Starting a diet is hard, and sticking with it can be even harder—especially if you’re trying to adhere to a super-restrictive meal plan. Successful weight management is all about developing healthy and sustainable eating habits, and a big part of that is learning how to indulge in moderation. Cutting out entire food groups and constantly depriving yourself of foods you enjoy is no way to live, nor is it a recipe for long-term success.
That’s where the so-called “cheat day” comes in, although you shouldn’t really think of it as “cheating” since that can make it sound like you’re doing something wrong. Instead, think of it as a hard-earned, well-deserved break from calorie-counting that can keep you from binging on junk food regularly. No matter what you call it, learning to incorporate balance and moderation into your eating habits can help you avoid total diet sabotage and put you on the path to a lifetime of healthy weight management. Here are some strategies for “cheating” your way to success:
INDULGE WITH INTENTION
Yes, it’s called a cheat day, but that doesn’t mean you should spend 24 hours noshing on every decadent snack, meal and treat in sight. If you’re planning to enjoy a pizza dinner with friends, you can make smart choices earlier on in the day. Approaching your splurge with moderation in mind can help ingrain the kind of balanced eating habits necessary for maintaining a healthy weight in the long-term.
USE PROTEIN TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Plan to work out on your cheat day and consider a lean protein meal replacement bar or shake for breakfast. You’ll keep your calorie count down, but still provide the protein you need.
HARNESS THE POWER OF ANTICIPATION
Planning your cheat meals in advance allows you to look forward to them, savor them and then get back to healthy eating. It may also help you avoid stress-induced binges. If you plan to enjoy your favorite cheeseburger on Saturday, you may be inspired to work hard all week to earn it and, when you eat it, you’ll relish every bite. Map out your week in advance and consider keeping a food and exercise journal to keep track of what you’re eating and burning.