How to Eat Cake and Lose Weight

By Gemma Yates

We thought that headline might get your attention. And no, it's not clickbait - when it comes to weight loss, you really can have your cake and eat it. Here's how…

Don't deprive yourself!

Diets centered on deprivation are destined to fail. Ditto attempting to lose weight in a ridiculously short time frame, like that holiday in two weeks' time. The more you tell yourself you can't have the cake/pizza/chocolate, the more you want it – and the more likely you are to overindulge. The quicker you lose weight, the quicker you're likely to put it back on, because you won't have lost it in a way you can sustain. Plus, as women, fluctuating hormones during our menstrual cycle makes it hard to stay in a calorie deficit – those cravings during the luteal phase (the days leading up to your period) are real, so it's not the time for restriction. Moderation is key – more on that later. 

Ditch the Food Guilt

According to a 2014 study published in the journal Appetite, people who associated eating chocolate cake with guilt lost less weight than those who associated it with celebration. No food is "good" or "bad". It's just healthy/nutritious or less healthy/nutritious. When you begin labelling food in this way, you also subconsciously apply those labels/morals to yourself – you ate the bad cake, therefore you are bad. Food guilt often leads to restriction, then bingeing, then more restriction… it's a vicious circle, which serves no one. You ate something that's not so nutritious? Just make sure your next meal is nutrient-dense and you're all good. Which brings us on to…

See the BIGGER picture!

People tend to get hung up on the calorie content of individual meals or snacks, but looking at your calorie intake over the course of a week gives you a much clearer idea of what you're really taking in. Some days your calorie intake will be higher – hello, cake - and some days it will be lower. As long as you stay in your deficit, you'll still lose weight.

Stop Glucose Spikes

Here comes the science bit: during digestion, all carbs turn to glucose, our body's main fuel. Glucose triggers the release of insulin, the primary hormone involved in fat storage and weight gain While calories in vs. calories out has long been hailed as the secret to weight loss, newer studies show that if we want to reach and maintain a healthy weight, it's all about flattening glucose curves. 

If we control our insulin, we signal to the body that it should burn fat rather than store it, aiding weight loss. Controlling glucose can also alleviate inflammation in the body, reduce the risk of pre-diabetes and diabetes and stop sugar cravings and energy slumps. The glucose control method isn't about what you eat, but how. Take that cake – according to biochemist Jessie Inchauspé, aka @theglucosegoddess, if you eat a piece of chocolate cake on its own, you can expect to see a huge glucose spike that lasts more than two hours after you've finished that last bite. 

Pair that same slice of cake with a side of Greek yoghurt and the spike is more than halved and lasts under two hours. Drinking a tablespoon of any vinegar in a glass of water a few minutes before eating can have the same effect, as can having sweet treats after a meal instead of on an empty stomach and moving your body afterwards. 

Check out Jessie's Instagram or her books – Jeanette is a convert! – for more glucose-curbing hacks. 

Everything in Moderation

Treats aren't treats if you're eating them every day. Cake shouldn't be your go-to afternoon snack, but something you enjoy once in a while and savour. 

Generally, the more you eat healthy foods, the better you feel and the more you want to keep eating them. Then, when you do allow yourself those treats, there's nothing to feel guilty about, because you know your diet is nourishing the majority of the time. As a rule, you can't go wrong with an 80/20 approach – eat a balanced, healthy diet 80% of the time and allow yourself the things you love, in moderation, for the remaining 20%. 

That's the secret to making weight loss sustainable, without taking the cake off the table 😉