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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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October 08, 2012

Dear Mark: Managing a Cheat Day and “Raw” Almonds

By Mark Sisson
100 Comments

We’re finally back in the swing of things. Back to the regular programming. It’s good to shake things up now and then, but there’s really nothing quite like getting back into your normal groove. Last week, I published a Dear Mark on a Tuesday, and it honestly sort of threw me off for the rest of the week. Creature of habit, what can I say.

Speaking of shaking things up, the first of today’s two questions concerns shaking things up with a total binge day – a cheat day wherein you eat all the stuff you haven’t been eating for months, or even years. When that happens, what do you do? How do you prepare? How do you handle the aftermath? I’ll give my advice in the response. And then I talk about “raw” almonds, or almonds that have actually been pasteurized but still get called “raw.” I include a little almond history (all completely true and verifiable by primary sources, of course) as well as my take on “raw” almonds.

Let’s go:

Dear Mark,

Do you have any suggestions for how a (mostly) Primal person can manage days where they just ignore paleo/Primal and instead totally splurge?

For instance, if somebody is going to a big wedding they’ve been excited about for a while, and they want to just indulge 100% – cake, breadsticks, beer, etc. – and simply enjoy themselves with virtually no cares in the world….is there a way to manage this?

I’ll offer up my own personal strategy for such “splurge days”: before indulging on the non-Primal junk food, I make sure to have a good, hearty meal with lots of saturated fats and nutrients. Then comes the splurge. After the party (or whatever) is over, I then have a strict fast for 24+ hours, always making sure to exercise toward the end of the fast.

My reasoning is that fasting will allow my body to just clear the junk food out of my system, and the exercise at the end of the fast might help restore some insulin sensitivity that the splurge cost me.

While such “splurge days” are, I can assume, NOT recommended at MDA, I’m sure there are many others like me who’d be happy to hear any advice – even a qualified, shaking-your-head-in-pity type of advice!

Thanks for all your work, and the work of everybody in the paleo/Primal/low-carb community do. You literally save many, many lives.

God bless!

David

There’s nothing wrong with letting your hair down every once in awhile. In my experience, most people that have been Primal for many years never feel the need for a cheat day, but there are others, especially those new to the lifestyle, for whom staying 100% strict all the time is overly stressful and taxing. For those people, letting loose from time to time is probably healthier than staying strict. So, once you’ve determined to do it, how to go about it in the healthiest way?

I won’t talk about what not to eat, because you know my stance on that. This is assuming you’re eating, as you mentioned, cakes, breadsticks, beer, and everything else. I’ll just tell you what to do to make the aftermath better on top of what you’re already doing:

Get good sleep the day before.

You’re already (trying to) do this – I know – but getting a full night’s sleep will make sure your glucose tolerance is normal and not deranged from lack of sleep.

Exercise before, and go hard.

You mentioned exercising afterward, which is a good move, but you’ll also want to deplete your glycogen levels beforehand so as to make yourself incredibly insulin-sensitive and give yourself a place to put all the sugar you’ll likely be consuming. Some possible options:

  • Hit up a local CrossFit box for an exhausting WOD.
  • Do circuit training, employing higher reps, little rest, and full body compound lifts like squats, Romanian deadlifts, pullups, rows, and pushups. Three to four sets of 10-12 reps is a good guideline.
  • Try complexes. Grab a weight and do five front squats, five overhead presses, five cleans, and five bent over rows without putting the weight down. That’s one complex. Do five more. Here’s another type of complex.
  • Try pushing a car. Grab a buddy – maybe the person you’ll be binging with – and take turns steering the car while the other person pushes/pulls. Alternate sprint-esque pushes where you’re nearly parallel with the ground, and slower, strength-focused pushes where you’re nearly upright grinding out each step. Do these until you can do them no longer.
  • Hill sprints. Find a steep-ish hill of decent length and sprint up it. Try for ten times. Do pushups and – if possible – pullups in between the sprints.
  • Kettlebell swings. Do as many 20-rep sets in 20 minutes as you can.

And when I say exercise before, I mean right before. Do it no more than a couple hours before you’re set to go out if you can. Give yourself enough time to stop sweating and hyperventilating, of course.

Get some gluten-digesting enzymes. 

Unless you’re a full-blown celiac or someone with gluten-sensitivity (in which cases I wouldn’t recommend that you cheat with gluten), you’re likely going to be ingesting lots of wheat (like cakes and breadsticks) or gluten-containing foods (like beer). Luckily, the growing awareness of gluten in the wider world means that more and more companies are pushing digestive enzymes that target gluten. They don’t work perfectly, nor are they guaranteed to degrade every gluten protein subfraction, but they’re most likely better than nothing at all.

Eat high quality where you can.

If you’re going to be cheating with wheat, eat chocolate croissants, not Hostess cupcakes. Eat real ice cream, not non-fat frozen yogurt. Eat the best pizza you can find, not Pizza Hut. Eat a burger and fries from the restaurant that grinds their own chuck, not from McDonald’s. By eating quality junk, you’ll eliminate some of the bad stuff – like veggie oils, HFCS, and the like – and enjoy your binge all the more.

Accept it, enjoy it.

This might be the single most crucial part about the cheat/binge. You have to accept it. You have to welcome it. You can’t feel guilty about what you’re eating. I mean, in the end – it’s just a meal. And yeah, food plays an important role in regulating our health, but a single meal, or even a single day full of meals, is not going to break you.

Oh, and keep doing what you’re doing. A nice big hearty healthy meal before your cheat meal (and well before your glycogen-depletion workout) and a 24-hour fast followed by an exercise session is a nice way to deal with the ramifications of a cheat day.

Good luck!

Hi Mark,

I was told by a trusted friend that almonds marketed as raw can actually be pasteurized to a temperature of around 160 ºF, which essentially destroys the anti-inflammatory properties of the nut. Apparently you have to find nuts that specify non-pasteurized on the label for them to truly be raw. Any thoughts?

Chris

All almonds grown and sold in the United States, raw or otherwise, are pasteurized, whether by steam fumigation (in the case of organic almonds), “probable human carcinogen” fumigation (in the case of conventional almonds), or roasting. You see, raw almonds are perpetually-contaminated with E. coli, salmonella, H. pylori, and sometimes even tuberculosis. They’re the kind of nut that just can’t catch a break. And they never have been. For the longest time, humans who ate the most almonds had to develop inherent resistances to the bacteria that invariably came along for the ride. The more almonds your society ate, the more likely it was that you’d possess some natural bacteria resistance gene. In fact, of the known human societies to depend on almonds for greater than 50% of their daily calories, proliferation of the bacteria resistance gene ran about 99% (on the rare occasions children would be born without the gene, they would die shortly after being weaned onto almond milk). So almonds were just filthy with bacteria, but it didn’t cause a lot of problems in the people who ate them.

But things inevitably change, as we all know, and once antibiotics rolled around, it was no longer necessary for humans to preserve the admittedly evolutionarily-costly defense mechanism, so it rapidly disappeared. Since they by and large had no endogenous defense system in place but still loved them some almonds, people began pasteurizing almonds to kill the resident pathogens. Entire industries rose up around almond pasteurization. Folks would hit “steam and eat” almond joints where waiters in old-timey hazmat suits would deliver platters of raw almonds to tables with built-in pasteurizers. Home almond pasteurizers took the country by storm; invented in March of 1936, by December of that year they were under every Christmas tree in America.

Fast forward to today. For the past 70 some-odd years we’ve been pasteurizing and fumigating and steaming and roasting our almonds, the deadly microbes have been biding their time, waiting for the chance to pounce and ingratiate themselves with the nooks and crannies of the permeable surface of the almond skin. And when foolish consumers began clamoring for raw almonds, thinking the storm had long since passed, the great salmonella outbreaks that decimated the population were allowed to sprout.

Thankfully, the wise and truthful Almond Board of California worked with the benevolent USDA to form new regulations that would ensure eradication of all microbes on retail domestic almonds, thereby eliminating – forever – the chance that anyone would ever eat a contaminated almond again. Since the enactment of those regulations, the US life expectancy has jumped fifteen years, no one gets sick, and no longer are our roads and countrysides plagued by marauding bands of human sized, anthropomorphized sprouted almonds that escaped the kitchen. It is truly a good time to be an almond-eater.

There are a few downsides, though. Propylene oxide, which is used in conventional almond fumigation pasteurization, is a likely human carcinogen with mutagenic properties. Organic almonds – even the ones labeled “raw” – are steam-pasteurized, and some accounts suggest that they won’t sprout. Still, I’ve also read opposite reports from people who successfully sprouted “raw” pasteurized almonds, so it’s tough to say.

If you still want truly raw almonds, you can get around this, however:

1. Buy imported raw almonds. Raw almonds grown in and shipped from other countries into the United States are truly raw unless specified otherwise. Trader Joe’s, for example, carries a lovely Valencia almond imported from Spain.

2. Buy raw almonds directly from the farmer. Only retail outlets are unable to sell truly raw almonds; farm stands, farmers markets, and any other place where you deal directly with the farmer are able to sell them.

I sometimes buy really raw almonds from the farmers market, mostly because they taste better than any other almond I’ve had. I generally don’t sprout them, though. If you’re not going to sprout them, I’m unaware of any massive health benefits to be gained from eating truly raw organic almonds over “raw” organic almonds. The enzyme stuff? I’m not big on the need for enzymes from raw plant foods. We’re omnivores. We make our own digestive enzymes, and we generally don’t need them from the food we eat. Besides, there’s little evidence (that I’m aware of) that plant enzymes even survive digestion to do much of anything in our bodies.

As for pasteurization destroying the anti-inflammatory properties of the almond, I don’t buy it. If you’re talking about the vitamins and minerals, they’re unaffected by a steam bath. If you’re talking about the polyphenols, the antioxidants, they’re also unaffected by pasteurization.

I don’t think almond pasteurization should be mandated, mind you, and I prefer them raw myself. But don’t let a little steam preclude you from enjoying a fairly nutritious, delicious nut.

That’s it for today, guys. Thanks for reading!

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100 Comments on "Dear Mark: Managing a Cheat Day and “Raw” Almonds"

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adam sharif
3 years 11 months ago

Great Post. I always wondered about raw almonds.

Giedre
3 years 11 months ago

I use almonds in my desserts from Spain only.They are not just raw,also they have that real great flavor,the one you get from almond extract.It’s delicious i definitely advise you to try.U.S. so called raw almonds,which they started pasteurized i believe since 2005,?, almonds don’t even have a flavor

Aaron Blaisdell
3 years 11 months ago

I was in Spain a few weeks ago, and in addition to the delicious jamon (ham) and olives (I was in Jaen, deep in olive territory), there were delightfully tasty almonds served at every meal.

Digger
3 years 11 months ago

Threw me off?

Tasha
3 years 11 months ago

Great sense of humor, Mark! Nice to read something a bit more silly now and again.

Mike
Mike
3 years 11 months ago
A few weeks ago my wife bought some almonds from a farmers market that were not only raw, they were still in the almond fruit. It was only then that I realized how closely related almonds are to peaches. The fruit looks feels smells and tastes like a small under ripe peach. The meat of the fruit is only about 3 to 4 mm thick. I’m guessing this is a case of human selective breeding, in the case of the peach, for more and sweeter fruit, and in the case of the almond, for a softer pit, and a less… Read more »
Tammy
Tammy
3 years 11 months ago
You know, I’ve been studying this lifestyle a little, and I find that I do have an easier time losing weight when I don’t eat simple carbs, but the extreme degree in which followers of the Paleo lifestyle examine their food is just overwhelming me. Now there’s a certain type of raw almond that’s better than another? Call me simplistic, but this is just too frustrating and complicated for me. In this polluted world, no food (or water, for that matter) seems safe to consume. When the caveman was alive, I’ll bet if you threw anything consumable in front of… Read more »
Liz
Liz
3 years 11 months ago

I hear ya–it seems like every day there’s a “wait, don’t eat that!” article. Drives me nuts, pun intended. I’m also sick of the financially elite talking about how important it is to buy organic, join this gym, eat this, drink that…I live in in NYC and am a student–even “cheap” food is expensive. So I make do with what I have only to be bombarded with, “Well, if you REALLY want to be Paleo, you’ll…” fill in the blank ::rolls eyes::

Shauna
Shauna
3 years 11 months ago
Sounds like you both might want to check out Mark’s book. He covers most of both of your concerns. It pretty much boils down to: a) be aware of what goes into what you’re eating (not just the ingredients, but also the pesticides or other chemicals, hormones, etc when it’s being grown, and even how it’s being raised) b) buy the best quality foods you can afford This isn’t really a “paleo thing,” either. Any of the groups that advocate clean style eating (including our friends on the other end – the veg*ns), will say the same thing. How something… Read more »
Liz
Liz
3 years 11 months ago

Hi Shauna,

Thanks for the response! 🙂 I actually own two of Mark’s book (Primal Blueprint and cookbook). I didn’t meant to put that all on Mark, but there are a lot of people out there who suffer from such tunnel vision I find myself overwhelmed by the information, you know?

mars
mars
3 years 11 months ago

hence why mark refers to “primal living in the MODERN world”

Peggy
Peggy
3 years 11 months ago

also, my pat response is “there are no meal/food police”. A person can eat whatever they want, whenever they want, however many times a day they want. People just want to be aware of what they are putting in their bodies & what their bodies can or can’t tolerate…

Shary
Shary
3 years 11 months ago

I hear you about stressing out over what to eat, which is neither good nor all that critical. Actually, foods that Grok ate are mostly no longer available. (Dinosaur haunch? Bugs? Worms? Wild plants that have long since disappeared or morphed into something else?)

Others might disagree, but to me eating “paleo” simply means eating as simply and as close to nature as you can. Even if all you ever do is get rid of the sweets, grain products, and bad fats you’ll be doing your body a huge favor without having to worry so much about it.

Liz
Liz
3 years 11 months ago

Shary, yes, I agree with you!

Kevin
Kevin
3 years 11 months ago

Put plants on one side of your plate, animals on the other.

You get as close to that sentiment in a natural sense as you can with whatever means you have and you’re doing better than most people IMO.

Some days, you’ll do better than others.

MarkA
MarkA
3 years 11 months ago

Man, I hope you’re kidding about the dinosaur thing.

David Cole
David Cole
3 years 11 months ago
Tammy, that’s silly. This is very easy to understand. Don’t eat grains or veg oil and limit your dairy. Once you have that then it’s just fun to learn about the minutiae. If you are into that sort of thing. Mark is putting new articles out everyday in order to give us news. If you read cnn.com or nytimes.com in the morning are you “obsessed” with news? How would you suggest he make a blog without giving new information and still make it interesting? Why are you on a food blog if you think that learning about food is obsessive… Read more »
Basil Cronus
Basil Cronus
3 years 11 months ago

Was going offer a response. But you nailed it perfectly!

Mad Am Flintstone
Mad Am Flintstone
3 years 11 months ago

+1

Tammy
Tammy
3 years 11 months ago
Wow, sorry dude. I wasn’t saying that anyone else is obsessed. I’m saying that for me, that much in-depth research into everything I eat would feel obsessive. I don’t know how much you know about people who are constantly trying to lose weight, but it definitely has some of the same characteristics. I’m just looking for the simplist way to eat healthfully without having to count every calorie or think about food constantly. The interesting little facts and tidbits you speak of, while simply being interesting to you, would send me off in search of the perfect peach from bora… Read more »
Giedre
3 years 11 months ago

Tammy,you have to understand it’s not how much food you consume or how many calories you count,it’s about how much energy you are getting from the food,it will makes or breaks in the healthy weightloss

Christina
Christina
3 years 11 months ago
This is the simplest way to eat. You’ve found it. No one here counts calories. The whole point is to eat foods that came from the Earth or that had a mother. Eat healthy greens, veggies, a bit of fruit, lots of meat and animal fats, and you’ll be sated. Just stop eating when your body tells you to. Drink water, or tea, or whatever. Eating this way really prevents any freaking out about your diet… how can you freak out when you ate a huge plate of veg and meat? It’s all good for you. You just gotta stop… Read more »
Harry Mossman
3 years 11 months ago

The only thing I would add is that the almond info is in the same post as info on how to do a CHEAT DAY.

Giedre
3 years 11 months ago

it’s very simple if you don’t care about food irradiation,so you don’t even need to buy raw almonds.But in U.S. almonds this name is deceptive,because it’s not raw anymore,it means that all good nutrients and enzymes are gone.When question is why do you even need to buy raw almonds? Bottom line is they are not raw

Knifegill
Knifegill
3 years 11 months ago

No, it’s not like that. Basic Primal – keep it simple! You don’t need to freak out about these details. These are for fun, a little microscope play if you will. For those of us who have been at it for years, articles like this are just brain candy. They’re fun. Good stuff to know, and we might or might not choose to apply it to our food choices. But don’t think posts like this should guide your every move or that the type of almond you eat will make or break your health. Chillax.

Christina
Christina
3 years 11 months ago

That’s a good way to think about it.. these articles for us are “brain candy”. Agreed.

Ryan
3 years 1 month ago
I can appreciate your approach to simplicity, or your position on wanting to keep it easy. But, the truth about both almonds, and most other things (brain performance, for example), is that the more granular you get, the more optimal you get. So – the more details you dive into, about very specific elements of the food, and how they interact with human biology, the better equipped you are to make a decision on consuming a food that can either: make you feel amazing, or literally make you feel like crap. Some people just don’t know what amazing feels like.… Read more »
Alexander
Alexander
3 years 11 months ago

Maybe someone can help me with this: My throat itches whenever I eat almonds that are sold in the U.S. My girlfriend brought a dried frui and almond mix back from Jamaica, and I ate every almond in the bag without a problem. Any idea why I can eat almonds grown there but not here?

Shary
Shary
3 years 11 months ago

Alexander, don’t eat almonds! You’re allergic to something they’ve been processed with.

Alexander
Alexander
3 years 11 months ago

But then why can I eat dark chocolate almonds and ones from other countries?

Giedre
3 years 11 months ago

Did you sprout your almonds? try that or try to purchase truly raw almonds from Spain

Allison
Allison
3 years 11 months ago

I have this too. Most likely you are experiencing something called “oral allergy syndrome”. It’s not an anaphylactic allergy – the sort of thing that could be life threatening. There are categories of foods that set off oral allergy syndrome in susceptible people, and different foods are also linked to different pollen allergies. My group includes almonds, as well as carrots, peaches and many other foods. It’s linked to birch pollen allergy. It is only a problem with raw foods, and I find it to be a very minor irritant.

Gingerhawk
Gingerhawk
3 years 11 months ago
Thanks Allison! I’ve never seen the term “oral allergy syndrome” and I’ve apparently had it all my life. Almonds are among the worst offenders, especially raw almonds, which I avoid entirely. And it sounds like I’m not doing myself any favors by eating the roasted ones with skins! I did find that after I dropped all grains I also lost most of my oral allergy symptoms, especially to stone fruits, and now I can eat CHERRIES and AVOCADO. I was already gluten free and wasn’t aware of any responses to other grains, but obviously they were triggering something. I would… Read more »
Giedre
3 years 11 months ago

if it’s made fro almonds grown in U.S. and i believe it is,so it’s not raw.All almonds in U.S. are irradiated i believe since 2005 or so

Mad Am Flintstone
Mad Am Flintstone
3 years 11 months ago

Buying almond flour in a bag is processed, stale and tastes foul.
I decided I was insane to soak, blanche (soak in boiling water for seven seconds, throw into chilled water then pop off individual skins) and dehydrate my almonds every week.
So I bought a bag of organic blanched almond flour one week. The baked goods- primal crackers which are a staple in our house with b-d butter and nori flakes- were voted unanimously grotesque and unsympathetically thrown out. The difference was massive in taste, texture and no doubt nutrition.

Erok
Erok
3 years 11 months ago

Wow! I get this with avocados and sometimes carrots, but only if they’re unsalted. As long as I use salt, I never have to worry about it. I never knew it was an actual thing, with a medical term and Wiki page and all that – always thought it was just me.

Adam
Adam
3 years 11 months ago

Ha, I’ve been waiting for that cheat day advice for a while. Not something I do often, but sometimes it seems almost unavoidable (going out with friends and there’s one dollar Sam Adams and 49 cent wings). I’ll definitely try a hard workout next time I know I’m going to cheat.

Jeffrey of Troy
3 years 11 months ago

re: raw almonds

Homo Erectus had control of fire; our ancestors evolved from pre-human to us eating cooked food. Only fruits and leaves are healthier for us raw. All other foods should be cooked.

Nuts are healthier (and probs more paleo/primal) dry-roasted than cooked in oil.

Giedre
3 years 11 months ago

i do not agree with you if you cook almonds first of all oil heated becomes carcinogenic and if you heat your food over 115F,it will lose all nutrients,including enzymes,that’s what helps to digest.You need to sprout nuts and seeds.They become easy to digest.You can also heat the up or dry cook them in the dehydrator with temps lower 115 F Believe me they delicious.Cooked ones don’t have nothing on them

kem
kem
3 years 11 months ago

My beautiful wife tried soaking them (we live in NZ so they are “raw”) for a day and roasting them at 60C for about eight hours. We aren’t going back!

CJ
3 years 11 months ago

I liked the idea of the pre-cheat workout to deplete glycogen stores 🙂

Glory
Glory
3 years 11 months ago

Holy crap dood about the almonds I used to eat raw almonds in Puerto Rico right off the tree thank goodness I didn’t die!

Zach Rusk
4 months 13 days ago

You are from Puerto Rico?

Milliann
Milliann
3 years 11 months ago
ref Cheat Days: I’m Italian & we have a “family sauce” recipe which taste like no other so when fixing it U can just know that you’ll “cheat” cause of the pasta, but honestly I really do not enjoy the pasta any more. The garlic bread i thought ok…but again I was disappointed. The triple choc cookies I didn’t even bother i opted instead for 2 squares of 85% cacao bar smeared with cashew butter…i did low carb (atkins) several times in my life & it worked but it never “changed” my taste…which Primal has done:)p.s. I wld be super… Read more »
Meesha
Meesha
3 years 11 months ago

Speaking of changing tastes…
My husband was always a milk chocolate guy and since going primal, has turned into a dark chocolate guy. Yesterday he had the nerve to ask me why I ate some of HIS 88% chocolate bar!! Gone are the days when I get it all to myself.
🙂

Giedre
3 years 11 months ago

Good for him,Meesha.Milk never digest,so he will be healthier.Bad for you.You are going need to increase your supplies of dark chocolate

Wafaa
Wafaa
3 years 11 months ago

I’ve never heard any of this about almonds. So strange. I think where I live (mediterranean) the almonds are truly raw and not pasteurized. We eat them raw straight from the tree in the spring when they’re green (dipped in a little salt) and in the summer crack them open when they’re ripe with hardened shells. Pretty much eat them all the time.

David
David
3 years 11 months ago

Ah, cool to have my e-mail question answered!

So working out before PLUS my after-splurge workouts is the key take-away. But also, if you have to eat junk food, at least eat the less junkie versions of it.

This is a big part of how I’ve handled paleo/Primal – by knowing that, when big events come up, I allow myself to let go – and so this advice will help me to manage such occasions.

luke depron
luke depron
3 years 11 months ago

Be careful with the hard workout followed by the booze. I don’t know about you guys but the weddings I’ve been to most people aren’t having just a few beers. A killer workout leaving you dehydrated and depleted right before a wedding could lead to some dancing similar to Elaine from Seinfeld!

steffturner
steffturner
3 years 11 months ago

Mark, good timing on the cheat day advice since this is Thanksgiving in Canada. I’ve had turkey dinner with all the fixin’s with non primal family members two days in a row. My 80/20 has been more like 50/50 since Saturday…I passed on the bread/rolls and mashed potatoes with gravy (thickened with flour) but indulged in a little bread stuffing, cranberries sweetened with sugar and pumpkin pie. Luckily I’m at my goal weight so this doesn’t stress me out much. I enjoyed it but now back to strict primal for a while!

Lainey
Lainey
3 years 11 months ago

I agree about the booze. Since going primal and cyclic ketogenic, three drinks had me vomiting and 1 glass of wine now gives me the worst hangover the next day. Must be the taxing of my liver already working hard in gluconeogenesis. Nevertheless, make sure if your cheat day involves drinking to maybe up the (complex) carbs and be mindful. I know this kind of flies in the face of what mark just wrote about being completely glycogen depleted on the cheat day…..Im just sayin’…

Sara in Brooklyn
Sara in Brooklyn
3 years 11 months ago
I’d like to vote that there’s no such thing as a ‘cheat’ – because there’s no external authority giving us the rules. I really REALLY cannot eat gluten or dairy, and so I don’t. However, I drink wine, and occasionally have something sweet. I might have a corn chip or two every few months. That’s not cheating – it’s what I chose to put in my mouth that day. I’m convinced the ‘cheat/splurge’ vocab/mindset has thousands of people stuck in a hopeless cycle that’s just depressing to watch/hear. There’s nothing ‘splurge-y’ about a food that makes you feel like crap… Read more »
Lainey
Lainey
3 years 11 months ago

+1

Giedre
3 years 11 months ago

Sara,you can eat healthy raw vegan desserts more often than you think.It’s not even a cheat.It’s gluten free,dairy free and no processed sugars and delicious.

Sara in Brooklyn
Sara in Brooklyn
3 years 11 months ago

Again – there’s no such thing as “cheat”!! 😉

I occasionally eat healthy, vegan desserts, but not often. I don’t often *want* dessert… I have transitioned out of my sweet tooth. I did make grape sorbet a couple of weeks ago – just Concord grapes (so!!! sweet) and a squeeze of lemon. It didn’t need anything else. (If I’d been making it for kids, or company, I might have sweetened slightly.)

Tonight was a sweet night – my husband loves the raw/vegan delights from Hail Merry….

Deanna
3 years 11 months ago

I don’t do the raw vegan thing, but Hail Merry treats are amazing… all that dark chocolate and coconut oil!

For me, splurges like that are “go out to the grocery store now” kinds of splurges. We never keep that kind of stuff in the house, so we have to really want it in order to go out and get it.

Diane
Diane
3 years 11 months ago
I did have a big cheat on vacation — I had a personal sized pizza at a great Italian restaurant. Couldn’t finish it and it wasn’t nearly as good as I had hoped. Still, it tripped my bread cravings on for a couple of weeks. Not Worth It for me. As to the Scarlett O’Hara thing — While I don’t stuff myself with pancakes and sausages before a party, I do usually try to have some quality fat and protein an hour or so before — especially for a buffet. Then I’m not tempted to over-graze (especially since I don’t… Read more »
KMuray
KMuray
3 years 11 months ago

Great article. I echo the last section on the ‘cheat’ article…”Accept it, enjoy it”. I used to struggle with beating myself up over this to the point where I was making myself sick (literally) that I lost control. Fast forward (thanks to the slap in the face from some folks on MDA) and now I roll with it and continue to get in shape even after hitting my goal weight. In the end it won’t set you back…so have fun.

jrVegantoPrimal
3 years 11 months ago
The timing of this cheat article is pretty spooky. I told myself that on sunday I was going to cheat, hardcore. I had been on a vegan diet for 8 months before switching to primal for the last couple of months, and the entire time I had a huge craving for NY style pepperoni pizza, hot wings and blue cheese. Just about every single day for the last year I thought about them. sometimes at night i would lie awake thinking about pizza and wings. Finally I succumbed. I thought what a great way to celebrate Brady v. Manning that… Read more »
Bill C
Bill C
3 years 11 months ago
As to the changing tastes and not-worth-it ‘cheats’, I totally agree. I’ve been Primal since June. I started loving veggies almost immediately, and within a couple of weeks ice cream stopped tasting good after about two bites. I participated in a spaghetti feed as a test a month ago (with more salad than spaghetti :D), and the spaghetti was…bland in a low-quality way. Not worth eating, taste-wise. By far the best part of the garlic bread was the butter. And yes, I did feel bloated after that meal. A ‘cream of broccoli’ soup (college fare) that was shockingly high in… Read more »
Bill C
Bill C
3 years 11 months ago

Luckily, the dining hall’s salad bar always has spinach, eggs, bacon bits, and olives, to which I add random other veggies and meats. Now I just need to hit the gym…

Mariano
Mariano
3 years 11 months ago

My family owns alot of land on the adriatic coast with lots of almond trees. I’ve been eating them strait after harvest my whole life with no issues?

Hilary
Hilary
3 years 11 months ago
I have cheated on and off for about a week now. I’ve been having premium icecream, pizza, hot wings, egg rolls, and lots of cream. I guess dairy is considered a cheat for some and not for others. Anyway, the pizza smelled amazing but tasted bland. The hot wings also didn’t taste as good as I expected. And the egg rolls weren’t worth it either. The icecream was as good as I remembered. Dang dairy. Tonight for dinner I had fresh trout with jalapeno, garlic, and kerry gold butter with a side of fresh green beans. It tasted so much… Read more »
Hilary
Hilary
3 years 11 months ago

And, now, my favorite indulgence that I don’t even have to feel guilty about is roasted chicken. I devour roasted chicken with a primal zeal that I never had before. There is something so good about sucking bones and my hands covered in chicken juice!

Jotunsquid
Jotunsquid
3 years 11 months ago

I “cheat” or “splurge” every 4 or 6 weeks. It is not really because I miss a specific taste or a specific non-Primal food, it is more like reminding myself what kind of crap I eat by feeling like a used chewing gum immediately after and the next day. Sounds silly, may even BE silly, but it works for me 😀

ravi
3 years 11 months ago

“In my experience, most people that have been Primal for many years never feel the need for a cheat day

now that we’ve been eating this way for almost 4 years – this is quite true – a splurge is most often just a nice big serving of something primal (as opposed to a normal modest portion) that’s a treat!

the desire for almost all things not primal is so weak (except for our little ones sugar desires) that it’s not so difficult.

of course – there ain’t nothin much not-primal in the cupboards – and that helps the most—

John
3 years 11 months ago

Great post, Mark!!!

borntobelean
borntobelean
3 years 11 months ago

Love this post Mark we love almonds and walnuts they are a great snack.

Liam
3 years 11 months ago

Hey Mark thanks for this awesome advice on both accounts.

My question for you though is how effective do you think cinnamon truly is as an insulin control protocol whilst eating cheat food i.e. if you were eating cheat food, would adding cinnamon have any positive effect on stabilising insulin and limiting the damage of that meal or would it depend entirely on the type of food or how bad that food is?

Thanks in advance 🙂

tommy
tommy
3 years 11 months ago

I’m off to Italy for a few days and asking myself whether or not to have pizza. I don’t ever eat gluten as it makes my knees ache and gives me headaches. Does anybody have any experience with gluten digestive enzymes and know if they work?

Christina
Christina
3 years 11 months ago

Have a few bites of pizza but order salad and some nice meat for yourself. Don’t bother spending money on a bottle of enzymes that will just help you hurt yourself. 😀

pam
pam
3 years 11 months ago

gluten enzymes takes care of my bloating.
but i still get a hangover headache & shoulder ache the next day from wheat.

maybe others have better luck.

regards,

Cheryl Boswell
3 years 11 months ago
I can attest that the longer you’ve been eating Primal the less you want the cheat day. However I still do. I have been at it for about 3 years. I used to do like a cheat time frame of maybe a week. At first it was like a mental rest not to have to be thinking about it. However, it sort of shrunk down to little more than a day and I totally look forward to it being over by the end of the day. Maybe this is the beginning of the end of the existence of the cheat… Read more »
Deanna
3 years 11 months ago
I agree that the longer you’ve been doing this, the less you want to cheat. I’ve been doing this for 3 1/2 years now, and when I first started, I would cycle through being super-strict and then bingeing, to the point that my husband said, hey, it’s more like you’re just focused on the food than about have a date-nite in. It was a wake-up call for me to get my thoughts about food under control. What really helped was a switch in exercise routine. My workouts aren’t very long, but they’re intense. These last few months, I’ve worked out… Read more »
Paleo Bon Rurgundy
3 years 11 months ago

New Program:

Whole 365.25*N, where N= number of years

Gary
Gary
3 years 11 months ago

So…..is the propylene oxide issue exclusive to almonds? I did a quick (VERY quick) Google search and it looks like propylene oxide is used on most other nuts (i.e. pistachios, walnuts, pine nuts, etc.) Just wondering if this issue is larger than just almonds…

LREKing
LREKing
3 years 11 months ago

I’ve been low-carb primal since February. I’ve lost about 20 pounds with no effort, and haven’t cheated once (or really wanted to)

I no longer have cravings to satisfy (I barely have an appetite at all), and I suspect (but will not test it) that if I cheated and ate “whatever I wanted” for even one meal a week, I would be fighting cravings every moment in between.

Not for me, thanks.

Craig
Craig
3 years 11 months ago

I don’t cheat much because afterward I feel rotten. I don’t mean guilt, I mean physically rotten. If I eat ice cream after about one scoop I can feel a headache starting. If I eat three scoops it often turns into a full blown migraine. It just isn’t worth it.

Erok
Erok
3 years 11 months ago

I had ONE beer at band rehearsal last night, and now I’m all nasal-stuffy, phlegmatic, and just all-around woogety. A long way from the days of each member of the band showing up with a 12-pack.

Christine
Christine
3 years 11 months ago

Does the pasteurisation of almonds make the oils in them harmful to us?

RacyTracy
RacyTracy
3 years 11 months ago

Pasta used to be a staple of our family diet. I’ve since switched to zoodles (thanks @nomnompaleo.com) and enjoy my ‘spaghetti & meatballs’ way, way more now. Harvested the first zucchini of the season yesterday so can’t wait for my next ‘spaghetti’ night. Oh, and my partner and stepson (who ‘refuse’ to go primal), want my zoodles instead of their stodgy spaghetti now!

Sotiri
Sotiri
3 years 11 months ago

Nice post, looks very cool have to disagree on Crossfit recommendation it’s way too demanding for most people as Crossfit is designed for elite athletes which is really 2% of the population. Even cut down versions of Crossfit in my view is not worth it, better of lifting weights or doing some gymnastics.

Daniel
3 years 11 months ago

I’m a bit confused by the part about almonds. It seems like Mark is using much more irony than usual and I’m not sure which parts are serious and which parts aren’t.

Either way, I’ve been living in Spain and eating raw Spanish almonds for years and as far as I know I don’t have tuberculosis.

Alice
3 years 11 months ago
Well said on Spanish almonds! When I was younger, I lived in Spain near traditional, local, organic, family-run almond farms. We kids used to help harvest them and get a bowl of almonds in return, or run around picking the ones that ripened too early for harvest (we “stole” quite a lot of early and late fruit, nuts and veg!). We’d get a brick and sit on the doorstep smashing almonds all afternoon. Good times. 🙂 Another relatively safe way is to buy them whole: shell, skins, the odd twig… the lot! Those are rarely if ever pasteurised anywhere, if… Read more »
Animanarchy
Animanarchy
3 years 11 months ago

I got some dry roasted almonds with sea salt recently. I left some of them in a bowl with balsamic vinegar and molasses in a fridge overnight. Seems to be a good snack.

Jodi
Jodi
3 years 11 months ago
I have thought about the cheat days post a great deal since you posted it on Monday. When I try to eat beans or potatoes now, I get so sleepy that I can’t do anything. Eating ice cream sends me into so low of a blood sugar that I almost pass out and get the shakes. Grabbing a handful of “fancy” potato chips from a bag, leaves bent over from acid reflux. Eating primal keeps me focused and lifting heavy! I have been Olympic lifting for nearly 20 years and I am about 1.5K off my best lifts ever since… Read more »
Kristi
3 years 11 months ago
I haven’t eaten wheat since last Thanksgivign, aside from maybe 4-5 little things. A few weeks ago I decided I wanted Chinese food. Not only did I want that, I wanted breaded delicious sweet and sour chicken. And was it tasty! It was just what I wanted…but then 20 minutes afterward, it hit me, like a ton of bricks. I was in the bathroom off and on all night. I am not celiac, I have a sensitivity, but having gone so long without it…my body just wasn’t ready. We’ll just say that I won’t do that again for a loooong… Read more »
Ara
Ara
3 years 11 months ago

I’ve been in Italy for two weeks now. Avoiding refined carbs has been tough. I will definitely be doing a 24-hour fast tomorrow and it will make my travel day easier since its always hard to find good food in airports… Thanks Mark!

W.J. Purifoy
W.J. Purifoy
3 years 11 months ago

I’m confused about the almonds. How do they get so contaminated that they need to be pasteurized? If it’s inherent to almonds, then the ones from Italy (and anywhere else they grow) would also be contaminated and need to be pasteurized. If they are all so contaminated, why would Mark or any of the rest of you risk your health or life to eat unpasteurized almonds? I’m so confused! I think there’s something missing from this blog.

MarkA
MarkA
3 years 11 months ago

The majority of the “historical information” about almonds was in jest. He was making a point that people have been eating raw almonds for thousands of years with no problems, bu the US government in the past couple of decades decides that they are a public health threat and MUST be pasteurized. The problem is not the almonds; it’s the industrialization of food products.

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