Nutrition Talk: Have Your Cake and Eat it Too

by tinareale on August 14, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across an article about a new research study showcasing a greater amount of weight loss from a group eating chocolate cake for breakfast every day. Say what?! Eat chocolate cake every day and be able to lose weight?

Ummmm…hold on a sec. Don’t go signing off, grabbing a hunk of dessert for breakfast, and merrily go on your way only to come yelling at me in a few months when your pants don’t fit quite as comfortably anymore. We have to look at the whole study.

First off, the study started with two random groups of men and women. For 16 weeks, these two groups ate in a controlled environment – each eating 1400-1600 calories per day. The difference came in what each group ate. Obviously, one had a breakfast that included 300 calories worth of chocolate cake each morning while the other group had a low-carbohydrate and protein filled breakfast. Over the first 16 controlled weeks, the groups lost a statistically equal amount of weight of about 33 pounds per person.

The changes started happening when, for the next 16 weeks of the study, the two groups didn’t follow a set diet and had the freedom to eat how they desired. The group that ate chocolate cake for breakfast continued making progress in regards to weight loss and other health parameters. The low-carbohydrate breakfast group ended up gaining back about 2/3 of the weight previously lost. Does this mean that chocolate cake is the magic to continued weight loss??


Does chocolate oatmeal work as the magic solution, then???

The weight loss didn’t come from the cake – it came from the reduced calorie diet. The continued progress came more from the fact that this group felt it could continue on with a calorie reduced eating plan in a realistic and manageable way. In other words, the group eating the cake didn’t feel deprived while on the controlled calorie diet and kept up the better habits over time – leading to the greater weight loss and progress.

What does that all mean for you as you seek to lose or maintain weight?

It means that in order to make progress, we need to follow a healthy and balanced diet with the appropriate amount of caloric intake for our bodies in a manner in which we can BE CONSISTENT. It’s the whole “not a diet, but a lifestyle change” mentality. It’s not about going overboard with restrictions, but finding what works for YOU. I really do believe in eating for weight loss by eating in a way you could see yourself eating for life…but a bit less on the intake with more reasonable portion sizes and trying to limit (without nixing completely) foods or drinks that don’t provide the best for your body.  


What about you? What do you think of the “chocolate cake study”? Are you currently losing weight or maintaining a loss? What worked for you?


1 Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean August 14, 2012 at 7:06 am

so important! moderation is the key to my success!

2 Courtney @ Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life August 14, 2012 at 7:08 am

Great post, Tina! I read that article a while ago and found it quite interesting :)
But now I want chocolate cake for breakfast!

3 Miz August 14, 2012 at 7:26 am

I saw my clients who ate the junk in the morning and were DONE WITH IT be more successful in the longrun as well.
CHOCOLATE DONUTS (which are kinda cake :-) ) and then a clean food plan the rest of the day because they werent depriving themselves.

it worked for THEM.
we’re all so different…

4 Claire @ Live and Love to Eat August 14, 2012 at 7:34 am

Calories in, calories out – there’s nothing magic about it! :)

5 Coco August 14, 2012 at 7:48 am

Thank you so much for digging into this study. I know for me having chocolate cake for breakfast would be a disaster. It would wake up my sweet tooth way too early in the day and have me drooling over the Starbucks pastry case mid-morning. I think it is so important to ENOY your “diet”–to like the foods you eat and look forward to your healthy meals.

6 tinareale August 15, 2012 at 7:30 am

Yep. All about what works for each of us to have balance and consistency. I have a sweet tooth “set off” too when I have something like that…but definitely still include the treats on occasion. ;)

7 Lindsay @ Lindsay's List August 14, 2012 at 7:53 am

amen!! can you please come and tell this (again) to my clients! ;)

8 chelsey @ clean eating chelsey August 14, 2012 at 7:55 am

Great post! I think that people get mislead with studies like this ALL the time!!!

9 Alex @ therunwithin August 14, 2012 at 7:56 am

This is so well put, it is about no deprivation. When you are deprived, it becomes not a lifestyle but a diet. Living on a diet just sounds plain difficult.

10 tinareale August 15, 2012 at 7:31 am

I always loved something I heard forever ago about dieting starting with “die”. Yep. About how I feel when I try to follow a “diet” instead of just diet as a noun and a healthy way of living.

11 Danica @ It's Progression August 14, 2012 at 8:28 am

SO glad you pointed this out! I’ve heard a lot of people talking about that study but rarely do they actually understand its purpose. Whenever I talk to friends/family about becoming healthier, it’s difficult for them to take on the mentality of “a lifestyle” not “a diet.” The more we spread the word of the importance of balance the more people I believe will work towards making better choices, because really it’s a lot of little healthy choices that add up in the end!

12 Meredith @ Dare You To August 14, 2012 at 8:41 am

It’s true; there are so many other variables that go into a study like that, that weight loss can (obviously!) not be attributed to CAKE. Caloric deficit, as you say, having their “tough decisions” alleviated by started off with an indulgence, etc. The goal should be health, not weight loss alone, and so daily chocolate cake shouldn’t be a morning habit!

13 Mary Beth August 14, 2012 at 8:46 am

I think not being deprived is absolutely key, over the last year or so I’ve lost 15 lbs on top of the 25 lbs I lost the year before that. I still have another 15 or so to go before I reach my goal but I’m succeeding by doing what works for me- going slow, writing down what I eat, and taking everything in moderation including moderation! There are days I have a doughnut (or two) for breakfast or go out for margaritas and Mexican food because it is real life, it’s not just a diet or a destination. I’m teaching myself how to eat in the real world and hopefully because of that I’ll succeed.

Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now. Great post Tina, love that you put it all in perspective! :)

14 tinareale August 15, 2012 at 7:32 am

Completely agree that is the best approach – you’re doing what works for you, taking it slow and steady to see lasting results, and finding a balance. Thanks for sharing!

15 Lauren @ Oatmeal after Spinning August 14, 2012 at 8:52 am

This is great!! I love that you shared this study- and hope it will make some people think a bit. I hear SO many people say “no dessert” or just cut something out completely (that they really enjoy) and I think that’s just setting yourself up for failure! Everything in moderation!

16 Kaitlin @4loveofcarrots August 14, 2012 at 9:44 am

this is a great post and this study on helps to prove the deprivation doesn’t work, a balanced diet with no restrictions will only help people to lose weight and live a more healthy life style!

17 Traci August 14, 2012 at 9:53 am

Over the last year & a half I’ve lost 25 lbs. I have 5 more to go. It’s taken awhile but I’ve stuck with it & I think it’s because of what was found in this study. I DON’T deprive myself. We still go out to eat, I still eat sweets & desserts BUT I don’t overindulge.

18 Katie @wishandwhimsy August 14, 2012 at 9:57 am

Yes, healthy living is all about balance…it’s a LIFESTYLE. And I don’t want to live a deprived life. I want to enjoy it!

19 Katie August 14, 2012 at 10:38 am

I heard about this study a little while ago and thought it was really interesting. I’d be afraid if I ate cake for breakfast because I’d be in dessert mode all day! The way I’ve been able to keep my weight consistent for awhile is letting myself have little desserts and not getting too out of control. I used to go a little crazy once I had one sweet. Learning self-control has been really important for me, and I’m definitely still working on it!

20 Danielle @ Clean Food Creative Fitness August 14, 2012 at 10:53 am

This is so interesting!!! I think it is proof that deprivation just doesn’t work! People need to feel like they are making lifestyle changes and not just dieting! Great post and thank you for sharing the study!

21 Karla August 14, 2012 at 10:55 am

For me, deprevation leads to binging…I.e. more calories than if I would allow myself to eat in moderation. So, this study does make sense, if you deprive yourself, sooner or later your survival instinct will kick in and demand that you give in. For years, I deprived myself and after a few years, it landed me with a huge binge eating problem. Now, I am learning that if I eat moderately (with plenty of fuel) I don’t have those crazy urges to binge. Now, I am working on getting past the habit of giving into e urge to binge (which feels completely different to me).

22 tinareale August 15, 2012 at 7:33 am

You know I can relate. “Diet” by restricting things and I would end up WAY overboard.

23 jobo August 14, 2012 at 10:58 am

YES!!!!!!!!! You are in my brain, this is so so SO right on. It is about consistency. Absolutely. A calorie is a calorie! And if daily cake helps you feel like you are still enjoying and not in deprivation mode, so be it. For me, that might be a glass of wine, or ice cream planned after dinner. Love this post, you are so insightful and inspiring to so many XOXO

24 Jess August 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I’m gonna go ahead and simply reply on top of my sister here — um hi, you are SO SPOT-ON with this it’s not even funny. It’s exactly how we both approach healthy balanced eating and we LOVE IT, and um, it totally works. Consistency is KEY, as is everything in moderation, no deprivation, no fads, no “good” or “bad” days.


25 Rachel @ Eat, Learn, Discover! August 14, 2012 at 10:58 am

Thank you, Tina! I hate when things like this are published, taken completely out of context. We have to learn to embrace the balance.

26 Shanna, like Banana August 14, 2012 at 11:08 am

Dang…really was hoping I could eat cake for breakfast — though I prefer vanilla thank you ;)

But, truthfully, I have to’s about consistency, balance, and not depriving!

27 tinareale August 15, 2012 at 7:35 am

I prefer vanilla cake too. Perhaps we should share a virtual vanilla cake breakfast with candy corn frosting (it has to exist if there’s a body lotion, right?!) and say three cheers to our uber healthy ways. ;)

28 Ana Maria August 14, 2012 at 11:36 am

I’ve lost close to 20 lbs this year through eating what I am truly craving. At first I would have the cake if I wanted it, but after a while, I began to ask myself what I really wanted about the cake – was it the chocolate? Then I’d have a piece of dark chocolate instead. Was it the fat? I’d include some nut butter or avocado in my lunch. Was I just hungry? I’d have a full meal and see if I still wanted to cake. The shift from “I can’t eat that” to “I can eat whatever I want” to “I want to eat what’s best for my body” was gradual and I’m still learning. But not depriving myself and loving myself was key to starting the journey. I had to get comfortable eating anything before I could start to be comfortable choosing again, this time not for appearance-sake but for health’s sake.
And I still eat dessert every day ;)

29 tinareale August 15, 2012 at 7:36 am

Love this and how you would determine what your body really craved. I thikn that is SO helpful in the process and learning to truly honor your body. Thanks for sharing!

30 Julie @ Better Life with Burgers August 14, 2012 at 11:45 am

AWESOME post! I love that you unpacked this study and explained the details. I heard about this study on the news and they did a TERRIBLE job of explaining it! I was left thinking, “Yeah, okay, everyone’s going to go eat chocolate now.” :-)

31 kaylie August 14, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I totally agree!

32 Christy August 14, 2012 at 11:51 am

I honestly eat chocolate every single day upon waking. It’s literally like crack. I have successfully lost 45 pounds and I consider myself a living testament of “having your cake and eating it too!” Mind you- I’m not eating an entire piece of cake in one sitting. More like a few chocolate morsels or a half a dark chocolate bar. Definitely all about moderation. More people need to realize this! Great post.

33 Maria August 14, 2012 at 12:01 pm

I’ve been most successful with counting calories in the past, but by gosh, I hated doing it. Though I fully believe in the concept of eating the appropriate amount of calories for your body – just trying to figure out how to reach that magic number without counting is key. Still a work in progress over here :)

34 Amanda @RunToTheFinish August 14, 2012 at 12:03 pm

what i like about the study is the proof that you don’t have to feel deprived to lose weight. I think for a lot of people it can eliminate the NO issue which leads them to want everything they now say NO they can’t have.

I’m sure it doesn’t exactly apply to everyone, but there is probably some merit to it.

35 MCM Mama August 14, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Yep. If you include things you love in a smart way, it’s totally possible to lose weight while still eating cake. For me, I can’t imagine a “diet” that never allowed me a craft beer. I don’t drink often and I don’t drink much, but I like beer and sometimes just want one. Same goes for the occasional sweet. I eat way more when I’ve made myself go a period of time without a specific food.

36 kaylie August 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I read this same article! (The whole magazine was amazing- just sayin’ :) ) right now, I am trying to loose weight for the sake of running more efficiently, but have had some troubles. Whenever I read articles like this one that say it’s okay to bend your diet a little, I tend to splurge! I’m still working through the kinks in my diet to see which plan works best for my body. However, I have gone from counting calories to counting the grams of carbs, protein, and fat I eat. Doing this has helped me focus on quality meals instead of eating junk food.

37 lindsay August 14, 2012 at 12:50 pm

moderation is key, well said. It’s how you fuel your body, not how you restrict it. I love this tina! good stuff.

off to make some cake… jk.. maybe.

38 tinareale August 15, 2012 at 7:37 am

as long as it’s chocolate…and as long as you bring me a slice. ;)

39 Kelly August 14, 2012 at 1:04 pm

I think another really important lesson from this study is that you need to eat enough calories to not feel deprived but you also must include treats! Even if you eat 2300 calories a day and exercise consistently but those 2300 calories are “perfect” calories you will eventually fail. So I think it is equally important to let your hair down and have cake or pizza or chips. (fill in your own food) and not always be perfect. Because even if you are getting enough calories but never allow for fun foods you are still going to feel deprived.

40 Heather @ Better With Veggies August 14, 2012 at 1:18 pm

What an interesting study – I would be interested to know the differences between the two diets in general. I would feel terrible the rest of the day if breakfast was chocolate cake, but obviously it was just more fun food in general. I bet the other group ate lots of celery sticks. :)

41 Purelytwins August 14, 2012 at 2:10 pm

great post! and love that quote, so true!
we are just training to maintain our weight and gain more muscle mass.
doing things in moderation and having a good ‘diet’ works for us. though we are still trying to figure things out :) we will get there!

42 [email protected] August 14, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I believe that restricting anything just sets us up for failure. (Unless of course it is medical or a personal/religious belief). Our brain is wired to WANT what we can’t have…. balancing mostly clean eats with treats/not-so-great for us foods is the key. I totally live this way, and it’s amazing!

43 Lisa August 14, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Love this! Once again a great post Tina! I think its important to note what works for us, some people have success with that and hey, if it helps them develop healthier habits in the long run then good for them. Moderation is the key and all of our bodies work different. There is NO diet designed for every person and I think we all need to become aware of that and treat our bodies with the respect they deserve…this includes nutrition as well as positive body image and positive self talk:)

44 Sharla August 14, 2012 at 3:44 pm

I agree – I know so many people who have been successful with eir health and fitness goals In a variety of ways. This study is just further proof why 80/20 works! My problem is not chocolate for breakfast though…it’s those crazy sugar cravings at night!

45 Michele @ Nycrunningmama August 14, 2012 at 4:23 pm

HAHA. This is such an awesome post. I was seriously ready to start eating chocolate cake for breakfast. But I totally get it. Knowing that you can have that one piece of choc cake AND still lose weight makes it seem manageable. However, totally restricting all the yummy goodness in life makes staying on a diet SO much harder. I’m always the happiest (and healthiest) with my weight when I allow myself that small bowl of ice cream or that handful of M&Ms. I don’t feel the need to binge and go off the deep end when I see a bag of candy – I know I can take a handful and still be on track.
Great, informative post, as always!!

46 Mariella Lombardi August 14, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Hi Tina,

I don’t put much trust into these kind of studies. It’s really difficult to take all the factors into consideration and make an accurate study. When it comes to chocolate cake I find it a bit hard to believe that it had anything to do with the weight loss. But you are totally right in your statement. A balanced diet and a positive attitude are key to any weight loss plan.

47 StoriesAndSweetPotatoes August 14, 2012 at 5:32 pm

I’m so glad you posted on this. I like your perspective. I get so frustrated seeing how misleading studies like this are reported in the media with a quick one sentence everyone just accepts, no questions asks. I wrote a post on it a couple weeks ago:

48 [email protected] Palate August 14, 2012 at 5:34 pm

It’s just simply about not depriving yourself. You should be able to have your “cake” or whatever that food you don’t feel fits in with the typical and most commonly ascribed idea of a “diet”…you’re right, it’s about balance! I’ve lived both extremes having suffered from anorexia and bulimia…all or nothing is not going to work for the majority of people. I think enjoying something you love for breakfasts ensures you don’t feel deprived from the outset as opposed to nibbling on sweet treats without thinking during the day.

49 Cat @ Breakfast to Bed August 14, 2012 at 5:51 pm

This has me dreaming up a chocolate cake baked oatmeal recipe….it also has me craving pizza for some reason…that may just be the pms.

50 Elle August 14, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Interesting … I definitely think the fast track to failure is deprivation so this just may work if you can fit it into your calorie budget! I have been a lifetimer at Weight Watchers for over 25 years now and they don’t forbid you anything.

51 [email protected] August 14, 2012 at 7:25 pm

I have been on a quest to lose weight for about 4 years. For those years, I have done nothing but gain weight and become frustrated and restrictive. In May, I said screw it. I’m done and decided to stop restricting myself, stop obsessing and start listening to my body. As of yesterday, I’m down 24 lbs and couldn’t be happier. I no longer freak out about eating out, eating cake and ice cream and am enjoying life!!

52 Amanda @ Diary of a Semi-Health Nut August 14, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Heyyy moderation!! This is why I will never give up my sweets because I know they will find me eventually. I just try to make them a little healthier and eat them with my meals so I don’t do the sugar high/crash.

This study is so misleading in more than one way, so thank you for breaking it down for us! <3

53 Leonor August 14, 2012 at 9:23 pm

I’ve maintained over a 3olb weight loss. I eat clean and eat by the 80/20 rule. Not all calories are created equal. If you eat 300 calories of chocolate cake and 300 of oatmeal, it’s not the same.

54 Eva @ committed2nutrition August 15, 2012 at 10:32 am

Awesome post.. this is what I to tell my friends, family, and nutrition clients. CONSISTENCY is KEY.

55 Cara August 15, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Awesome post! I find articles like that very interesting! I take the 80/20 approach. I believe that we all need a little sweet in our diets in order to stick to them, particularly someone who isn’t used to eating as clean. I know I ALWAYS need a little bite (or more) of chocolate each day!

56 Sam @ Better With Sprinkles August 15, 2012 at 10:17 pm

I remember reading about that study – it is interesting!
It goes to prove that as long as you eat a balanced diet and eat an appropriate amount of calories, some indulgences are ok. I have a massive sweet tooth and I feel guilty sometimes about wanting something sweet everyday. I just have to remind myself about the sort of thing this study shows – if I’m still eating an appropriate amount, it’s fine.

57 [email protected] August 16, 2012 at 2:10 pm

That is the hardest thing to realize when trying to lose weight; its NOT a diet, its a lifestyle change. I watched my mother struggle for years with this; trying every diet that was in the media and working for the general dieting public, but always yo-yoing. It wasn’t until recently when she really adopted a different lifestyle (only keeping good foods in the house, sizing out portions rather than guessing, and exercising 6 times a week) that she’s been able to keep the almost 50 pounds she’s lost, off for more than 6 months.

58 Bek @ Crave August 18, 2012 at 1:13 am

I will tell you what hasn’t worked for me and that’s restricting! It turned into terrible anxiety, binge eating and an eating disorder. You can only do it for so long. I’m happy it happened though because now I can grow and learn from it and become a better person :)

59 Julia H. @ Going Gulia August 18, 2012 at 9:11 am

Love love love the message behind this. “Everything in moderation” is something that people too often forget when trying to get healthy. Depriving yourself will do you absolutely no favors!

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