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Monday, September 28, 2009

It's okay to indulge (a little)

Guilt. It's what drives so many of us to attempt to follow militant diets, or spend hours doing cardio exercise, trying to reach a calorie burn that matches whatever it is we ended up eating to cheat on that same militant diet.

While I certainly won't deny that nutrition is a critical element of both a plan to lose weight and transform your body, staying on a too-strict plan without any of the foods you truly enjoy is a plan that is destined to fail you.

Eventually, you will rebel, and a bag of Oreos or a large meatlovers pizza later, you'll wonder how in the world you ended up here!

So how do you find some balance in your nutritional plan? There are a number of approaches you can take, but all of them allow for some indulgence (please, just do ONE of these!):

  • Declare one meal per week your "cheat meal." For those who crave fatty or high carb foods, this can be the meal where you eat at your favorite restaurant and order your favorite meal, even if it's fettuccine alfredo with bread on the side and a glass of wine! (Cheat meals shouldn't last all day -- or all weekend!)
  • Enjoy one special treat each week. If you have a sweet tooth, this can be a great way to enjoy that ice cream (or in my case, chocolate brownie) treat you enjoy looking forward to.
  • Indulge in a very small treat each day. This should be less than one full serving of a treat. Some examples might be a dark chocolate square, a mini cookie, or a small wedge of brie. Make sure you include these calories in your daily totals.
If you're eating on plan the rest of the week, these small indulgences won't mean a thing in the grand scheme of your nutritional plan. Since you can look forward to honoring your cravings, they won't grow out of control, leading to cheating and the inevitable guilt that follows.

Remember that, regardless of the nutritional plan you follow, torturing yourself towards 100% compliance will undoubtedly lead to either a miserable, deprived existence, or (more likely) cheating. So make a nutritional plan that includes a plan for indulgence while maintaining about 90% overall compliance on a weekly basis. You'll be happier, and it will be easier to stay on plan because you won't feel so deprived.


  1. I am on a weird diet (Metabolic Surge) where sometimes I'm allowed carb free foods, other times fat free foods, and sometimes just fruit, and I find that by restricting me in this way I get to sample lots of different kinds of foods so I don't get bored and want to cheat very much. I am allowed one cheat meal every 12 days, when I usually pig out and try to eat as much bad food as possible, but it doesn't affect my long term goals much since it is just one meal.

  2. That's an interesting diet, but it sounds like it keeps the cravings away, so that's great! I don't think I have the patience for something that scripted. :)

  3. I have a crazy sweet tooth that I've been trying to keep it under control. Lately I've had some luck taking a handful of raw nuts and a splitting up a dark chocolate square so that I have one bite of chocolate per nut.

    The chocolate satisfies the craving and the nuts fill me up. Probably not the healthiest snack. But better than the chocolate chip cookies I had been eating every day.

  4. Actually, the idea of having a little sweet with a little protein sounds like a fantastic way to push off the chocolate chip cookie cravings. If it works for you and doesn't make you want more chocolate, then it sounds like a great strategy!