When I meet someone who maintains a healthy weight I invariably engage them in a discussion about how they watch what they eat. Every now and then I hear something new, but most of the time they use the same key principles that all healthy eaters seem to have discovered.
One key concept that all good dieters follow, and that is critical to maintaining a good and proper weight, is the “cheat” principle. If you want to be successful in managing your eating and bodyweight, you need to know how to effectively cheat on your diet.
This might seem counterintuitive, because consistency in eating the right foods in the right proportions is essential to maintaining a proper weight, and so cheating would seem to be a mistake. It’s true, you do need to be highly consistent in your eating patterns to stay thin. But herein lies the key. Everyone craves a certain type of food, whether it’s potato chips, ice cream, chocolate, or whatever. If you try to never eat any of the food you crave, then you will simply go bonkers. I know, because I’ve been there. You deny, deny, deny, and then you can’t handle it anymore and you eat a whole cake! Rather than binge in this way, which hugely sabotages your diet, it is better to occasionally indulge in small, controlled amounts of the food you most enjoy so you can avoid major setbacks.
So, to a person, everyone I ask who maintains a healthy weight incorporates the concept of allowing some structured amount of cheating in their diet. For the uninitiated, you can decide to allow a cheat “food,” cheat “meal,” or cheat “day.” (No cheat weeks or months!) A cheat food would be something like one dessert or alcoholic drink. A cheat meal might be a dinner consisting of a filet, mashed potatoes, and a glass of wine. A cheat day is eating whatever you want for a whole particular day.
If I am maintaining a very strict weight, I will allow myself one or two cheat foods per week, which for me is usually one or two desserts eaten over the weekend. A little looser approach would be a cheat meal or two, maybe one during the week and the other on Saturday night at a restaurant I favor. I don’t do cheat days because this seems like too much of a binge. After eating lightly and healthfully all week, after a whole cheat day I would suffer gastrointestinal distress and just end up feeling like crap.
A corollary to the concept of artful cheating is another principle that all thin people seem to employ: “Is this food worth the calories?”
Some cheat foods simply aren’t worth the calories. As an example, since I am a sweets person, there are certain sugary items that I love and are worth the calories, and some that are clearly not. If someone brings Dunkin Donuts into the hospital when I am volunteering, I will pass them right up. If it were a great homemade cake, then I might choose to “spend” a cheat food on it, but I’m not going to waste one of my precious few opportunities on a shriveled up donut.
A good general life principle is that if you want to be successful at something, then find people who are already successful in that area, and imitate what they do. It’s just the smart thing to do.
So, if you desire to achieve and maintain a healthier weight, then utilize the proven principle that all healthy people use, which is smart and effective cheating.