Cheat Meals? Science Says: Not A Big Deal!

by Henry Gould – August 6th, 2020

We all know the feeling. It usually happens after a big thanksgiving dinner, backyard summer BBQ, or one of those parties where someone ends up ordering 20 pizza’s for 25 people. There’s too much food, it all looks amazing, and you end up overeating to the point of feeling sick. That feeling of fullness soon morphs into a shame spiral, causing you to soon regret drizzling maple syrup on that 4th piece fried chicken…

If these moments of weakness are rare, and we aren’t overeating all the time, it turns out the body is surprisingly good at coping with these periods of excessive caloric intake.

A recent study from the Centre For Nutrition, Exercise and Metabolism at University of Bath concluded that even after eating almost double the amount of pizza in a normal sitting, participants had relatively normal blood sugar levels, 50% higher insulin levels and only slightly higher blood lipid (fat) levels. The study focused on young, healthy men (aged 22 – 37), and those “who volunteered for the trial consumed almost twice as much pizza when pushing beyond their usual limits, doubling their calorie intake, yet, remarkably, managed to keep the amount of nutrients in the bloodstream within normal range.”

It’s quite a remarkable conclusion, given most of us might assume eating anything over our normal caloric needs would instantly be stored as fat. Now granted, the study focused on only younger men in “good shape”, so it’s hard to know how this would extrapolate to different groups, but it does show that the rare time we find ourselves binging is perhaps not as bad as we think.

Speaking of cheat meals, How many cheat meals should you have per week”? If the cheat meals are happening every day, we might have to stop calling them cheat meals and just “meals”. However, if they’re rare (10% of your weekly eating) then that’s probably OK, and not something to be super concerned about.

Shape Magazine had a great breakdown of how to stay on track with weekly cheat meals. Link available here, but below is a brief rundown:

  1. Stop thinking of it as “cheating”
  2. Don’t freak out
  3. Put calories in context
  4. Limit yourself to one meal
  5. Avoid throwing in the towel for the day
  6. Stick to the same guilty pleasure
  7. Re-frame why you should eat healthily
  8. Follow splurges with detoxifying food
  9. Hit the gym
  10. Look at the scale after one month

 

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