There’s a very interesting experiment called the “Cake calories content”. The ideea is to have two similar groups of people currently on a diet invited to a cake tasting disguised as a taste buds experiment. The groups are in separate rooms and cannot see each other. The tasting object is a very sweet, high sugar cake, which contains aprox. 700 calories / slice. Two of these identical cakes are being presented to both groups. The first group is being told the truth regarding the high calorie content of the cake of about 700 calories per slice. The second group is being told that the cake is a low fat & no sugar cake, and that it’s made with natural sweetener, therefore a slice contains only around 190 calories. The groups are then left alone, tasting the cake with one slice / person. After the tasting the groups are being told that they will immediately participate in another similar cake decoration workshop, where they’ll be able to decorate and taste other cakes. They are given two more cakes similar to the first ones, some edible cake decorations and are left alone for one hour. Both groups decorate their own cake and then they must have a taste of their own “work”. After one hour, the organizer comes and tells them the truth about the real experiment they’ve taken part of, and shares the truth about the real calorie content of the cake with the second group.
The experiment results are mind-blowing. The second group’s members, which thought the’re not really cheating on their diet so much, due to what they’ve been told about the cake’s low calorie content, didn’t really eat too much cake after the decoration workshop. The first group on the other hand, who knew the calorie bomb they’re eating, ate almost EIGHT TIMES more cake after the decoration workshop than the second group. That’s 800% MORE!!! And this experiment’s results are pretty consistent when repeated numerous times with different people on a diet. Why is this happening?
Is seems that the explanation lies in the way that both groups members treated that first slice of cake. The ones who thought the first slice doesn’t affect their diet too much, so they’re not really cheating on it, were very careful on the second cake, not to eat too much in order for them not to fall off the wagon. Actually, they barely touched that second cake after decorating it. The members of the first group felt like they’ve cheated big time on their diet with the first slice so they might as well eat the whole second cake. Which they did. Because they saw the cheating so tragically that it just didn’t matter if they ate five or six more slices. They thought they’re off the wagon again…
So what can we learn from this experiment? First of all that if you keep on cheating troughout the day once you’ve already had your slice of “bad food”, it matters. Big time! One slice of cake does not have the same effect on your body & diet as nine slices. It’s just a lie you tell yourself in order to keep on eating. Because that’s not enjoying. That’s a mindless compulsive activity. No matter what diet or lifestyle we have we’ll never do it 100% of our time. Actually I’m a big fan of cheat meals but here I’m not talking about them, because those cheats are also scheduled. I’m talking about the moments when we eat or drink something not scheduled in our diet / lifestyle / cheat day. So if nobody can keep it clean for a long time how come some have great results and continue with their plan and others make such a tragedy out of a moment like that that actually? Part of the answer lies in the question, the part with the tragedy. That tragedy translates into two different approaches of the “cheaters” which both have roughly the same results:
A) They tell themselves the whole day is ruined but they’ll continue from tommorow or another point in the future so they might as well profit from the chealting like hell…beyond enjoyment. We’ll call these guys Opportunists because they profit the most out of every diet cheat.
B) They think they are too weak to keep a clean diet since this is not the first time they fail so they might as well give it up, not realizing the point of keeping a clean diet is not avoiding unplanned cheats but knowing how to recover from them. We’ll call these guys Extremists because they give up completely until they are prepared to start their diet over again.
I was both a Dieting Opportunist and Extremist and I can tell you both lead to the same results on the long term as you can see in the beautiful graph below that I made by myself, on the laptop touchpad, with no mouse 🙂
The solution to all of this is made out of two components:
1. Accepting unplanned cheats as part of your lifestyle. No matter if you plan your diet to include cheat days or not, you have to be aware there will be times when you won’t resist. The fewer the better, but don’t live with the ideea of perfection. It doesn’t exist.
2. Returning to your diet as soon as possible after the cheat happened. So, for example, you’re at a friends’s barbeque party and you eat and drink like you just don’t care. But then you head home. Now instead of being an Opportunist and continue to go wild until next morning or being an Extremist and giving up the whole thing altogether just continue your diet like nothing happened. Don’t skip your planned meal either trying to make up on calories by not eating. Just prepare your tipical dinner for example and eat it at it’s scheduled time. This is going to help you get back on track very quickly more than making up by not eating, which will rather turn these cheats into a more frequent thing. As you can see is this second beautiful graph created in the same conditions as the first one, the small cheats cannot outrun the intervals where you’re on track.