Cheat Days and Eating LCHF

I often get asked what I recommend people do when it is a special occasion, or a holiday. Are we allowed a “cheat day”.  This is how I answer the question.

It may seem like a strange thing for a Dietitian to say, but when it comes to weight loss, or targeting lower blood sugars, or pressure or cholesterol, I don’t believe in “diets”. The way I look at it is, if people go on a diet,  then at some point, they go off of it. I prefer to think of what we eat in terms of “everyday foods” and “sometimes foods“.

Eating a low carb high fat (LCHF) diet is a choice, just like becoming a vegetarian. People become vegetarian for different reasons; sometimes it is for religion reasons or ethical reasons and sometimes it is for the perceived health benefits. It’s the same with the reason people start eating LCHF. For some, it is to lower insulin resistance, for others it’s to address high blood sugar or to lose weight.  Some decide to eat this way because it was the diet of our ancient ancestors.  Since the reasons people start eating LCHF are different, the reasons people might give to eat a high carbohydrate food also differ.

As far as an idea of a “cheat day”, I don’t find the idea of being “allowed” or “not allowed” foods, helpful.  It implies that there are rules that we are somehow ‘breaking’ – and this comes with baggage all its own. Restricting  calories or restricting food and weighing and measuring every bite that we put in our mouths is not a paradigm that has served most people well – and this type of obsession and attention to “how much” can, in theory, feed a predisposition to disordered eating.

I encourage people to learn to follow a LCHF style of eating and to become adapted to burning fat, rather than just carbohydrate.  Then I advise them to eat when they are hungry and stop eating when they are no longer hungry.  It sounds simple, but there is some physiology behind it. Without constantly high insulin levels driving food craving, eating a diet rich in healthy fats enables people to stop eating when they are no longer hungry.

Eating or not eating high carbohydrate foods comes with an opportunity cost. The questions I encourage people to ask themselves is “what will the results or conssequences be if I eat the specific food(s) I have in mind, and in what quantities?”

“What will the consequences be if I eat 2 oz of this saffron-raisin egg bread? Or 4 oz? Or more?

For example, if a person that normally eats ~100g of carbohydrate a day wants to eat a few slices of pizza, the physiological consequences will be different than a woman that normally eats 35g of carbohydrate, or a man that normally eats 50g of carbs per day. If either of them is insulin resistant or Diabetic, it will certainly impact their blood sugars (the symptom), but how long will it have an effect on their insulin levels?  That is the more important question.

“What will my blood sugars be tomorrow, if I eat 1/2 cup of this noodle pudding with dried fruit?”

For people who are in ketosis, eating foods very high in carbohydrates will cause that to cease for a time, and it might take several days of eating LCHF again until they are again in fat-burning mode.  Likely there will be a few days of being hungry through the day.  Are they okay with this?

I want people to have a healthy relationship with food – and that means that they can eat anything – but how much and how often?

The last time I made this bread for company, I gave them the remaining loaves to take home. I ate a small amount and really enjoyed it.

Everyday (i.e. “everyday foods”), I choose to eat LCHF, but sometimes (i.e. “sometimes foods”) I will take a taste of something yummy – and I encourage my clients to feel free to do so too.  A bite of an ice cream or cake, in the grand scheme of things, won’t make a huge difference, in fact, I calculate the number of carbs that are in the food I am considering, and decide beforehand, if it is worth it for me.

Tonight I will be having my family over for a special dinner and I have decided in advance that I will have 2 oz of the bread, a spoonful of the noodle pudding and a 2″ x 1″ piece of the honey cake.  Sure I can have more, if I wanted, but I’ve come to realize that whether I eat 2 oz of the saffron honey egg bread or 10 oz of it, it will taste exactly the same!  Why eat more? I’ve never been a big fan of the noodle dish, so a small taste is fine with me, and the honey cake is only made once a year on this occasion, and it’s my mother’s recipe from 1954, so yes I am going to eat a bigger piece and enjoy every bite. So what am I going to eat?

Roasted chicken with saffron, honey and hazelnuts

Chicken! …and some red butter lettuce salad with raspberries on top and drowned in olive oil.  Oh! And an apple slice, dipped in honey, for a sweet year.

Eating LCHF is a choice, and a lifestyle and as such, we can choose to eat other things.  How much, how often and which things is up to us. If our goal is to lower our insulin levels, we will know (or need to learn) how much of something won’t have a large, lasting impact.

So eat! Enjoy!

Note: I am a "sample-set of 1" - meaning that how I implement a low carb diet may differ from others who follow a similar lifestyle. If you want to adopt this kind of lifestyle, please discuss it with your doctor, first.

Copyright ©2017 The LCHF-Dietitian (a division of BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.) 

LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without the knowledge of your physician and regular monitoring by your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing anything  you have read or heard in our content.


Copyright ©2017 The LCHF-Dietitian (a division of BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.) 

LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without the knowledge of your physician and regular monitoring by your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing anything  you have read or heard in our content.