An Irish toast goes, “Here’s to cheating, stealing, fighting and drinking. If you cheat, may you cheat death. If you steal, may you steal the heart of a beautiful woman. If you fight, may you fight for a brother. And, if you drink, may you drink with me.”
I saw this recently in W.E.B. Griffin’s book, Broken Trust. The same day I saw a post on Facebook about how good ‘cheat days’ are for losing weight. The research I’ve done since supports both sides of the equation – cheat days are good and bad for your health.
If you are trying to lose weight, several articles support cheat days – or cheat meals. The thinking is cheating allows you to trick your body some how. In theory, it will stimulate your fat burning processes. Cheat meals are only supposed to satisfy your taste buds. They are not meant to be a full meal. The premise is that you are still following your diet almost religiously.
Celebrities get to voice their opinions also. One recent article by Dr. Oz states that you can have a cheat day and it will ease those dietary restrictions you’ve been adhering to all week. His theory (and others) is that deprivation leads to more cravings. However, stimulate your taste buds occasionally and it will wake up your metabolism and shut down the deprivations.
I view things a bit differently. I advocate balanced nutrition to ensure that you are not deficient in any key nutrient the body needs daily. I follow the Wahl’s Protocol dietary practice. It does exclude all grains and dairy. Yes, abstinence from grains can be extremely hard to do.
I went on the Atkin’s Diet back in the 1990s. I read five books on that diet before starting. I lost a lot of weight and kept it off for years. I was living in Germany at the time and would periodically take weekend trips to Italy. My diet was blown on every trip with lots of pasta and bread.
I returned to Germany weighing 12-14 pounds more than I had left. Two weeks later I was back to my normal weight. After I returned to the States I had an opportunity to have my first bone density test. I discovered that I was osteopenic. I could not believe it. I had been lifting weights and running for decades. I figured I had great bone density.
It turns out that I was eating incorrectly on the Atkin’s Diet. I chose more foods that were acidic (proteins and fats) compared to alkaline foods (vegetables and fruits). My body’s pH was chronically below 7.0. As a result, I lost bone density.
Today, to maintain a healthy life we should eat more alkaline foods than acidic. In fact, the very word, ‘diet’, implies that it is temporary. We achieve a goal (weight loss, for example) and then go off our diet so that we can eat the foods we like and may times we regain all the weight we lost.
We should adopt a lifestyle that includes foods choices, not a diet that temporarily changes our eating habits. A lifestyle that incorporates balanced nutrition, caloric restriction, and a high body pH tends towards superior health and longer life.
A cheat meal or cheat day might sound good. But, who are your cheating? You are ‘temporarily’ reverting to what put you in a high-weight/bad health situation to begin with. Is that what you want? Take a quick bite of pizza and ice cream and all that deprivation is forgotten, until the next time?
If you adapt to a healthy lifestyle (diet, exercise, stress relief and toxin removal), you may have to ‘cheat’ periodically at some official function that you can’t avoid. But, even today, many places will adapt to your specific needs.
No, I don’t recommend cheat meals or cheat days. They might make you feel better for a moment, but it was those feel-good foods that did the damage to your health previously. Adopt a better lifestyle and don’t concentrate on weight loss only. Concentrate on your future health.