Permission To Vary From Your Diet is Granted
There is good news for thousands of people who diet to improve their health. A little cheating on the diet one meal at a time is better than ignoring the diet for an entire day. However, the calorie count for the day when varying should not exceed the daily calorie limitations of your diet. Knowing when and how to vary from your diet is the key. If you cheat in the correct way, it may actually improve your weight loss achieved while dieting. The rate of diet successes are increased by simply including one meal of your favorite foods on occasion. As a diet strategy, cheating well may discourage straying from a diet less than a stricter diet approach.
Can Cheating On Your Diet Actually Help You To Lose Weight?
If you think of “diet” as a four-letter word, giving yourself some breathing room could help clean up your act. What if instead of cutting out your favorite foods altogether, you allow yourself times to give in to your cravings guilt-free? That’s a cheat meal, and your favorite foods will taste better because they’re rare, and because you worked for them.
First, let’s define “cheating.” A cheat meal is when you allow yourself something that you normally abstain from. For almost every meal, stick to a well-rounded and nutritious diet filled with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and a calorie count based around your needs and goals. For example, once a week usually works for most of my clients, where they eat properly for all of their meals except a Friday dinner out. When you eat right for 6 days a week, one cheat meal on the 7th day will still allow you to reach your goals. However, just like civilized warfare, there are rules to cheating!
Stick to a cheat meal, rather than a cheat day. And entire days worth of binging can create unhealthy patterns and actually lead to weight gain, spiked blood sugar levels and a generally unhealthy relationship with food. Reserve “cheat days” for 4 times a year – your birthday, Thanksgiving, and two holiday get-togethers, where you have little control over what’s put in front of you. If your cheat days number more than 4 a year, it’s time to take control.
As for the cheat meal itself, your weekly cheat meal should still be within the confines of your daily calorie count. Yes, even your cheating needs to be recorded in a food diary! This is the only way you can be sure that you’re not completely undoing the good work you’ve done during the week.
The easiest way to stay within your calorie confines is by limiting your portions. Say Chicken Parmesan is your cheat; have one small plateful, with a side of vegetables, and freeze any leftovers you may have for use on your next cheat meal. You can also make small adjustments to keep within your calorie limits. For example, if you’re at a restaurant, either order a drink, an appetizer, or a dessert with your entree. When you only get one, your cheat meal becomes a lot more reasonable.
So why cheat at all? You have to think of willpower as a muscle. When you work a muscle every day, you run the risk of fatigue; it’s the same with willpower. “A cheat day can help you stick with a plan the rest of the week,” says Marjorie Nolan, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It’s easier to stick to your healthy plan during the week, avoiding Little Debbie brownies, when you know you’re saving your calories for rich chocolate mousse on Friday. This knowledge of saving up for a cheat meal can also be a mood brightener when you give up that tuna melt for a garden salad at lunch; a successful diet requires a positive mentality almost as much as it requires a handle on calories and hormones.
The best part about cheat meals is that the longer you stick to your healthy diet, the less sinful the cheat meals will become. You’re going to find you’re no longer lusting after that greasy boston creme donut, that you’d rather save the calories. You’ll find you’d rather have fruit and yogurt than an ice cream cone. Trust me, your tastes start to change for the better, and so will your body.