When it comes to dieting, there’s a certain naughty topic that’s bound to come up sooner or later… are you allowed to cheat on your diet?
This is a question that’s always going to get asked because no one wants to diet every single day for the rest of their lives. Once you tell someone they can NEVER have their favorite junk food ever again, it becomes a forbidden fruit that they desire for every meal.
“Cheat days” can be useful or crippling to a diet depending on how they’re used and with what frequency.
The means in which they’re useful is by trying to prevent the “forbidden fruit” complex as mentioned a moment ago. Diets that are so strict that they require you to never eat a certain type of food are hard to manage long term. You may be okay with the change at first, but after a while, you’ll find yourself craving the off-limits food more and more.
You’ll never find a diet that allows you to eat a double burger with cheese and bacon every day, or a strawberry cake for those with more of a sweet tooth. Any diet will require you to watch how often you eat these treats, that much is certain. But never having them again?
We all have those little weaknesses. In some cases, there may be a health concern involved when something MUST be removed from your diet, but outside of that; eating something unhealthy now and again isn’t too bad as long as it’s an occasional splurge.
Knowing that you CAN have junk food but that you simply choose not to is easier on some people from a psychological standpoint, than being told they can NEVER have that food again. This is one reason why truly strict diets, such as low carb (which require you to give up certain foods like bread and pasta almost entirely) can be impossible for some people to manage long-term. Sooner or later, temptation creeps in and usually wins.
But there’s a flip side to the coin. While a cheat day now and again can be useful to a diet, some people take hold of this concept and run with it. It becomes an excuse to have these foods whenever a craving comes knocking. Once cheat days start becoming cheat weeks, you’re in trouble.
The name of the game here is moderation. Be careful how often you let yourself slip. Unfortunately, there is no perfect formula we can give you, but there are some rules of thumb you can take to heart.
One thing you can focus on is leaning less towards cheat days and more towards cheat meals. Instead of having a day where you just eat whatever you like from dawn till dusk, have a single meal during that day in which you enjoy some carefully portioned junk food.
Another method you should use is scheduling your cheat meals around certain milestones. The point here is that you’re taking control over when you eat junk food; you’re not just giving into a craving on the spur of the moment.
For instance, say you set a goal for yourself to eat one salad a day and visit the gym three times this week. If by the end of the week you meet your end goal (a total of seven salads and three workouts) you earn yourself a cheat meal at your favorite restaurant.
Try turning your cheat meals into a celebration of good behavior. Let’s say your weakness of choice is burgers. Well, at the end of a productive week, why not go have a high quality burger at a good restaurant? It’ll be a little pricier; but the point is that you’re treating yourself. The alternative is to take that same money and buy and entire bag of cheapo burgers from a drive-thru.
The point is to turn your cheats into well timed, well planned LUXURIES; instead of just straight up, spur of the moment gorging hand-over-fist. You’ll take the time to slow down and enjoy your well-earned reward instead of lamenting over a crumbled up greasy bag.
An expression that comes to mind here is “the exception proves the rule.” In order to cheat on a diet, it means that most days, you ARE dieting in order to be cheating on it in the first place. If you’re “cheating” every single day, the sad truth of it is that you’re not even dieting at all.
Enjoy your splurge but then get back on track with the next meal. If the pounds stop dropping off, then you’re cheating too much!