Do Cheat Meals Help or Hurt Your Weight-Loss Efforts?

Although it may seem counterintuitive, many weight-loss experts recommend “cheating” now and then so that you avoid feeling deprived and giving up on your diet altogether. Because your diet must be a permanent lifestyle change to be successful, it works best if you allow yourself some flexibility. Knowing that you can cheat on occasion makes your diet easier and more sustainable, and it’s what you eat over time that will have the biggest impact on your health, as opposed to crash dieting to shed weight quickly (which you will almost certainly gain back).

To eat a healthy diet, focus on a well-balanced array of healthy foods eaten at regular intervals throughout the day to avoid blood sugar spikes. Along with this baseline diet, though, allow for a treat once in a while to adopt an eating plan that you can stick with for life. Allowing a little indulgence can prevent you from feeling guilty when you do “cheat,” and keep you from becoming discouraged and spiralling backwards.

How much you cheat and what you eat depends on what works best for you. You might choose to have a small treat (of 100 calories or less) each day, or you might save up and indulge in a “fun food” once a week. Over a period of one week, you should be eating 21 meals and seven to 14 snacks, so if most of those consist of healthy, whole foods, a moderate indulgence isn’t going to derail your efforts.

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Cheating isn’t the best option for everyone. If you can’t help going overboard when you cheat, or you find it too difficult to get back on the program after an indulgence, then you might be better off avoiding cheating altogether.

That doesn’t mean that you have to eat a boring diet – far from it. There are so many delicious, healthy foods in tempting combinations that with a little effort, you can build the perfect diet for you out of natural, unprocessed foods that will help your waistline and your overall health instead of causing harm. Experiment with different ways of eating – as long as most of what you eat is healthy – and find the plan that you can keep.

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