How to Cheat
Categories: Nutrition

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An open letter to those that are seeing August’s Challenge through:

Remember, the challenge (and burpees) are still going through Friday. However, as things are wrapping up, you might be itching to cheat… figuring you were only going to eat paleo for a month and you’re done with it. First, I’d ask you to read this blurb from

“The only way this will work is if you give it the full thirty days. Anything less and you are selling yourself, and your results, short. You may start to see and feel improvements within just a few days, but … the healing process takes significantly longer. Just ONE cheat could irritate your digestive tract, promote an inflammatory response, upend your insulin sensitivity and send you running for the nearest Dunkin Donuts. It will ruin the effect of the ‘reset button’ you are trying to push.”

That’s why we were so strict on the guidelines. (In fact, click on the paragraph above to see the way Whole9Life advocates 30 strict days of paleo.) Adding sugar back in ruins your insulin sensitivity, while adding gluten can damage your intestinal tract for up to 3 weeks! Now it’s typically advised to also avoid dairy, as that can be an irritant for many, but as we were trying to accommodate our vegetarians, we allowed dairy. Ruth, Sean and myself have eliminated dairy previously and know what causes us distress. Likewise, we’d encourage you to try the same, to ensure you’re not shooting yourself in the foot.

So where do you go from here? First thing, try to cheat wisely. You want to cheat with just ONE category at a time, so you can see how it affects you. Gluten should probably be saved for last to experiment with, since it can leave you trashed for weeks and you want to see what other items you can/can’t tolerate. Sugar is one to keep in check, as you don’t want to screw up your insulin sensitivity you’ve worked so hard to regain. Alcohol isn’t a biggie, but see how adding it back in affects how you feel. Lectins from beans are another one… but keep them separate from gluten so you know which of the two makes you feel worse.

Then, when you do cheat, follow the guidelines in the two part article I’m going to link below . It will help you keep a more even keel. You might find out gluten and sugar don’t tear you up too much, so you then you know you can handle french toast as the occasional treat. But if you go hog wild the first day off challenge with pancakes and syrup, then later with sugary BBQ and gluten-filled beer and perhaps ice cream, you’ll be guaranteed to end up with a stomach ache and have no clue which of those items are holding you back. You worked hard for 30 days, so don’t blow all that effort in one fell swoop. Congratulations and good luck, ladies!

The Whole9 Guide to Eating Dirty (Part I)
The Whole9 Guide to Eating Dirty (Part II)

P.S. I’ve shown this before, but for those of you who don’t quite grasp the concept of insulin resistance from my explanations, check out this video:

WOD 09.02.10

Make Up Day

7 Responses to “How to Cheat”

Michael H
September 2, 2010 at 9:10 AM

Thanks for putting up with us Marcus. Enjoy your vacay and I hope you cheat every day!

Thanks Michael, although not so much on the sabotage wishes. ;)

September 2, 2010 at 11:17 AM

I mean, sugr is really nice and bread is too but now I’m just scared to go back. I think that’s good.

Yes girls, that fear IS a good thing.

September 2, 2010 at 11:21 AM

I know, me too Alia! When I did cheat, my stomach HATED me…easy does it :)

September 2, 2010 at 11:23 AM

Marcus, I was pretty spot on for about 20 days, and cheated for about 4 days and have been mostly back on track since. As I find the balance between the two, here are my questions-

1.) One of the lessons I took away was about artificial sweeteners and their insulin spikes they create being equal to or worse than plain sugar. So, I know I am asking a lesser of two evils question and your answer is technically neither but with the creamer I use in my coffee. This 30 days challenge has reduced me from two cups to one, but I am back on my old creamer. And now, IT tastes awful. It is a sugar free vanilla caramel coffee mate. The sugar free is a result of about 10 ingredients I can’t name. For the first day of the challenge I was using Coconut Milk French Vanilla creamer until I realized it had cane sugar in it. So, are they a wash or is the coconut milk one better based on it being three ingredients i can read aloud?

2.) You received many text from Jenna regarding dessert. This will probably be reintroduced into our diets. Agave or honey? Or are they a wash.

3:) I felt worse after eating 2 servings of break within 24 hours than I did after drinking 6 beers. Both gluten, why the disparity? (save me the alcoholism comments) :)

Thanks Dr. H

1) Which coconut milk creamer are you using? Is it the “So Delicious” one from Turtle Mountain, or another brand?

2) Honey would be preferable, as agave is highly processed to make the syrup you find in your store. CrossFit Invictus ran a great article about it earlier this year.

3) That was probably due to the concentration of gluten in each. You know bread provokes a reaction so it’s likely gluten isn’t your friend, period. Drinking beer (or other malt beverages) may not be the best choice since you will still be causing micro-trauma to your digestive system even if you don’t get pronounced effects. Luckily, there’s plenty of other alcohols to choose from if you do decide to kick the beer.


September 2, 2010 at 1:35 PM

Marcus??? Going on vacation?? WHAT!? Is that allowed?

September 2, 2010 at 4:11 PM

Thanks for the knowledge Marcus! Always good stuff.

Where are you going on vacation? Can your favorite CFI peeps come too? :)

I’ll be in Vegas tonight, then Sruth made Zion National Park sound so good I decided to check it out over Friday/Saturday.


September 2, 2010 at 4:59 PM

HAHAHA! Sruth! wow.