We’re all for a healthy diet and exercise, but some days even the best healthy smoothie and good-for-you slow cooker recipe doesn’t really seem all that appetizing. But when we succumb to a cheat day and devour an oh-so-delicious cheeseburger and fries, we end up feeling super guilty. Well, according to new research published in the January 2016 edition of Consumer Psychology, one cheat day per week isn’t something to feel bad about at all — in fact, a one-day indulgence could actually be the key to sticking with your long-term weight-loss goals.
This timely research article out of Tilburg University can be broken down into three smaller studies. In the first study, the researchers asked 59 students to pretend to have one of two different diets: either a ‘traditional diet’ of 1,500 calories per day or an ‘intermittent diet’ which consisted of six days of 1,300 calories and one cheat day of 2,700 calories. Those with the intermittent or splurge diet predicted they would be better able to handle self-control throughout the week and were able to come up with more strategies to overcome temptation during the exercise.
In the second stage of the study, the researchers put their first results to the test. The researchers asked 39 students to take one of the two diets, track what they ate and weigh themselves in the lab. The results of the study proved their original hypothesis — the group with the cheat day was better at managing self-control and had more motivation and focus. And at the end of the week, both groups lost the same amount of weight.
Finally, the scientists asked a new set of participants to describe their own personal goals — whether that was health related or not. After outlining both the “traditional” and “intermittent” strategies, the participants agreed that the cheat day option would help them stay motivated to complete their goal, no matter what it was.
So as long as your cheat day is scheduled (AKA no spontaneous indulgences because your S.O. is having delicious smelling take-out) and semi-controlled (no 4,000+ calorie days, folks), your cheat day might actually help your diet stay on track for longer.
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