We give cheating on diets a bad rap. The fact alone that we call eating something wonderful “cheating” gives the whole thing a negative slant and leave us with actual feelings of guilt. What you eat shouldn’t be on your list of things to be sorry about. “Cheating” on your diet is not inherently bad; you just need to know how to do it right.
Here are 6 suggestions to help you cheat without messing up your diet.
1. Don’t tell yourself “No”
Recently I participated in a challenge where I could only eat 3 treats a week. I thought it was going to be miserable. Turns out, it wasn’t so bad. I’m not saying it was the easiest thing-I’ve got a heck of a sweet tooth, and that social pressure can really get ya-but it was not as big of a struggle as I expected.
The key was that I could have a treat if I wanted it because I could eat a treat 3 times a week. But, by limiting how many times I could have treats, it was easy to realize the times I really wanted a treat from when I just sort of wanted one. I didn’t tell myself I couldn’t have it. I just said, “I don’t want this particular treat right now.” Doing that was empowering because I could do what I wanted, and what I wanted was to not eat every sweet that came my way.
2. Don’t subscribe to all-or-nothings
Just because you end up eating a whole bag of Hershey’s kisses, doesn’t mean you have messed up your day, weekend or week. One mistake is not reason enough to throw all the rest of your good eating habits in the garbage. It’s okay to mess up, but it’s not okay to let that mess-up define the rest of your eating choices. As soon as you’ve finished bingeing on that plate of deluxe nachos, move on and start eating healthy again.
3. Eat only your favorite version
Eating a thin-crust, low-fat pizza when you are craving a greasy deep-dish is not going to make you feel satisfied. If you’re going to cheat on your diet, eat exactly what you want. Otherwise, you will continue to crave what you actually want, leaving you unsatisfied and more likely to cheat later.
Not only that, but eating a cheap frozen yogurt when you really want some creamy peanut butter chocolate chip ice cream will not make feel like you made a worthwhile choice. The frozen yogurt still had extra sugar and calories and you didn’t even enjoy it that much.
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With all diet-cheating: go big or go home.
4. Don’t eat distracted
No matter what you’re eating-but especially if it’s a “cheat food”-do not eat distracted. Eating while watching television, driving or talking on the phone engages you more in the other activity instead of focusing on the food. This means you receive only a small fraction of the satisfaction of whatever it is you’re eating. Focus on every bite, the texture, the flavor and the smell so you don’t miss out on enjoying any bit of what goes into your mouth and body.
5. Don’t eat straight from the bag
You don’t have to be crazy about measuring out 3/4 cup of Reese’s Puffs to fit the serving size on the package. However, sitting down with the box in hand is going to cause you to eat more than you realize or even want. Before you start in on the Doritos or Ben & Jerry’s, stick the food in a bowl to prevent you from eating more than you actually want.
6. Make flavorful food
This one isn’t so much about cheating as it is about tricking your mind into thinking you’re cheating. It took me years to realize many people don’t like vegetables simply because they don’t prepare them well. Find spices you love and sprinkle them on everything. Get creative with curry powder, saffron or chili. Discover interesting combinations. And never underestimate the power of garlic and onions. Satisfaction from eating doesn’t always come from sugars and fats; your tongue can be super happy with flavor that doesn’t add an excess of calories.