Sunday, March 16, 2008

Free Meals: Not a License to Binge!

The terms "free meal" and "refeed" receive interest among low-carbers, and I have to say it's an intriguing way to cycle.

That is, IF...

1) One knows that there's a big difference between a "refeed" and a "free meal." Depending on our Body Mass Index, our Body Fat Percentage, and our Activity Level, The Rapid Fat Loss book by Lyle McDonald says there are different formulas to follow in regard to either "Refeeds" or "Free Meals." However, Rapid Fat Loss menus are low-fat, include unlimited green veggies, and some dairy products. So tweaks had to be made, and I've adapted those ideas for low-carbers who are either low-fat (30-50 grams or less per day) low carbers or higher fat low carbers. Believe me, even that one small difference makes for a big one, including the way a "free meal" is done.


2) If one is not prone to easily falling off the low-carb wagon.

One needs self-control to enjoy a free meal. I've seen too many people try what they thought was the free meal tip (they didn't carefully read the directions or were given incomplete ones), and then completely flipped out, binging for days. That is not the idea of a free meal (after all, the phrase is singular, not plural!). Then they convince themselves something was triggered; what they really mean is something caused them to totally lose control.

Of course, that is what happened. Yet I don't believe in triggers...not in the same way as do some. That is, I do believe certain foods will trigger more cravings, but I don't believe the trigger is uncontrollable. It's totally up to us to control the initial craving or to stop it in its tracks. (A trigger is not a tsnumai, so it can be stopped.)

How? When craving something that is off the low-carb plan, eat protein! If that's not available, eat real cheese (not cheese food), followed by sugar free jello or low-carb yogurt. Don't eat protein bars or low-carb goodies - they only make it worse.

Proteins always subdue the craving - even if the trigger has already been set off. Follow the proteins with a cold drink of water and then fill the glass again. Take it with you as you leave the kitchen and go do something constructive (like ridding the closet of all those clothes that are now too big for you!). If you're at someone else's house, do the same thing...only the constructive stuff can be playing crochet, backgammon, soccer, chasing the kids, whatever you need to do!

Mindset Tip: There is no food that can "trigger" one into plowing thru the kitchen cupboard, leaving one to wonder, hours later, what in the world happened. For Pete's sake, that's not the result of a trigger, which can be immediately controlled. No, sorry to say, that's a lack of self-control. That control (or lack thereof) comes from the mind, even if a trigger started the whole thing. It is the mind and the course of action upon which the mind decides that nips the trigger right in the bud. So...

For those who know they have not yet mastered the mindset, which means mastering the self-control, "free meals" should not even be considered.

However...

If one is following the low-carb plan of choice to a "T," is not indulging in weekend Carb Fests, and doesn't give in to nibbles and bites througout the week, then one does the possess the right mindset and the "free meal" trick will work wonderfully well!

Now, the guidelines for a free meal are as follows:

---If you have been eating low-calorie, low-fat, and low-carb, a free meal will usually helps "reset" your metabolism. That is because we seriously need fats for thyroid function, which affects metabolic rate. However, I've also found that following a higher fat, low carb woe is more healthy and beneficial - and the free meal concept still applies!

---A free meal consists in eating unlimited protein and adding only ONE "extra" to the main meal (preferably dinner) and, if truly desired, one serving of a "real" dessert.


For low carb, low fat enthusiasts, the Free Meal Rule of Thumb is to enjoy one meal in which is included one serving of a "no-no" food. Usually, the "no-no" should be low in fat but higher in carbs, like: a bagel, wheat bread, rice, pasta, low-fat pancakes, low-fat waffles (with sugar free syrup), or 1/2 to 1 cup of low-fat ice cream.

Now, the same could be done for those following a low carb, higher fat plan. They could follow the "free meal" plan exactly as above but - for better results - they could choose one higher-fat, higher carb option to accompany their entree (like one cup of full fat, chicken noodle soup), and then choose one full-fat, higher carb option for dessert (e.g. - NY cheesecake). After all, fatty acids do not make body fat (carbs do that) and there is some scientific evidence that fatty acids can actually push down rising glucose - which occurs when we who are insulin resistant eat too many carbs or just the "wrong" (higher glycemic) kind of carbs!

---Choose one night during the week to have a free meal at dinner - not breakfast or lunch. If possible, have the "free meal" at a sit-down restaurant.

Tip! The reason for having the free meal at a restaurant: It greatly helps in not going overboard as one could easily do at home. Rarely will those dining out ask for a second roll or a second helping of pasta or potato. (In another words, the free meal "dinner" at a restaurant helps us avoid what I call a "Carb Blow-out.")

The Big Question: How to do a "free meal"?


First, please make it a point to remember that a free meal is not a carb blow out. In fact, it's a "controlled cheat." What's that, you say?

A controlled cheat - not only to control any triggers but also to force your metabolism to respond in a certain way.

So here's how it's done:

+ Start with your favorite salad, using your favorite salad dressing (skip the croutions because you want to save the usual "no-no" food for the free part)
+ Have all the lean protein you want (but avoid breading). So if you want 2 monstrous pieces of chicken, or t-bone steak, or filet mignon - go for it.
+ Keep your beverage sugar-free, because there are certain carbs that will just add fat...which is not the purpose of the free meal. So plain tea with fresh lemon and stevia is a good choice. (Diet sodas contain aspartame, which is poison. To add insult to injury, it can stall wt. loss.)

Now we get to the "FREE" Part"!

+ To the menu, add just ONE favorite starchy extra (one serving of your favorite bread - not 2 servings and certainly not a whole bread basket or loaf - or a helping of pasta, or a baked potato, or mashed potatoes, or a creamy potato/bacon soup, or chicken noodle soup or a vegetable soup). So it is not bread, and pasta, and soup...no, no, no! This is a controlled experiment!

+ Want dessert? If there is truly room for dessert, conclude the meal with one, rich, elegant dessert (cheesecake sounds like a good idea here, or perhaps a small dish of fruits - like berries - topped with real whipped cream).

The trick of the free meal is not to indulge in pizza or ice cream, but to enjoy just ONE "extra" selection at an otherwise low-carb friendly dinner. That's your weekly free meal.

Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?

In one way it is, and let me tell you in advance: "They that dance must pay the piper." And pay you will.

So why do it at all? The purpose of the free meal is twofold. It's 1) psychological and 2) physiological. (Psychological reason: Some people have trouble with weekend binging, or daily nibbles, or some form of cheating; so one free meal per week may help in overcoming that problem. Since I stay on plan 24/7, I'm more interested in the physiological - e.g, the body's response, and the promise of how the metabolism will respond to the free meal.)

So one indulges a little, then one pays --- but then comes the good part.

The initial payment: Expect an overnight gain on the scale, anywhere between 4-10 lbs for those who choose the low-fat, higher carb option for their free meals.

On the other hand, the gain could be much less if choosing a higher fat, higher carb option. I myself have experienced overnight gains of only .4 to 1.4 lbs. when my free meal included both higher fat with higher carbs (like a cup of cheese-potato-bacon soup as my entree "extra" and, for dessert, a slice of real NY cheesecake).

Here's the reward: Days later, your payment is given back to you, with interest!

How? It all depends on what is done after the free meal at dinner. First of all, recall that the controlled cheat (ok, let's consider it a slight indulgence) is now over. Finito. Zero, zilch, zip, nada - no more cheats. No matter what your plans are for the evening, no more indulgences, ok? Immediately return to low-carbing. (When I say immediately, I really mean "immediately.")

The next morning, please be ready to expect the gain. (Don't pass out, scream, holler, swear or faint - it won't change a thing. Just say, "Aha, that worked! Maybe too well, but it worked!")

Again, stay on the low carb track every single day.

Within 4 days, the scale should show a good drop and it should keep dropping a little more every day. That's the real reason for the free meal - it is to shock the metabolic system.

What happens? With the few extras at the free meal, the metabolism is given higher carbs. The metabolism's reaction is basically: "Yesssss, yummies!" and sucks them right in. Glucose spikes, and the metabolism gets busy refilling the empty glycogen stores. The old metabolism is happily chugging along, grabbing all those carbs and running to the glycogen department to fill up the shelves - but then it all stops! Just as the extra carbs suddenly arrived, now the surprise supply is shut off.

See? A controlled cheat --err, indulgence - is intended to recharge your metabolism. The metabolism, expecting those carbs to keep coming, switched gears. But then YOU immediately switched gears by getting right back on the low carb track - in self defense, you have to. The metabolism is faster at change than are you - which explains why there'll be a gain the next morning and which explains exactly why the free meal must be controlled and low-carbing immediately resumed.

So the glycogen is restored after the controlled cheat. Then the metabolism has to once more go thru the steps into ketosis - which forces it to burn the small amount of newly stored glycogen first, and then it has to move on to burning the fat.

End Result: The lbs. gained from the free meal melts away within 4 days ---and it takes a few friends with it!

This neat little trick can be done once a week, sometimes every 10 days or so, depending on one's weight and how much one gains from the free meal.

As one can see, it's a great deal all the way around, as long as the free meal is done correctly and low carbing is immediately resumed!

1 comment:

Candice said...

Keep up the good work.