Saturday, March 11, 2006

Controlled-Cheating While Low-Carb Living

There are many brand new readers to my blog who have only joined us in the past few weeks and months. Many times I will receive an e-mail from someone asking me to address a specific topic for them and it turns out that I already have months ago. Of course, I don't mind people contacting me about those issues even if I have written about them because some ideas are certainly worth repeating.

This e-mail is a prime example of a concept I think is worthy of addressing again:

I have started reading your blogs when I found you from another website and I love to check in everyday for new postings. You are an inspiration to everyone who is also enjoying the low carb lifestyle.

I have also succeeded with this lifestyle, losing 25 pounds and still counting. I got into a relationship, and like we all do, I got comfortable. We ate out a lot in the early stages of our relationship and then go to Starbucks after where it was easy to cram down too many carbs (I just cringe at it now). Or we would go to a movie (or rent one) with the typical movie fare (Twizzlers, chocolate, popcorn, etc).

But I soon realized that I needed to take control before the man that I was starting to love started to see ME growing instead HIS LOVE growing for me. He's one of the lucky humans that can eat as they choose and not worry much about weight (yet, he's only 28).

With success on this lifestyle, I've had questions. And it's hard to get a straight answer because no one is going to say anything other than what should be said.

Having lost the 25 pounds, I am at a point that I am pretty comfortable where I am at. Certainly if I lost a few pounds it wouldn't be terrible, but I don't really need to. I just need to maintain.

This will sound like a silly question perhaps, but I have to ask it to get a straight answer and not what Dr. Atkins wrote. How bad is it to cheat on this diet with one meal on occasion (birthday, holiday or even an upcoming wedding with my new fiance)? When I say cheat, I don't mean fall off the wagon and eat every carb under the sun for a week and then get back on the plan. I mean, with self control, enjoy one meal (or dessert) on occassion and then resume the low carb lifestyle directly after as if nothing ever changed.

Certainly all the books and websites say "DON'T EVER CHEAT" but that's just not real world. It will and does happen from time to time. I love sushi; I can't give that up for the rest of my life. I supplement with sashimi, but on rare occassions I'd like to enjoy the rice. And I love to go to Panera for soup and a piece of French bread. I can't imagine giving that up forever and ever. Please help? :)

Also, what are some foods that are good to use with this lifestyle when you are trying to maintain? ie: black beans, berries, etc?

Thank you SOO much for any information you can give me and for also taking the time to read my email.

Some of my long-time readers will remember two posts I wrote about this subject, including "Who Says You Can't Splurge On Low-Carb?" which sparked so much feedback I wrote "Controversial 'Planned Splurge' Strategy Needs Clarification" a few days later.

Here was my e-mail response to my reader's questions:

THANKS so much for writing and congratulations for making livin' la vida low-carb your way of life to get healthy and stay healthy forever. I'm so proud of you for bucking the anti-low-carb trend and proving people can do this.

I absolutely LOVE your question and it is one that I address directly in my book because it is "the real world" and there has to be a way to enjoy those foods you like without giving in to them so often that you gain all your weight back.

And there is. I call it a "planned splurge."

A lot of low-carbers disagree with my "planned splurge" strategy. But I found it to be extremely effective during my weight loss phase and even now. The key is to do it for ONE MEAL and then get right back on low-carb again.

When my wife and I eat at Denny's, I'll have a "mini-splurge" sometimes when I will eat pancakes. Other times we will go to the buffet at Pizza Inn and I'll chow down. Pick your poison but keep it to ONE MEAL and no more often than every 6-8 weeks. It may take your body a few days to get back down, but it is so worth it to enjoy those foods you love and adore.

As for what to eat now, read labels. If you are doing that on a regular basis and keep your carbs below 100, you should be able to maintain. However, don't let the weight creep up on you by weighing yourself often. If you see it on the rise, then back off on the carbs and let your body weight come down again. There's no need to freak out about it, but always be conscious of how much you weigh.

Berries are AWESOME, but I would be careful about beans. They can get high in carbs, but that's your call whether you want to eat those or not. I don't. Again, just watch how many carbs you are putting in your mouth.

Does this answer your questions? THANK YOU for your readership and I welcome your feedback and questions anytime.

Take care!

My "controlled-cheating" approach may not be for everyone, but I think it can help alleviate some of the objections people may have towards livin' la vida low-carb. If they know there is a meal coming up every 6-8 weeks where they can eat whatever they want and desire for just that one meal, then it could give them the kickstart they need to be committed the hundreds of meals in between those times!

To me, that's a more intelligent strategy than telling somebody "don't ever cheat." My reader is EXACTLY RIGHT about the fallacy of that statement and I am glad she asked the question. Whatever you do, if you try the planned splurge and you make it last for more than one meal or more often than every couple of months, then don't come crying back to me about how it didn't help you. You're on your own if you do it the wrong way.

But using a common sense, controlled-cheating approach, you can enjoy all the benefits of low-carb living and eat your cake, too, if you want it!

3-12-06 UPDATE: Fellow 200-pound Atkins weight loss success Kent Altena responds to my "planned splurge" strategy calling it a bad idea based on his own experience. Check out what he has to say.


Blogger Tess said...

Black soy beans have 1 net carb per half cup. Dr. mary Dan Eades blog gave one called Flageolet which have under 5 net carbs per serving. I haven't tried them yet. She said they are an immature French green kidney bean. Hope this helps.

3/11/2006 4:40 PM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

I do almost the same thing: a controlled-splurge. The key is to keep it controlled indeed and don't overeat either. It might be difficult for some. But even the good doctor Atkins said that sometimes it's ok. Also for people with extreme metabolic resistance he advised to sometimes "rock the boat" by switching diet over very short periods, just like rocking a stuck car back and forth until it gets traction or momentum again and moves forward on its own.

3/11/2006 6:32 PM  
Blogger Kent said...

Coming from someone who even at goal never cheats as defined by eating "whites" with fore-knowledge, I would just emphasize you really need to know yourself before partaking of this strategy. Are you the type of person who will take the day off from exercise and not return to it for another week? Are you not the most organized person leading to decision-making in time-sensative environments? If I was honest with myself, I know I would list myself under each of the two categories. I know for myself one Krispy Kreme or pizza or Chinese (not legal options either but General Tzo chicken) day would certainly lead to reevaluation of the diet the other 41 days. Worse yet, what if the weight does respond on those days to "rocking the boat?" How much more license would it be to try it more often. The best result of any such day for my conscience would be a couple pounds of water gain that would leave shortly and confirm that I was on the right course.

For me, it was the more intelligent argument to keep the options the same each and every day. No day is special. No day deserves me wrecking it by returning to old ways of thinking or eating. As I have said in the past, there are certainly enough ways to wreck a day from being living large in the land of low carb by eating too much legal foods or not doing or even not doing more exercise that I don't need another temptation. This all said, not cheating is simply something that works for me -- I am only offering as an viable option and that others are indeed able to do it (two years in my book, much longer in others).

In the end, it just comes down to knowing thyself, and acting accordingly. If you can plan and limit yourself to one meal or one day and that those foods still give you pleasure, having that control is a wonderful thing.

3/11/2006 7:04 PM  
Blogger Darleen said...

Having lost 73 pounds over 13 months and now have maintained that loss for the last 8 months I am able to say the planned carb splurge works for me. When we go on vacations (I love cruising) I eat everything in moderation, make some good choices and knowingly some really bad ones - on vacation I have those frothy sugary drinks and a few deserts. BUT - the deal I made with myself is that the day I get home, my very next meal is healthy and low carb. Not the next Monday, not the next month or next week but the very next meal. This gives me a break from being so strict but actually by the time the weeks over I'm ready to go back to healthy eating. I don't feel as good shoving all those carbs down and want to get back to the meat, veggies and fruit.
Love your articles by the way.

3/11/2006 8:07 PM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Darleen & Kent: indeed, that is the key. The very next meal has to be healthy and low-carb again. And of course, once on the splurge, limit the damage. There is also some scientific evidence that is wise to have the splurge within one hour, it seems to limit the insulin response. So don't have a high-carb meal all evening with many (bad) courses.

And the very next meal: back to healthy low-carb! BTW, Kent, I admire your resolve and determination that you can stay off the carbs. I can too, but every now and then (8-10 weeks) I cave in. Not to sugar, mind you, but perhaps a slice of breaded fish. Keeping an eye on the glycemic load, I then aim to offset it with plenty of roughage: fiber from (healthy) carbs to limit the damage further. But again: the very next meal, back to healthy low-carb!

I kept the weight off for over 10 years by now that way.

3/11/2006 8:26 PM  
Blogger Big Daddy D said...

Your writer mentioned having to give up Panera. FYI - Panera has wonderful low-carb breads that you can substitute on other sandwiches. And their salads are pretty good as well.

6/10/2007 1:40 PM  
Blogger Big Daddy D said...

Not anymore. Went to Panera for lunch today. They told me that they quit selling low carb bread YESTERDAY! And, they think that it is company wide.

I'm not sure if it'd do any good, but write them and ask them to bring it back!

Write them using this form:

8/30/2007 5:06 PM  

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