It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that “junk” food isn’t a diet-friendly option. In this article, I’ll attempt to provide answers to why it’s okay to eat “fun” foods when losing weight, as well as reasons why you SHOULD
A growing segment of health/fitness practitioners and enthusiasts have jumped on the assumption that all you need to lose weight is to eat healthy/clean.
Blaming “junk” foods like cookies, burgers or ice cream as the cause of fat gain is blatantly illogical because it implies that nothing else in the diet contributes to the caloric surplus.
To me, the goodness or badness of certain foods depends on whose mouth they land in, and how aware that person is.
That said, if you are strategic about “fun” foods in your diet, it could actually help you in your weight loss journey.
In this article, you will learn:
- Why “healthy/clean” eating is absurd;
- What is the real reason why “junk” food makes you gain weight;
- Why you SHOULD include “fun/junk” food in your diet;
- How can you eat “fun/junk” food and still lose weight;
The Issue With “Healthy” Eating
A perpetually debated topic is the importance of healthy foods for weight loss. The problem with this debate is that it’s flawed from the get-go.
What the heck healthy or clean food even mean? What is the unifying definition of “healthy”? There is no agreement over what “healthy” means.
A judgment call of healthy or junk food is based on looking at foods in isolation from the rest of the diet. It’s pointless to look at individual foods without considering dose and context because dose and context determine the nature of the food’s contribution to the diet as a whole.
For instance, ice cream can contribute to a healthy or unhealthy diet depending on whether it’s a serving per day or the whole pint per day.
So, is an ice cream a healthy food or not? It depends on the dose and context.
Alan Aragon did a fabulous work reviewing definitions of “healthy” throughout decades in his scientific research review. Here is a cut from it:
Fat is evil stuff. Fat-free anything is best, so go ahead and splurge on fat-free cookies, fat-free cinnamon rolls, and fat-free dressings.
Carbohydrates are king. Whole-grain foods are the best thing you can eat. Wheaties in the morning means you’re serious about your health. Fruits and vegetables are good for you.
Low-fat is okay since now there are neutral fats (unsaturated) and deadly fats (saturated). Avoid cholesterol-containing foods, and remember that yolks are only good for making tempera paint.
Avoid red meat, that stuff will surely stop your clock from ticking. Skinless chicken breast and water-packed tuna or bust.
Upping your protein might help if you’re an athlete, but regular folks on high-protein diets might get osteoporosis and malfunctioning kidneys.
Grain-based foods are still okay, so are other starchy foods. However, some of them have a high glycemic index (GI), which can spike insulin and wreak havoc on health and body composition.
High-GI food must be vigilantly avoided – except post-workout, where they must be immediately consumed in large amounts. Beans and legumes are superfoods because of their low GI.
Multiple small meals around the clock is a sure way to stoke the metabolic fire while controlling appetite. Fruits and vegetables are still good for you, but the ones with a high-GI should be avoided (except post-workout).
Saturated fat and cholesterol are no longer the bad guys, trans fats are the killers.
People are violating Paleo ancestral diet by consuming a disproportionately high amount of omega-6 fatty acids, and not enough omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil is apparently the cure for all of the world’s diseases, granted no one wants to just die from those fishy burps all day long.
It turns out carbohydrate, in general, is bad for your health. Whole grain goodness is one big government conspiracy, and simple sugar can kill you.
Fructose, in particular, is poison to the body and is more worthy of lacing the tips of arrows than being consumed.
Protein is king, it’s infallible. The more meat the better – as long as it’s organic, free-range, and grass-fed.
Grains, dairy, legumes, added salt, added sugar, and alcoholic beverages are the downfall of the human species because they are Neolithic foods that violate our evolutionary biology.
Soy is a particularly evil legume, despite its staple consumption in Eastern countries with excellent health profiles.
Supplemental BCAA gets a pass for being non-Paleolithic; that stuff will make or break your physique goals, so the rules of evolutionary correctness don’t apply to it.
Don’t think you’re doing your health a favor by forsaking sugar, then replacing it with aspartame or sucralose. You have to go with stevia or erythritol.
Vegetables are still good for you, except for nightshades such as white potato, which contain inflammatory alkaloids (sweet potatoes are fine because they’re not from the nightshade family).
Fruits are still good for you, except for ones that contain a lot of fructose, so stick to berries just to be safe.
Can you see the problem with describing food as “healthy” and “unhealthy”?
The definition of “healthy” is a meaningless abstraction that evolved towards many states of stupidity as the decades went.
The Real Reason Why “Junk” Food Makes You Gain Weight
Before I go any further, I want to clarify – I’m not advocating a diet full of “junk” food. But more about that, later on.
As I said in the beginning, blaming “junk” foods like cookies, burgers, or ice cream as the cause of fat gain is blatantly illogical because it implies that nothing else in the diet contributes to the caloric surplus.
It completely ignores the energy-out side of the equation, which involves a decrease in physical activity due to things such as labor-saving technology, television, the internet, sedentary entertainment, and increased time sitting at the work desk.
“Junk” food has no magical fattening ability.
It doesn’t make you gain weight rather, as I said in healthy eating doesn’t guarantee weight loss article, it’s the QUANTITY of “junk” food that makes people gain unwanted weight.
The devil is in the DOSE.
Also, “junk” food is calorie-dense so it’s easy to overeat and end up consuming too many calories.
However, you can eat junk food and lose weight. You just need to be strategic about it. Do that and you will make your diet so much more enjoyable that you wouldn’t even feel like dieting.
Don’t believe me? Well, then meet Mark Haub…
Mark Haub, a nutrition professor at Kansas State, lost 27 pounds during 2 months of eating mostly highly processed foods.
In addition to consuming foods like Twinkies, doughnuts, and cookies, he maintained a serving of vegetables at dinner, took a daily multivitamin, and also consumed milk and supplemental protein (looks like the crafty guy aimed to shock the world by preserving muscle).
The key is that his daily energy intake was about 1800 kcal which put him in a calorie deficit. He also exercised minimally, 1-2 hours per week.
His purpose for doing this was, in his words:
…to see if these products, which are thought by many to promote or lead to the development of obesity, can actually be used to do just the opposite
Not only did Haub lost 27 pounds over 2 months but he also increased his HDL-C (good cholesterol) by 20%, decreased LDL-C (bad cholesterol) by 20%, and dropped triglycerides by 39%.
Haub reported a bodyfat loss from 33.4% to 24.9%.
Given his total bodyweight drop from 201 lbs to 174 lbs, this translates to a fat mass drop of 23.8 lbs, and a lean mass drop of 3.2 lbs.
So if you think he just sloughed off a ton of muscle mass, Haub actually achieved a respectable body composition improvement.
And what about, John Cisna?
Image Source: insider
The guy lost 60 pounds eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 180 straight days at McDonald’s. He simply limited his calorie intake to 2000.
Ooo Ooo! I’ve got one more.
Chris Voigt ate nothing but potatoes – the equivalent of 20 per day – for 60 days. The below results show substantially positive effects on all parameters.
Why You Should Include “Fun/Junk” Food To Your Diet
It’s well known that eliminating well-liked foods from the diet results in bingeing on the same restricted foods later in the diet (source).
It’s also well known that EVERY diet that is based on food elimination and/or restriction fails in 4-6 weeks.
But what happens if you still eat “junk” food just in MODERATION? – Adherence to the diet improves without messing up your weight loss goals.
However, just because you can eat junk food and lose weight it doesn’t mean that you should stuff your face with burgers…
You want to incorporate “fun” foods into your diet strategically.
This will make you suffer less and have a better time adhering to the diet long-term which is THE KEY to a sustainable diet.
It’s almost as if most people are too deeply indoctrinated into the no pain, no gain mentality. Eat healthy and lose weight. There is no other way…
However, the dark side of any obsessive or inflexible approach to dieting is an increased risk of developing an eating disorder (source 1, 2, 3).
Do you want to have ice cream, a piece of the pie, a doughnut every day even? You can!
Just make sure to account for that in your daily food log and make sure not to spend more than 20% of daily calories on “junk”. According to RDA, you can get all the vital nutrients with 75-80% of your calories coming from whole foods.
Spend more than 25% and you are risking with micro and macronutrient deficiency.
How Can You Eat “Junk” Food And Still Lose Weight
Clearly, you can eat junk food and lose weight as long as you put yourself in a calorie deficit.
The common leap of logic is that you should track your food intake so you would know how many calories you can allocate to “fun” foods.
Use the 80/20 rule.
Absolutely every online client of mine uses it and this makes them lose weight without feeling like being on the diet.
80/20 rule states that 80% of your diet should consist of whole foods. The rest 20% can be allocated to ANY food you like.
You could even have 100% of whole foods in one day. This way you could spend 40% of your daily calories on “fun” foods the next day.
Another way to go about it is this:
Say you already reached your daily protein, fat, and carbohydrate targets and you still have spare 300 calories. Feel free to eat anything you wish.
But again, the KEY is to track food intake. Without it, you have no idea how many calories you have already spent and how many you have left.
Pro Tip: Let’s say you have an upcoming birthday party today. Or any party for that matter. In this case, I like to focus on lean meats, low-fat dairy, fruits, and veggies until the party. This way I can easily save up about 1000 calories to enjoy the party without appearing as a freak that only eats kale…
Anyone with a fundamental understanding of human physiology knows that CALORIES are the KING when it comes to weight loss.
Make sure to stay in a calorie deficit, use 80/20 rule and you can eat “junk” food and lose weight without compromising your weight loss goals.
This will make your dieting experience more enjoyable and sustainable. After all, what’s the use of a diet plan if you can’t stick to it?
Are you fed up with yo-yo dieting, all the restrictions, and food eliminations that make your dieting miserable?
Then sign up for my online coaching program, maybe?