So, you’ve decided to eat a certain way. Whether that’s to just eat real food or master a specific diet that fits your needs – good for you. It takes patience. It takes work and commitment. And a lot of recipe searching.
You feel good. You know you are doing something good for your body.
But then it happens. A birthday party. A holiday event. A night out at your favorite restaurant. And you wonder….
Is it okay to cheat on your diet?
The word “cheating” brings a lot of bad baggage with it. I mean, “cheaters never win,” right? But as another saying goes: “There’s always an exception to the rule.”
Cheating on your diet may be that exception to the rule.
Now, before you get too excited – I’ve got another saying for you. “Moderation in all things.” While there are actual health benefits of “cheating” on your diet (more on that in a minute), that doesn’t mean every night you can binge on candy, soda, and who knows what else.
So let’s discuss what I mean exactly by “cheating” on your diet.
When you stop and mindfully enjoy a not-so-healthy dessert every now and then – it’s a good thing. To take your holiday festivities seriously and no worry about what foods are being served is liberating. To enjoy the people, the traditions, the moment – it’s part of living fully. Even just taking the time to indulge in something you know isn’t “healthy” – even without a special occasion attached to it – can be good for the soul.
We live in a world of processed foods. While you may have made the decision to eat healthy, real, nutrition foods – those around you may not. Trying to stay completely away from any processed foods, sugary treats, greasy snacks is a major task. Trying to stay away from all those bad foods all the time can drive you crazy.
Trust me. I tried. And I was miserable.
I was so stressed out about what food I was around that in my search to “perfectly” I ended up having a very unhealthy relationship with food.
It wasn’t until I finally learned to relax and include some mindful “cheats” that I finally felt my relationship with food improve.
So, try your best to eat healthy.
Try your best to stick to whatever nutrition goals you have set. But also allow yourself to have a piece of cake at your friends birthday party. Enjoy your weekly night out. Relax when you’re visiting family or friends. Moderation in all things, my friends.
Now, let’s get into the real health benefits of cheating.
4 Health Benefits of Cheating:
1. Reduce Cravings
Many people struggle with intense cravings – especially when something is “off limits.” It can be hard to not want what you can’t have. Allowing yourself to have a cheat meal or treat takes the pressure off of those “off limits” food. You don’t have to feel confined in your eating habits.
2. Sticking to Your Goals
Many find it easier to stick to their goals when they know that they get a reward or day off. Being able to tell yourself you’ll get that delicious doughnut on Saturday is better then saying you’ll never have a doughnut ever again.
3. Regulates Hormones
Hormones play a huge role in our appetite – specifically the hormones ghrelin and leptin. When someone temporarily increases their calorie intake it helps re-balance those hormones and can actually help manage hunger levels and help drive up energy expenditure.
In fact one study has show that leptin (which is your appetite suppressing hormone) can be boosted by almost 30% for a 24 hour period after indulging in a carbohydrate-rich meal.
4. Mental Break
Eating healthy is a bit of a mental workout – especially if you’re always stressing about what’s “good” or “bad” with your food choices. Allowing yourself the freedom of having a cheat meal can allow your mind to take a break. To calm down. To de-stress.
Let go of the “cheat” mentality.
Cheating can be good for your health. But, really, I don’t even want to call it “cheating.” Cheating in school is bad. Cheating on your spouse is bad. Cheating on your diet is a balanced way to live. So instead of calling it “cheating” let’s just call is BALANCE.
Balanced, healthy eating allows for indulgence. Balanced, healthy living demands that you enjoy people, celebrations, and important moments. Eating donuts everyday isn’t just cheating on your diet – it’s unbalanced living. Find what works for you, what allows you to stick to your goals, but that still gives you a sense of balance in your life.
And enjoy in the knowledge having a healthy relationship with food means getting to eat your cake from time to time!