This is going to be one of those articles that’s hopefully going to make eating healthy a lot less scary. Ideally, you want to think about clean eating as a lifestyle choice, not just a diet. But that can seem like a lot of commitment, especially when there’s just so many fish in the sea… and by fish I mean chocolate… And muffins… And flan…

“So if you ain’t about dat life, the one without ice cream, I’ve got good news for you. You can have your cake and eat it too, literally!”

No catch! Okay maybe a little bit of a catch. Really you should only eat it on cheat days, and preferably not the store bought cake, with the frosting that makes you teeth cringe just thinking about it, because of the absurd amount of refined sugar.

These little healthy life breaks, are called cheat days, because you are, essentially, cheating; and it helps remind you that it shouldn’t be something you make a habit of eating all the time. For those of you who haven’t heard of the 80/20 rule, it applies to eating as well.

“Essentially as long as you eat clean about 80% of the time, you’re allowed about 20% cheating.”

For me, it’s easiest to just have one day a week dedicated as my weekly cheat day.

Homemade-tapioca-pudding-with-mango
made by yours truly :)
While diets, such as the paleo diet, are remarkably beneficial, and provide us with all the carbs, protein, and fat we need, many people who haven’t had adequate time to adjust wind up quitting, when they don’t cut themselves any slack for cheating. And even those who have been eating clean for years, likely crave a treat here and there. Allow yourself to indulge in those dark chocolate covered strawberries you always try to pass up, or that cherry pie your roommate made (only if they said you could, of course)!

To describe how cheating can help you, the concept of hormesis must first be explained. Hormesis is essentially the fancy way of saying, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. If you want to get technical, the actual definition of hormesis is: “a biological phenomenon whereby a beneficial effect (improved health, stress tolerance, growth, or longevity) results from exposure to low doses of an agent that is otherwise toxic or lethal when given at higher doses (definition from: gettingstronger.org).” Similar to when you get a vaccine. Speaking of, I highly recommend you to watch this TED-Ed video on how vaccines work. Not only is it interesting, but you’ll also get a much deeper understanding of the concept of hormesis.

While there has been some definitive research done on toxins such as 4-HNE, a lipid peroxidation toxin produced through the interaction between reactive oxygen species and omega-6 PUFAs in the body, there hasn’t been enough done on all “cheat” meals to tell you that going out and eating a box of twinkies, and a drink a large coke, is going to benefit your fitness goals, but the concept of hormesis, can likely be applied in most “cheating” situations, especially if they are paleo friendly. If you’ve been eating clean for a while, you will likely lose most if not all of your cravings for modern day junk food. Although sometimes, admittedly, I have regrettable relapse. I am gluten sensitive, and whenever I make the stupid, god-awful decision to eat large amount of gluten on a cheat day (happens about once or twice a year), I immediately regret it. I get COMPLETELY bloated and feel like I’m going to die from all the pain I experience in my digestive tract. I would not recommend this experience… this is a pain I wouldn’t even wish upon my enemies.

“There are plenty of delicious, healthy, “cheat” day treats, that will not cause this horrific reaction, and will greatly benefit your fitness goals, and most importantly, your taste buds.”

I’m going to recommend a recipe website here in a second, but before I do, I must warn you, you’re going to need a bib for all the drool that’s about to come out of your mouth. Go get that on, and then check out Juli Bauer’s Website: Paleomg

For those of you trying to lose weight through calorie restriction:

When people restrict calories in order to lose weight, they often hit a plateau. Often times this is followed by further restriction of caloric intake in an attempt to continue losing that last little bit. Unfortunately, this ends up having the opposite effect. Allow me to introduce you to a hormone called leptin. Leptin restrains food intake, increases energy output, and is secreted by body fat. Therefore it is reduced by low levels of body fat and long term calorie restriction. Put even more simply, high leptin levels = rapid fat loss, low leptin = slow weight loss. Once you’ve reached this stalled weight loss stage, a big meal, particularly high in carbs, helps to restore leptin levels (and also glycogen stores), and get you back on your way to losing body fat.

The thyroid hormone “T3,’ is also lowered during prolonged calorie restriction. If you energy levels are good, and you’re losing the weight you want, this is normal. If you energy levels are low, and you can’t seem to lose more weight or you’re even gaining weight, your T3 levels could be too low. Again this is where an abundance of calories can actually help, by restoring your thyroid function. There is no need to fear carbohydrates, especially from sources such as sweet potatoes (I told you, they’re my favorite food, and if you keep reading my articles, you’re likely going to hear sweet potatoes recommended time and time again).

To summarize, cheating is not necessary, but if you want to, feel free to partake in it. But whatever you do, remember, you’re making a conscious, informed decision, to indulge in a food, that if consumed regularly, would likely elicit less-than-ideal metabolic and physiological effects; but because you are doing so marginally, you do not need to feel guilty (I really need to take my own advice on this one).

What treats are you most excited to indulge in?

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