Are Cheat Meals Cheating You Out of Fat Loss?

Many fat loss experts out there recommend cheat meals to help sustain fat loss and decrease the slowing down of the metabolism while following a low-calorie diet.  And to be honest, I agree with this strategy . . . mostly The concept of a cheat meal, or cheat day, is substantiated by research as well as empirical evidence by people who use them.  But could they be sabotaging your results at all?


Cheat Meals Can Last For Months

It is ignorant to simply look at food as a source of nutrients for your body.  It’s almost just as nearsighted to see food as merely causing hormonal responses in the body. Fat loss goes well beyond one’s hormones, including leptin. The reality is that foods we consume, as well as the health of our digestive system, can cause immunological and inflammatory responses that last weeks to months after we eat a given food. Take, for example, gluten.  With the complexity of gluten sensitivity, accurate statistics are difficult to come by; but, there is some evidence that as many as 30 percent of our population have an issue with gluten.

Sabotaging Fat Loss

Let’s say you were following a low-calorie, whole-food, and maybe even gluten-free diet.  When your cheat day rolls around, if you eat popular cheat items like these, you may be doing more harm than good:

•    Pizza
•    Mac and cheese
•    Cookies

And no, it might not have to do with leptin, thyroid hormone, or your overall metabolic rate, but it might cause inflammation. There is evidence that gluten can remain in your system for up to 14 days after ingestion; but even worse is that inflammatory gluten antibodies can remain in your system for anywhere between 4-8 months.  Inflammation can sabotage weight loss on many different levels. But more specifically, wheat products also have something called Wheat Germ Agglutinin, which according to research, may contribute to leptin resistance.  So much for cheat days containing wheat and gluten.

What You Should Do

Again, if you are following a low-calorie diet targeted at fat loss, the occasional cheat meal or even cheat day may be helpful psychologically as well as physiologically.  However if you do have a cheat meal, why not just eat more of the healthy foods you’ve been eating while on the diet.  And if you get a hankering for a treat, find a healthy gluten-free option instead.  (There are some sinfully delicious gluten-free desserts available today that will fulfill the desire of every sweet tooth in your mouth.)

The Bottom Line

Gluten sensitivity is very real, but it doesn’t impact everyone. If you’re someone that is sensitive to gluten and are interested in fat loss, you should avoid it at all costs.  But beyond that, cheat meals promoted by some fat loss experts just don’t make sense to me.  Junk food causes a number of physiological issues but, as we talked about here, they don’t just last for the meal or the day you’re cheating.  They may be sabotaging your fat loss for weeks and months to come.

A Question For You

Now that you have a more complete picture of “cheat days” based on the latest research, do you really think an intelligent fat loss plan would include foods such as pizza and Mac N Cheese?


By: Dr. Bryan Walsh

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