw me up.

    Other than that, I will indulge in some cheese every now and again, which isn't entirely primal/paleo, but isn't completely crappy food, either. When I go to restaurants or a friend's house to eat, I tend to stick to things that mostly resemble primal/paleo foods (albeit, they aren't grass-fed, cooked in coconut oil, etc). Probably the closest thing to a real cheat is that I will indulge in some sushi every now and again (not a really bad cheat, but it does have rice in it).

    To be honest, after eating this way for so long I no longer have cravings for those sugary or grain-based foods. I've tried them just to see what my reaction would be and I simply didn't find them appealing anymore, and my body really has a tremendously negative reaction to gluten-based and/or sugar-based foods. I ate a Snickers bar about 6 months ago and I nearly passed out from the flush of heat that went over my body. My heart started racing, I was sweating bullets and felt like I was going to vomit. Then, after all of that subsided, I had a headache from hell and felt like I was run over by a truck. Yeah, I'm not EVER doing that again. LOL

    1. I never consider my bourbon to be cheating, really because I never suffer any adverse effects. I have 14 different bottles of bourbon, and I enjoy tasting.

  4. ice cream, for sure! :)
    i agree, i hate feeling yucky the next day.
    know something funny, I ate a bunch of garbage (candy/ chocolate from church) on Easter Sunday and by the evening I had a horrible attack of ... wait for it ... HAY FEVER. My allergies have not been bothering me except for a sneezing fit here and there, and then I eat sugar after not having it for 40 days+ and my seasonal allergies flared up. Weird huh?

  5. I eat white potatoes a couple of times a week and call it a cheat. Sometimes I make french fries in the oven with bacon fat. YUM!

  6. BTW, here's a really yummy custard recipe that's primal.

  7. Heather. Try and stop weighing yourself as the only gauge. You seem to only mention the INCHES lost in passing. That is the important part. Poundage is not valid as you are going through this transition. Focusing on a changeable value like pounds can suck the life and hope out of this life change. I know i have been there. I have no idea what i weigh and when i fiured out i didnt really need to know to succeed i was much more comfortable with what i was doing and frankly felt peace in my life. You are doing great-your pics reveal it and getting your kids eating healthy is AWESOME! It was hard seeing my 6 yr old granddaughter eat what she eats. Mom thinks it is healthy but she is drinking NO fat milk. Arrrgh. I am not allowed to say anything but the girl is eating paleo this summer when she visits granma and granpa. She wont have a choice. Little gal did LOVE the bacon i made for myself and wanted more. Ha!

    1. I wouldn't say that weight isn't valid, you just have to be more cognizant of the body's biological functions. That's why I recommend that if you are going to use a scale, that you use a monthly average approach (using the weekly data) rather than pay too close attention to weekly or daily changes, because most people aren't knowledgeable about human biology. This method smooths out any erroneous info. It is definitely true that if you're putting on muscle, water, glycogen, etc (or, taking it off), a scale is far less accurate at telling you what is happening. However, as long as you are cognizant of these biological changes and when they happen, you can adjust for them to some extent. Tape measuring can be just as unrevealing as weighing.

      Short of hydrostatic weighing, the absolute best method of tracking body composition is using both a scale and calipers. This will tell you exactly what is happening. A really good product that is accurate, easy to use and cheap is Accu-Measure calipers. They make a digital version and a regular version, but I have used both and they both work just as good. However, the problem with this method is that when you start getting into this stuff (body fat %), you are getting pretty neurotic about body comp. If you're body building or something like that, fine. But if you're just trying to take off a few pounds of fat and gain some muscle, then this method is probably more obsessive than needed.

      For most people, weighing yourself weekly and averaging out the figures over a period of 2-4 weeks works pretty darned good. Throwing a few tape measurements in here and there is an added bonus. However, I wouldn't say that one is better or worse than the other.