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Cheat on Your Diet for Better Results
Cheat Meals Versus a Binge

Want to have a cheat day?
Ready to cheat on your diet?

When you try to lose weight, your body fights back. As the calories go down, metabolism starts to slow. The hormone leptin, which helps regulate hunger, can drop dramatically in a week. As leptin levels decrease, hunger increases. After only seven days on a diet you're typically dealing with a significantly reduced metabolism and increased levels of hunger.

Here's how it works. Since leptin is an appetite suppressant, your brain needs it as a signal that it's full. When a normal size person eats a meal, leptin levels continue to climb until your brain eventually says "enough" and you recognize the feeling of fullness. The problem with obese people is that they're resistant to leptin, so they don't get that "full" signal and they continue to eat.

Unfortunately, the modern diet seems to be a huge contributor to the problem. Simple carbohydrates (like sugar) contain higher levels of leptin than our bodies are designed to handle. If you constantly bombard the brain with carb-rich foods that have excessive levels of leptin, over time your system will shut down and you won't recognize when you're full.

That means taking leptin as a supplement isn't the answer, because eventually you'll become resistant to its appetite-suppressing effects. What you need to do is re-sensitize the brain. One of the best ways of doing that is to REDUCE the amount of leptin in the body.

That's part of the reason for the initial success of low-carb diets. By severely reducing the carbohydrates (and the leptin that comes along with them) you can get the brain to start recognizing leptin again and signal when it's full. Here's how to regulate it with your diet.

Start by lowering your calories so you'll lose weight. Make sure to continue doing resistance training exercises so you hang onto the muscle. Then, once a week, give your metabolism a boost and knock out the hunger.

You do that by having a "cheat meal." A larger than normal meal, preferably with higher carbohydrates which boost the leptin levels and lower your hunger. A cheat meal also kicks your metabolism up so you start burning more calories again. That hormonal boost once a week, combined with regular exercise and dieting the rest of the week, increases your chance of weight loss success.

The trick is making sure it's just a cheat meal and not an all-out binge. Here are two examples. In both scenarios, you're supposed to eat about 1,700 calories a day to lose weight. Before the diet, you were eating 2,200 calories a day and staying the same.

Example 1: You eat 500 extra calories on a cheat day. That brings your daily average calorie intake for the week to about 1771 calories a day. Still more than enough to lose nearly a pound a week.

Example 2: You eat 4,000 extra calories on a cheat day. That brings your daily calorie intake over the week to about 2,271. That's fifty calories MORE than you were eating before and would result in NO weight loss.

Cheat meal, yes. Cheat weekend, no.

If the idea of cheating on your diet is disturbing, change the words. Don't think of it as going off your diet or cheating, think of it as giving your body a boost. Remember too there's more going on than just boosting metabolism.

MEN get another advantage from their cheat meal. Dieting tends to decrease testosterone levels. Bump up your leptin with a cheat meal and it increases liver glycogen, which drives up testosterone. That helps you maintain muscle mass.

WOMEN experience a decrease in reproductive hormones when leptin levels drop too low. That can lead to decreased bone mass and density. Cheat once a week and it'll keep those levels higher and help you keep strong bones.

The next time you decide to drop a few pounds, remember to build in a cheat meal regularly.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.