When it comes to losing weight and eating healthy, there’s no shortage of opinions out there on the “right” way to do things.  In fact, it seems like these days everyone and their grandmother has an opinion on the optimal diet for health, vitality and weight loss. There is one thing that IS absolutely clear, however – when it comes to dietary success, consistency is number one. Unfortunately, for a lot of women, being consistent is the hardest part.  And the fact that we live in a world with an abundance of quick, cheap, high calorie food doesn’t exactly help. Today we’re going to address this issue.  We’re going to be talking all about cheating on your diet, why it happens, and most importantly, how you can actually DO IT and still make progress.

Why We Cheat

One of the horrible things about being human is the fact that you are, essentially, programmed to think about, seek out, and eat tasty, high calorie food.  And unfortunately, this doesn’t typically fit in with your macro-balanced, low-calorie fat loss diet of chicken breasts and salads that you’ve been on for the last two months. So, what should you do?  Should you give in to your biological impulses and eat nothing but birthday cake and McDonalds? No.  It just means that you need to be working with these impulses, not against them. But you need to know how to do it properly.

Cheating Done Right Vs Cheating Done Wrong

Let’s start with the first (and BIGGEST) mistake most women make – not paying attention to calories.  Far too few women (especially those looking to lose weight) understand that fat loss and body composition are fundamentally a matter of balancing your caloric intake. Remember, just because it’s a cheat meal/day/event doesn’t mean that those calories “don’t count”. They do.  At the end of the day, this is the thing that will make or break your weight loss efforts. The second mistake is not having a system in place. If you’ve ever dieted unsuccessfully before, you know what we’re talking about – your cheat meal turns into a cheat day…which turns into a cheat week…which turns into a cheat MONTH. Before you know it, you’ve gained 5 pounds of fat and absolutely destroyed any semblance of “healthy” eating. Sound familiar?  Thought so. So, if you want to learn how to do things properly, the following is a list of three ways to cheat the RIGHT way.

Method #1 – The Cheat Day

This is by far the most common method of “controlled” cheating – the day off. In case you’re unfamiliar, it works like this – you eat clean (lean meats, fruits, veggies – you know, real food)) Monday to Saturday (or any other six day combination), followed by a day off on Sunday in which you can eat…well, pretty much whatever you want. But while this may be the most common technique, in our opinion it’s the least practical for most women. To start off with, the idea that this won’t damage your diet and hinder your goals because it’s “just one day a week” is usually wishful thinking.  It is VERY possible to shovel enough tacos, sushi and gin and tonics down your throat to wipe out an entire weeks worth of progress. It also sets you up for the dreaded “binge/purge” cycle. Many women who try this find themselves spending the entire week feeling miserable, deprived and dreaming about chocolate.  And then when the cheat day DOES finally come around, they end up binging and stuffing themselves until they feel sick. Not a good way to live. With that said, there are some who can make this work.  But if you want to try it, you need to make damn sure you’re meticulously tracking your calories that day. Remember, going over by a few hundred calories won’t make a huge different – going over by a few thousand will. The other factor is to make sure that the diet you eat during the week is healthy, but still enjoyable.  Because if you hate what you’re putting in your mouth six days a week, you’re going to have a really hard time keeping it together once the cheat day comes around.

Method #2 – The Cheat Meal

This is the less extreme version of the cheat day, and the method we recommend for the vast majority of women – spreading your junk food out into a few meals throughout the week. This method has a few serious advantages over the first strategy.  The first is adherence.  It’s a hell of a lot easier to get through your week knowing that you only have to wait another day or two until you can eat what you really want. The second is that it makes controlling how much food you’re consuming easier.  While an all out cheat fest on Sunday can get out of hand pretty quickly, you should have no problem keeping the calories at bay if you spread it out over the course of the week. Finally, cheat meals are great because they give inexperienced dieters an easy system to follow, while still allowing you to be flexible. The best way to start this protocol is with three cheat meals per week.  Try to set them up around social events (lunches, birthday parties, dinners with friends, etc.)  During these meals, you can eat whatever you want…as long as you’re still hitting your daily calories. Tip – try to fill up on lean protein before the meal.  It will help keep you full, and make it far less likely that you’ll go crazy and binge out.

Method #3 – Flexible Dieting

The final method on our list of ways to cheat is undoubtably the most appealing, but it’s also the most difficult to master. Flexible dieting is exactly what it sounds like.  It’s a system in which you go about your regular diet, while making small tweaks and adjustments as things come up. Birthday party at the office?  No worries, have a piece of cake. Craving for tacos and margaritas?  Sure, why not.  As long as you’re getting the majority of your food from healthy sources and not going over on your calories for the day, you’re in the clear. Being able to master this system relies on two fundamental skills.  Firstly, you need to have the ability to control yourself and not let these unplanned dietary diversions spiral out of control. Secondly, you need to develop a mastery of calorie counting on the fly (which is more difficult than it sounds). Because of this, we don’t recommend this option if you’re inexperienced.  It is, however, a fantastic system, and something you should work towards as you get more and more practice eating and living a healthy lifestyle. When it comes right down to it, cheating on your diet really isn’t the end of the world.  Follow these tips and adopt one of these systems, and you’ll be ready to do it like a pro.