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The Rules of Cheating


While eating a healthy variety of good natural food is important, it is unrealistic to expect everyone to stick to such a strict regimen 100% of the time.  Every once in awhile you should treat or reward yourself, be it for reaching a goal, rewarding for sticking to your plan, or maybe just to remind yourself what your favorite indulgence tastes like.

There are benefits to having the occasional cheat meal.  Psychologically, the reward component of an upcoming cheat meal can keep you going during those long stretches where you don’t see much of a change in your measurements or on the scale.  Scientifically, constant dieting will eventually lead to caloric deficits which can cause your energy levels to drop.  The calorie bomb provided by your cheat meal can shake things up by encouraging your body to burn calories more rapidly instead of allowing it to adjust to a lower calorie lifestyle.

However, it is important to keep it under control.  Follow these rules to keep your occasional deviation from derailing the whole train.

Plan your cheats.   

There are no spontaneous cheats.  Just like you plan your healthy meals, your cheats should be something you figured out in advance.  Spur of the moment cheats tend to lead to overindulgence, and not having a plan can turn a cheat meal into a cheat weekend or worse.  Make your cheat something worthwhile, not the random sample vendor you come upon in Costco. 

There’s a negative connotation tied to the word “cheat”.  It makes it seem bad, like you’re doing something wrong.  Instead of calling it a cheat meal, call it a treat meal.  I like to plan my treat meals to coincide with meeting certain goals.

Sticking to planned cheats also eliminates the guilt factor.  Say on your drive home that Starbucks caught you in its tractor beam and you ended up spontaneously downing that large mocha crappachino.  The rest of the day, or maybe even the weekend, you’re likely to feel guilty for drinking all those calories and may even write the whole time off as a loss.  This can easily lead to you abandoning all the hard work you have done.  Stick to a plan and you won’t feel guilty.

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Limit it to one per week. 

Shaking up the monotony of always eating clean can help you mentally and also physically, making your long-term plan sustainable.  To lessen the impact, plan to consume your cheat soon after working out when your body will more easily burn off those carbs and sugars with less of a penalty to you later.

Portion it out. 

It’s not an all out pass to go crazy.  Choose your cheat and stick to the portion you pre-determined.  Keep the caloric intake reasonable (actually take a look at the calories on the menus or packaging—make sure it’s worth it).   No all-you-can-eat buffets and don’t park yourself in front of things you’ll pick at, like a party bowl of chips.

Make it social. 

Eating alone at home could lead to a binge.  Instead, go out to eat with friends.  This way, there is a limit to the amount of food available to you (you’d need to order more once your portion is gone), and hopefully the friends you are with will keep you accountable.  You’ll also eat your food more slowly with the distraction of conversation as opposed to how fast you will eat in front of the TV or tablet.  This slower eating will allow your body the time it needs to signal you it’s full before you overindulge.

Get right back on plan. 

Don’t let your cheat meals turn into cheat days, weekends, or weeks.  Look forward to and enjoy your reward, but also plan to get right back into your healthy eating regimen at your following meal.  This might mean giving away any leftover cheat food or tossing it out if you don’t have the willpower to keep your fingers out of it.  Have your healthy food prepped so there are no excuses.


One thing you may want to do as you progress towards your diet and fitness goals is to keep track of how certain foods make you feel after eating them.  A week ago, I had a soda and popcorn after going soda free for over two months.  The cheat meal was disappointing.  I just felt kind of blah afterwards.  It wasn’t the awesome reward I hoped it would be.  If you have a similar experience jot it down somewhere to remind yourself to skip that one and instead choose something your body will appreciate more.








Are You Getting Enough Salt?


If you are eating a typical American diet, you don’t have to be worried about not getting enough sodium in your foods.  Whether it is for taste, texture, preservation, or to help dough rise, manufacturers are not afraid to dump huge amounts of salt into their processed foods.  But what happens when you cut out those processed foods on a healthy diet, like the foods allowed on The Numbers Don’t Lie Challenge?  Removing all that processed food can actually put you in a situation where you need to add salt to your diet to maintain the healthy balance between it and your potassium levels (more on this next week).  Since you are getting a high dose of potassium from healthy vegetables on this type of diet, you need to restore the balance by adding more sodium to your diet.

The general guidelines for healthy sodium intake are about 1500-2300mg of sodium per day, which translates to about ¼ to ½ a teaspoon.  Even though this seems miniscule, this small amount is essential to your health.

Suppose you are eating a diet composed of 2/3 unprocessed plant foods and 1/3 unprocessed animal foods.  This way of eating will only provide you about 600mg of naturally occurring sodium.  It gets even worse for vegetarians eating a 100% plant based diet.  They would only receive 300mg of sodium eating this way.  These numbers show how little sodium you are actually taking in when you cut out the processed foods and their added salt.  You need to make up for this loss by adding salt.

Sodium is an electrolyte that you need in order to stay properly hydrated.  It also plays a role in nerve transmission, muscle contraction, and cardiac function.  Additionally, it aids in nutrient transport, blood pressure regulation, and tissue growth.

Hyponatraemia is a condition caused by low levels of sodium in the blood. Symptoms are not usually very specific and can include changes to a person's mental state, headaches, nausea and vomiting, tiredness, muscle spasms, and seizures.

Not all salts are the same.  Standard table salt is heavily processed and lacks naturally occurring trace nutrients found in healthy natural salt.  Amanda recommends Pink Himalayan Salt. 

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Pink Himalayan salt is a pink-colored salt extracted from the Khewra Salt Mine, which is located near the Himalaya Mountains in Pakistan. The pink Himalayan salt harvested from this mine is believed to have been formed millions of years ago from the evaporation of ancient bodies of water.   Pink Himalayan Salt gets its color from iron deposits leaching through the rocks in which it is mined. The salt is hand-extracted and minimally processed to yield an unrefined product that's free of additives and thought to be much more natural and healthy than table salt.  It is estimated that it contains up to 84 different minerals and trace elements.

While Pink Himalayan Salt and regular table salt are not very different chemically, they differ greatly in the way they are processed.  While Himalayan salt is mined by hand and ground up and bottled, table salt gets heavily filtered, removing most of any trace elements and minerals it may have contained.  After that, the manufacturers often add calcium silicate as an anti-clumping agent, and dextrose to stabilize any iodine if it is iodized salt.

Additionally, table salt is either evaporated from brine pools or seawater, or mined from rock.  Because of its remote location, Himalayan salt is claimed to be healthier and free of contaminants that regular salt may contain.

One consideration when switching over to Pink Himalayan Salt from table salt is how coarse the salt crystals are.  While you can get Himalayan Salt in several different crystal sizes, most are significantly larger than regular salt crystal sizes.  This means that you may need to add more Himalayan Salt to your food than what you would normally add in table salt, as the larger crystals don’t pack into the same volume measuring spoon as the smaller crystals in table salt do.

Now I know what you are thinking.  Salt is bad.  We’ve been taught that all our lives.  Next week, we’ll dissolve some of the salt myths and maybe change how you look at this important nutrient.