I would like to clear up a bit of common confusion: Junk food doesn’t automatically make you fat. It’s the extra calories in these foods that often leads to a “caloric surplus” (consuming more calories than you expend), rather than a deficit, that makes you gain fat.
If people don’t understand the “calories in” versus “calories out” equation, they’re not going to lose fat and will mistakenly think that there’s a cause and effect relationship between specific foods and gaining fat.
Many people think eating pizza or chocolate equals getting fat. It doesn’t. It’s not a cause and effect relationship where “junk food” automatically turns into fat. Eating too many calories equals gaining fat and because junk food is very high in calories, it often leads to fat gain, but that’s the only correlation.
I suggest that you limit these types of high calorie foods, or make healthier changes to them, such as asking the waiter to go light on the cheese and substitute a salad for fries, because they’re very high calorie foods and they make creating that caloric deficit a challenge. But to say that when you eat one of these foods, they’ll cause you to automatically gain fat, or prevent you from losing fat, that just isn’t true.
The bottom line? As far as your favorite foods go, my philosophy is that depriving yourself completely of your favorite foods is a great way to make yourself miserable and to be almost certain that you fall off your diet very quickly. I feel that you can allow yourself your favorite foods as long as you acknowledge that calories do count and you obey the law of calorie balance, and plan accordingly to consistently create this calorie deficit.
This means that if you really want to go out and have a burger with friends, for example, then you should:
a.) Take account for that in the rest of your meals that day and make a conscious effort to eat a little smaller portions and/or eat foods lower in calories, such as lean complete proteins and fibrous carbs.
b.) Make some simple changes to that meal so that you can still enjoy it, but don’t go so overboard that you sabotage your progress. An example of making simple changes to a traditionally high calorie meal are ordering a burger with no cheese and mayo, having a salad instead of fried, drinking water or diet soda instead of regular soda, and asking the waiter to box up half in advance.
c.) Get right back on track after that meal, right away. This doesn’t mean that you can go crazy the rest of the weekend and just start over on Monday.
So, because you ate a little less calories than you normally do throughout the day, and were a little more active and perhaps did 20 more minutes of cardio, for example … and because you made some simple, yet wise choices to your burger meal, you may have ended up eating no more calories than you normally do on even your most strict days of just natural carbs and proteins.
So, did that burger out with friends cause you to gain fat, or prevent you from losing fat? Absolutely not, because you planned wisely in advance and made good choices to stay within your caloric budget for the day.
I have friends that ask me all the time, how are you able to go out and have a couple beers on a Saturday night, yet still stay so lean. And the answer is simple, I know that those two beers add up to around 300 extra calories that I normally wouldn’t be getting and so I simply adjust my meals and activity to plan and prepare for this … I take in a little less calories at each meal throughout that day and make a conscious effort to be a little more active. It’s that simple.
If you look at it from this perspective, then you can see that there’s no such thing as forbidden foods. And this is one of the reasons we have such a huge success rate … because our nutrition plan allows you the flexibility of following our simple guidelines most of the time, but still allowing you to relax and eat what you want if you plan accordingly.
This ensures that you continually make good progress towards your fat loss goal, but you aren’t so restrictive or rigid that you can’t stick with it and enjoy yourself in the long-run.
The key to long-term fat loss success is striking a good balance between really effective, such as following our 5 keys to fat loss, but with foods that you enjoy and look forward to. And even when you stray from the 5 keys, you only do it about 10% of the time, such as a couple meals on the weekends, and you plan accordingly to make up for any indulgences …. and then you get right back on track.
Key points to remember:
For long-term success, you need to strike a balance between effective and enjoyable. You can still go out to eat and enjoy foods that aren’t on the plan once in a while, but you need to…
Try to make up for these extra calories earlier in the day by eating a little less and being more active.
Make simple, healthier changes to the “cheat meal” so that you can still enjoy it, yet without going overboard and sabotaging your progress.
Get right back on track after that meal, right away. This doesn’t mean that you can go crazy the rest of the weekend and just start over on Monday.