What follows is an extract from ‘How To EAT LOADS And LOSE WEIGHT’ – available now.
Back in ye olde times, when people thought fat made them fat (the fools!), someone at SLIMMING WATCHERS PLANET HQ (made up company) realised that most people have a hard time sticking to a calorie-controlled diet, and so decided to capitalise on the very natural desire to bend the rules.
Behold the cheat day; the ingenious notion that if you earn enough points you can have a high(er) fat ‘treat’, or even a day off your diet.
Now obviously, this is a very seductive concept, and one that a LOT of low-CARB dieters—especially the ones who previously spent many years trying every low-FAT diet under the sun—want to bring with them, to their new, carb-free, way of eating.
So let’s get right down to it: Can you—if you’re restricting your carbs—get away with the occasional cheat day?
Firstly, in the world of low-FAT dieting, a ‘cheat day’ is really just a con. That low-fat dieting ‘cheat day’ was already factored into the total number of calories allowed on whatever plan you were following. So it was never actually a ‘cheat’ at all. Not in the real sense. I don’t know about you, but that would make me feel even more cheated!
But here in the world of low-CARB dieting we don’t count calories. We count carbs.
Broadly speaking a low-carb diet is somewhere between 75 and 100 grams of carbs a day, whilst a keto diet is under 50. Now, if YOU want to lower all those numbers by ten grams and keep those ten grams aside as some sort of daily ‘cheat-carbs’… well, er, go ahead. Let me know if that works for you. Personally I can’t really see the point.
The real reason why ‘cheat days’ don’t work for us low-carbers is simply this; you can’t cheat your body. It’s not physically possible. Cheating suggests you’re sneaking around behind your own back, stuffing biscuits into your mouth and hoping your digestive system won’t notice, but that’s ridiculous. It will notice. It’s YOU!
So here’s what happens when you try and ‘cheat’ on a low-carb diet:
As that ‘cheat meal’ enters your system, your body will turn those carbohydrates into glucose. As the glucose travels around your body in your blood stream, so your insulin levels will rise. Which in turn signals your body to STOP the ketosis process (i.e. turning your stored fat into ketones). Your body will stop losing weight, and return to using glucose to fuel your muscles and brain.
Some of that glucose will be stored in your liver. This requires a fair amount of water—about 3 to 4 grams of water for every 1 gram of glycogen—so overnight you’ll probably put on around four pounds of ‘water weight’. Cue cries of ‘there’s no way that pizza weighed that much!’ It didn’t. Most of that weight is water.
If there’s any glucose left over after this carb binge, that’ll be stored as fat.
Terrific. More fat. The very stuff we’re trying to lose.
But it gets worse.
Those extra carbs will trigger the production of other hormones—hormones that make you hungry. So suddenly that cheat meal or cheat day wasn’t enough… now you want a cheat week! More pizza! Some garlic bread! Those desserts look pretty good too…
Remember, so far as your body is concerned, you’re a cave man or woman. You’ve just come across an apple tree, bursting with juicy delicious fruit. Your body wants you to eat all that fruit so that it can store as much fat as possible for winter time. To do that it makes your appetite soar!
This is the biggest problem with cheating on a low-carb diet. That slice of cake, that chocolate bar, that toasted sandwich… it’s never quite enough. I’ve heard horror stories from people who had a bad day at work, and on the way home ‘treated’ themselves to a sugary beverage. Four hours later they’re waking up on the living room carpet, surrounded by a slew of empty Dunkin’ Donuts cartons, and a Snickers wrapper stuck to their cheek.
But that’s not the end of the cheat day nightmare.
This sudden introduction of carbs when you’ve been running on ketones often makes people feel sluggish. It’s called a carb-coma. It’s an actual thing.
Finally, if you suffer from any high-carb related problems such as bloating or acid reflux? There’s a good chance that’ll come right back.
You still want a cheat day?
The good news is that whilst you can’t cheat a low-carb diet, it is quite forgiving.
If your total carbs for the day is slightly over… well, there’s a good chance you might get away with it. Maybe you’ll put on a pound or two, but that’ll come off again, if… you get straight back on the wagon.
Better still, there does comes a point when your body becomes better at tolerating the odd carby… and I hesitate to use the word… ‘treat’. Are you at this point? Probably not. We’ll talk more about that later in the book.
For now I want to encourage you to shun this ‘cheating’ concept. You’re an adult! You don’t need ‘tricks’ or ‘cheats’ to help you stay on track… you simply need to concentrate on what you can eat (plenty of delicious low-carb food options) and monitor your steady progress. That’s where your energies should be.