Episode 33. Cheat Meals and Refeeds, Moderation and Social Events

Episode 33. Cheat Meals and Refeeds, Moderation and Social Events

Episode 33. Cheat Meals and Refeeds, Moderation and Social Events

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Show Notes

We again structured this episode around a few specific questions, but focused on metabolism, cheat days and refeeds, and then balancing those with real life and one’s fitness goals. If you have a social event coming up, how do you handle that? Should you just use “moderation”? What is or is not a healthy mindset? How does one balance “vigilance” with “not being totally and insanely obsessed”?

“Metabolic Resilience”

  • Metabolic resilience is something someone does or doesn’t have. What kinds of things your metabolism can “withstand” is going to be partly genetic. So because someone says “Oh I went on a starvation diet and it was no big deal,” doesn’t mean that will hold true for everyone, or even for them, if they were to do it again.
  • The problem is that going on a 21-day or 12-week challenge or whatever can be exactly the kind of thing that is not good for your metabolism. Adding in strict timelines like that is an example of forcing the body, not coaxing it.
  • Sometimes it’s far, far better to lose weight slowly. Sure, it’s sexy to lose 7 lbs. in a week. That doesn’t mean it’s good for you, sustainable, or worth doing.
  • What can you do? Mostly it’s not screw it up. But, that aside, what can be done? Generally, it’s the big picture stuff: looking at lifestyle and larger context, eating whole foods at roughly the same times each day, protein plus a protein-sparing nutrient… and doing all these things long enough for there to be a change.
  • The hard part is sticking to these things for a long enough time period for positive metabolic effects to take hold. This is hard, because you won’t see the change on the scale.
  • You should feel better before you see changes on the scale. It’s not you just do all these things, and then oh, eight weeks later you’re allowed to start losing weight now. Biofeedback to look for: You should (1) start feeling better overall, (2) perhaps sleeping better, (3) perhaps be more in touch with hunger, and (4) have more energy. [There are probably more indicators; those were just the ones mentioned that I could pick out. – M]

Question 1. How do I balance social events with aesthetic goals?

I’m interested in “How to have your cake and eat it too.” How do I balance social events with aesthetic goals on a weekly basis.

  • Depends on the person. For example, imagine two extremes: the person who uses social events as an excuse to immediately go off their diet, and, on the other end, people who will dread social events because they are so focused on diet that they cannot deal with the mental turmoil of the “temptation” (and are afraid of binging, either at the event or later one). These two extremes are obvious, but you can imagine how they’d require different approaches!
  • One strategy is to use those as a target. So if Thanksgiving or Christmas is coming up, yeah, have a cheat meal, and use it as a target to be committed to the process until then. Don’t binge on that day, but see it as something to shoot for. (At the same time, every Saturday != a once-per-year holiday).
  • When it comes to weekly cheat meals (big ones) the fact is, metabolism has to be trained. That means, again, healthy whole foods, a relative caloric deficit, a protein and a protein-sparing nutrient (carb or fat) at each meal.
  • Sometimes the answer is, no, you can’t go to as many social events as you have been going to, not count calories, and maintain 7% bodyfat. That is a high-level aesthetic goal, and depending on genetics, age, etc., it’s a higher level goal for some than others. There’s no way around that it takes a bit of vigilance to get there and stay there.
  • NOTE: This doesn’t mean you can’t go to social events. It just means you go without indulging. Does that mean you don’t eat it all? Depends on the person. Can you eat a decent meal (a lean protein and a carb or something) there? (Can you do it in terms of the situation and what foods will be there, or in terms of what you can mentally handle?)
  • For example, Scott recently visited a former mentoring student, Amir, in Dubai. While there, Scott was indulging, basically the entire time. Amir did on his cheat days, but on the diet days, he would simply hold off, and actually reminded Scott of what he was like back earlier in his career. Sure, he went to restaurants because obviously he wanted to hang out with Scott and the others there, but he has high-level physique goals, it’s a career for him, and for him that meant not indulging just because a friend was visiting. (And besides, he knew he had cheat days coming up.)
  • Compare two different mindsets: one of deprivation or restriction, and one of anticipation. “Oh I can’t have that :(” OR… “Boy, I can’t wait ’til I can have that.”

Question 2. How do I practice moderation and eating out with friends and having “one” cheat meal versus an “all-out” binge?

I’m interested in “How to have your cake and eat it too.” How do I balance social events with aesthetic goals on a weekly basis.

  • “Choose the behaviour, choose the consequences.” Having an off-night for an important social event is fine, but you need to remember that it doesn’t need to mean you blow your diet for the next three weeks. Going all out for your friend’s wedding is fine, as long as you accept that it is what it is.
  • Scott also mentioned Trevor, who is able to make it work in a constantly “not ideal” scenario year-round. See episode 7 for more here.
  • An important note with respect to Trevor is that he accepts that the Cycle Diet doesn’t work with his lifestyle. The Cycle Diet requires fairly regimented eating schedule 6 out of 7 days of the week. That’s not feasible for him, so he doesn’t do it.
  • Know thyself. Scott doesn’t try to practise moderation if he doesn’t have to because he is black and white. But he has clients for whom it works.

Episode 32. Smarter Fat Loss Dieting: Question and Answer

Episode 32. Smarter Fat Loss Dieting: Question and Answer

Episode 32. Smarter Fat Loss Dieting: Question and Answer

Show Notes

The guys tackle a few specific questions related to fat loss dieting. They discussed diet-pinballing, falling off the wagon, as well as specific questions: Why does Scott think “egg whites and oatmeal” is the best meal to start off the day metabolically? How do you maintain muscle when dieting to lose fat? To what degree is tolerable hunger ok, and is it okay to blunt it? (E.g., with caffeine?)

Email 1.

Diet Pinballing

Scott received an email from a client who was losing weight, hunger wasn’t too high, and things were going well… but the client wanted to “switch things up.”

Mike pointed out that in a scenario like that, there isn’t much more you can hope for out of a diet. Training’s good. Diet’s good. Hunger’s good. Fat loss is still going… there isn’t much to improve in a scenario like that!

This is also why Scott likes to focus on process and process-based goals.

Email 2.

Being “on” or “off” the wagon (& metabolism)

Scott also received an email about being “on” or “off” the wagon, but more specifically, he wanted to focus on the fact that optimizing metabolism is a long-term process. You can be “off the diet” and — if the metabolism is optimized — not immediately gain a bunch of weight.

A better strategy is to optimize metabolism first, and focus on “losing weight” second.

Mike mentioned reification, which is taking a concept or idea and concretizing it, imagining it is a thing, when really what’s under discussion is a process, or a set of relationships. So for example, a meal plan is just a list of foods on paper, a set of reminders of what to eat. But people think if they ate “off the plan” that’s worse, even if what they ate is, based on that person’s goals, no better or worse in any way. But because it was “off the plan” they freak out and think their body is going to gain 10 lbs. (Yes, people do eat off the plan in ways that do interrupt progress. Of course they do. That’s not the point here.)

One of the strategies Mike uses is to constantly remind himself these things don’t matter. So he buys 0%, 1%, and 2% cottage cheese, and uses them interchangeably, for the sole purpose of reminding himself that these things don’t matter.

The mind believes whatever you tell it. If you tell yourself you “need” this or that food, your mind will believe it. So for example, yo udon’t “need” chocolate, but it is very easy to believe you do. You have to unlearn that believe. Sometimes that takes a coach. Sometimes it takes making this an actual focus.


Why did Scott say several times in episode 22 that egg whites and oatmeal are the best meal to start off the day “metabolically”?

Short answer: it ticks a lot of boxes for Scott. It’s healthy whole and unprocessed; the foods have high volume per calorie; the foods rate highly on the satiety index (by themselves, though they are also more satiating together); does it have a good protein element and protein-sparing element? It also has slow intestinal motility to slow digestion, which will keep hunger where it is supposed to be.

Kevin brought up that it depends how you define best, or even how you think about “best.” There are other high-quality foods out there. Key point here is that Scott was saying “metabolically.”

There are cultural reasons for this: is chicken a “worse” protein source than the egg whites? No, but egg whites tend to go better with oatmeal, and go down easier first thing in the morning.

For Scott you still want a protein and a starch, and in a reasonable ratio. Or, at the very least, a protein and a fat. Don’t mix and match or do a fat and a carb.


Could you guys discuss “hunger” in detail (e.g. biofeedback, is it OK to use things like coffee, liquids, etc. to help blunt some of the feelings of hunger, etc.)

Scott emphasized that hunger is totally normal, and you should be trying to trick your body. He calls this tolerable hunger.

Mike actually calls it the sweet spot, because it draws attention to the fact that you can have too much or too little. Just the right amount leaves you with optimal energy and focus. Psychologically, if he does notice he’s hungry, he can say, “Oh perfect, I’m in the sweet spot. I’m physiologically more focused than I otherwise would be. I better take advantage of this and do something important.”

Mike and Kevin also talked a bit about the number of meals they have per day. Both prefer a three meal a day approach, because it feels more flexible.


How do you minimize muscle loss when trying to lose fat?

For Kevin it’s about proper training.

This goes further: the quality of your training is a good indicator of whether or not you’re losing fat. You do need to feel hungry, yes, and to some degree you won’t be training “optimally,” yes… But there is a difference between that and feeling miserable and totally empty all the time.

Scott also pointed out that there is no arbitrary calendar for this. Don’t just drop calories because “oh I’m X weeks out.” No. Do it by your biofeedback: hunger, energy, concentration, feelings of coldness in fingers, etc.

A big mental warning factor is mental fogginess; another is lack of sex drive.

Mike’s Hunger Ebook

Episode 31. Things We Wish We’d Known, Way Back When

Episode 31. Things We Wish We’d Known, Way Back When

Episode 31. Things We Wish We’d Known, Way Back When

Show Notes

Scott and Kevin talk about mistakes new trainees make, but what were some of the mistakes they made early on in their fitness journey? What do they wish they’d known earlier?

This episode explored some of the ways the fitness industry has changed over the years, and how Scott and Kevin were influenced by “the magazines” early on (after all… where else could they go for information?).

Things We Wish We’d Known:

  • Both Scott and Kevin discussed the silliness of some of the routines and ideas they followed, and the myths they bought into, back when they were both first starting out in health, fitness and bodybuilding back in the 80s and 90s, and how shocked they were the more and more they learned.
  • A lot of what people thought was simply… pure conjecture. Just guessing.
  • The main things Kevin says he didn’t “get” early on were what it would really truly take, both in terms of sacrifices and time.
  • Scott, who actually became a ghost writer for some of the very magazines he used to follow, described being disappointed as he learned more and more about the way the business was run.
  • There was also a lot of smoke and mirrors about who was and who was not natural. It’s still like this; it was just even worse, because no one had a barometer for what was or was not a reasonable claim.
  • In one instance, he described the writers putting a little dot of ink on the page (as in, like a period), but then claiming that the dot had a very small dosage of a new special supplement, and you could cut the dot out and swallow it in order to feel its effects. They did this just to see if people would actually do it. Sure enough, they did. (And sure enough, people loved it and could “feel its effects.”)
  • There is an interesting paradox at work in that the magazines would instill a sense that you can accomplish these insane remarkable transformations, but it also tends to lead to a certain kind of myopic view of what’s possible. Scott attributes his success to having a really high aim that went beyond the physical stuff.
  • Scott was reminded of The Legend of Bagger Vance, where your immersion in a sport of any sort doesn’t become about the competition or the end goal, but simply self-connection.
  • Mike somewhat disagreed, in that the end goal (winning vs. losing) can still be important and integral and good. You don’t have to let that go. His example was Midnight Hockey, where guys who loved — loved — the game of hockey played into their 70s, 80s, and 90s. It’s no longer at a high level. And yet, nonetheless, even in a random game where it doesn’t really matter who wins and who loses, it’s a better feeling in the dressing room after a win. And that competition is an important part of the experience. Shooting pucks with friends without keeping score is fun, but there is a degree to which the competition — in which you’re trying, and your opponent is trying — is better, and is still about a true, deep love of the game.
  • The writer of the original book of The Legend of Bagger Vance is Steven Pressfield, who also wrote several books about writing and work that Mike likes. E.g., Do the Work. In the book, writing, doing the things that are important, are about higher awareness, even spirituality… But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy or that you can’t frame it as an obstacle.

Links & Resources

The Underground Steroid Handbook by Dan Duchaine [Amazon has no copies. It seems to be available online.]

The Legend of Bagger Vance

Midnight Hockey by Bill Gaston

Shop Class as Soul Craft by Matthew Crawford


Episode 30. Shiny New Object Syndrome

Episode 30. Shiny New Object Syndrome

Episode 30. Shiny New Object Syndrome

Show Notes

Since Scott has been around the industry a long time, he has seen a lot of shiny new objects come and go. This episode was all about those shiny objects, and how to ignore them, move on, and focus on the principles that really matter. Some examples of “shiny new objects” (i.e. trends) that were discussed: TRX, Bosu Balls, Kettle Bells, Battling Ropes, Reverse Dieting.

Simple “Fixes” and Lifestyle

  • The podcast began with Scott noting that the price of success, sometimes, is just plain vigilance, ad sometimes there are no workarounds.
  • The example he gave was sleep — if you don’t get enough sleep, that will be a huge roadblock to fitness success. This doesn’t mean there aren’t very legitimate reasons why you can’t get more, but there isn’t a way “around” this that isn’t just an empty promise trying to sell you something.
  • Scott and Kevin ranted about people’s sense of entitlement.
  • If you’re trying to deal with these lifestyle factors, you need to (1) be real and (2) really think about your priorities.

Shiny Objects

  • To give some background, Scott considers his work as a capital-C Coach to be a craft. Bt the first rule of being a craftsman is that you don’t fetishize one single tool, nor do you blame your tools: no carpenter ever got certified in the screw driver, the way many trainers get certified in TRX, or kettle bells, battling ropes whatever.
  • Here’s an example of the dangers of this: one of the “in vogue” tools right now is battling ropes. But these are not always a very good tool. If you’re over 50 or have shoulder problems, they are not good for you at all. They’re too hard on the shoulders.
  • A lot of the things that work are just plain boring. They’re not shiny. They’re not new. They’re not that fun to talk about. But they’re the things that move the needle for you.


  • A lot of the fitness industry sells the sizzle over the steak. At the same time, a program whose explanation is only legible to the coach or trainer is going too far the other way. Is there a happy medium?
  • A lot of the changes in the industry have to do with the fact that weight loss and fitness, as market, is old, sophisticated, and saturated. Consumers are skeptical of this or that strategy, so in-depth “secrets” and overly-complicated explanations are used to justify… nonsense.  This video has a good explanation of market sophistication (and conveniently uses fitness as an example).
  • Mike and Scott discussed Amir’s gym (http://www.symmetrygymdubai.com/), which very nicely and harmoniously mixes important principles that are totally legit (biofeedback) with marketing (fancy custom one-on-one approach blah blah). These things don’t always have to be in conflict.

Links & Resources

The Nonsense of Crossfit

Old Charles Atlas “hero of the beach” ads.

Article at the Smithsonian website about Charles Atlas

Internet Archive.org has tonnes of old magazines with old mail-order ads (going right back to the 19th century!)

A video on market sophistication.