Cheat Days Don't Hurt Your Diet As Much As You Think

The word cheat may sound dirty and dangerous, but when it comes to your diet, it might just be your saving grace. A cheat day is a set time of the week, or perhaps every other week, where you stray from your regular diet, disregarding the types and amounts of foods regularly eaten. These controversial mini-breaks from your daily diet may actually help with weight loss in more ways than you think.

According to Cooking Light, scheduling cheat days may help avert food binging, reduce cravings, offer a mental break from dieting, and possibly boost your metabolism. A small study out of Australia showed that out of two controlled groups, those who cheated on their diets were able to lose more weight than those who did not (via ABC News). Another study from 2016 found that those who occasionally cheated on their diets (but still used portion control) felt less restricted and more encouraged to continue the process (via Greatist).

Cheat days can help you avoid a plateau

According to Healthline, cheat breaks may help stimulate the metabolism that can push you through a plateau. David Ezell, clinical director of a wellness center, tells Healthline the technique of "feeding them up and feeding them down" works by keeping the metabolism fluid, which helps avoid weight loss stagnation. Registered dietician Dr. Carolyn Williams says that for the process to work, the cheat foods must still be eaten in healthy portions, in addition to staying consistent with proper hydration and nutrient intake (via Greatist). A cheat day with no boundaries may trigger a binge-eating domino effect, which will yield undesired results.

Dr. Jennifer Ashton, medical contributor for ABC news, says that cheat days give the body and mind a rest, which cultivates psychological benefits while dieting. These deviations of your daily diet may be more motivating, help you find better approaches to overcome impulsive eating, and can even put you in a better mood (per The Atlantic). Registered dietician Stephanie Ferrari tells Popsugar that by "allowing yourself cheat days here and there, you're setting yourself up for success." If you've been dieting for some time and find yourself craving a burger, the experts say go for it — in moderation, of course.