You Asked, I Answered

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

Q. What are you thoughts on “Cheat” meals?  How often do you go off your diet with such a meal?  Can you give an example of such a meal?

My thoughts on cheat meals are myriad. It can vary from person to person really. Some people when they have a cheat meal can enjoy the meal, recognize that it wasn’t a part of their normal food intake, be ok with that, and move on. Others start a cheat meal, and just the thought of cheating makes them feel guilty, so they cheat some more, turn it into an 6,000 calorie extravaganza and then go a week long binge.

Cheat Meal

Cheat Meal

Ok, maybe that was a little extreme, but you get my point. One person has a healthy relationship with food, the other person clearly does not, so I think it all depends on how you respond to a cheat meal. Some people do better not really cheating for months until they feel like they are truly on a roll and are comfortable with what they eat. In the Precision Nutrition Lean Eating program they interviewed some winners and contestants, and many of them said they were at their best when they didn’t cheat at all. They didn’t feel restricted because they had such a wide variety of real whole food available to them, and took advantage of it.

Now not everyone is like that. I for one prefer to cheat from time to time, as I dislike being “that guy” at social settings. Now there are times when I am “that guy”, bringing grass-fed beef hamburgers and Ezekiel buns, but there are other times when I eat hot dogs and drink beer too. Just enjoy it, and move on. Maybe even compensate. If you know this meal is going to give you probably twice as many calories as a normal meal, just eat one less meal that day, or cut away from a few others. It isn’t that hard and it doesn’t have to be precise to the exact calorie, it just helps mitigate any potential damage.

My hamburger bun of choice

My hamburger bun of choice

The point is that the real key is developing a healthier relationship with food (which is beyond the scope of this blog). It also helps to know that one meal is not going to make or break your progress. Being obsessive over every food and calorie you consume is counter productive, so enjoy some treats from time to time, you will live to tell about it I promise.

As for how often, I prefer you keep it under 10% of the time. If you eat real whole food 90% of the time, and allow yourself some exceptions that other 10%, you will be just fine.

Having said all that, don’t let “oh BSP said I could cheat” justify you eating like crap!

Q. What are your thoughts on intermittent fasting or short duration fasting?  I recently fasted on Homemade Bone Broth and Kvass for 3 days and feel the benefits.

I honestly really don’t even know what to think. I am sure it works, just like most dieting strategies, but I just don’t know how practical it is. Especially with a family. How many family meals do you have to endure watching everyone else eat while you fast?

I just dislike the mindset of dieting more and more. While there are places and times for things like Warp Speed, and maybe IF, I don’t think they are easily sustained lifestyles. To some people they are, to the vast majority, I leaning towards a no. I also think eating 6-8 times a day, ala the strict bodybuilding protocol, is also impractical and probably even less effective. I prefer people eat 4-5 times per day.

I can’t emphasize enough how much I think just eating real whole food makes all the difference. Maximizing your nutrient density and expending more than you consume are the real keys my friend. While there is more than one way to skin a cat, I find IF, while it may work, to be far more complicated than just focusing on food selection and size.

If a client really prefers to only eat 3 times per day, from whole foods, and meets their caloric, macronutrient, micronutrient and fruit and veggies needs, then I really have no issue with it. If you can meet all of your needs doing IF, then I really don’t have an issue with it either.

My problem is people making ridiculous statements like breakfast is bad for you (there was a recent article about it). I mean really? Maybe it doesn’t work for some people sure, but bad for us as a whole? Ridiculous.

I guess what really bothers me about IF is that people who follow it make it out to be the holy grail and there is nothing better. It is merely a means to an end, and people have lost weight successfully on tons of different methods, so I just dislike the mentality of this way is the best way and therefore the only way.

The real key is finding what works best for you, your schedule, etc. As long as you focus on real food and meet all your needs, then have at it.

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Posted on July 28th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

5 Comments

  1. David Says:

    Great responses as usual Brian. I particularly like your point about having a healthy relationship with food. When I used to cheat I would be the guy who couldn’t stop and would over eat during that meal. Because mentally I had it in my mind that that would be the last time I would get a chance to eat “bad” food. However, I have learned that I can have a cheat meal, enjoy it, not over eat, and not feel guilty because the opportunity is always there if I feel like it.

    I also like that you promote eating less meals per day or what works for you. eating 6-8 meals a day really controls your life and can be tough on family and friends at times.

  2. Tim Says:

    Brian,

    Doesn’t “Food for Life” make hamburger buns in the US? I’m confused as to why you always choose english muffins (although they are delicious) .

    Perhaps the biggest argument against fasting (IMO) is that it isn’t sustainable and the person (client) will learn nothing about what “good” nutrition is all about, setting them up for long term failure.

    Thanks for all the posts Brian.

  3. Brian St. Pierre Says:

    Tim,

    Yes they do, but I just find the English muffins to be tastier, plus I always have them on hand because I will often have them with my eggs for breakfast. Third, they are much more readily available in many grocers, where as the hamburger buns are a much harder find.

  4. Tara Says:

    What about fasting one day per week to let your systems rest?

  5. Zach Says:

    after trying out some of joel marion’s programs, ive come to the conclusion that cheat days are absolutely MANDATORY if you want to lose fat as physically possible. if you’re only trying to lose like 1 pound/week or so, you can get away without cheating, but if you want to lose fat extremely quickly, cheat days make a HUGE difference when it comes to regulating leptin.

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