Cute picture of a dog and cat about to cheat on their diet with doughnuts

Losing fat without losing muscle at the same time can be a tough and frustrating process.

You might very well be sticking to what feels like a brutal regimen to strip away that fat and reveal the muscles you’ve worked so hard to build only to discover weeks in that you’re not losing even one more ounce.

Hitting a plateau can be enough to make you give up and want to cheat, but is it possible to cheat and still lose weight?

This is the knotty issue we’ll dive into today.

According to science, not only is there a way to achieve this but it’s also part of the best approach to sustainable weight loss.

While biting into a massive cheeseburger with a side of fries and a sugar-laden Coke might seem like the worst possible idea for a diet, the truth is that cheating on a small level can actually help your diet rather than hinder it.

Read on to find out how you can be naughty but still shred away that excess weight…

Interrupting Your Calorie Deficit

Losing weight, as hard as it might seem, is actually incredibly simple…

Whole books and courses are created to prop up the diet but losing weight is ultimately about no more than a calorie deficit. Take on board fewer calories than you expend and the pounds will pile off.

When this happens, your body will start burning its store of fat in order to help keep your body functioning during this time.

Unfortunately, your body can also sense when this deficit happens for a sustained period of time, and will adapt itself in order to make burning fat harder. This is the plateau we mentioned earlier. You might be working just as hard or even harder than you were before to lose weight, but your body has adapted to the lack of calories and is reserving some body fat just in case the “famine” you are experiencing gets more severe.

The solution to helping your body understand that food is available and that you are not, in fact, starving to death is a relatively simple one…

Occasionally indulging in a calorie surplus can interrupt the metabolism slow-down caused by dieting. That means eating more calories than you need by enjoying an occasional blow-out.

Say Hello to Your Friend, Leptin

Reassuring your body that a genuine famine is not actually happening isn’t the only benefit from cheating, either…

Leptin is a protein created by your fat stores, and it’s responsible for regulating your body mass. Leptin levels that are out of kilter—both too low and too high—can cause problems with your ability to lose weight, and maintain that weight loss.

When you eat a cheat meal, you are naturally helping to restore your leptin levels. This, in turn, makes maintaining your weight loss more likely.

The 90/10 Rule: Your Guide for Cheating Right

Figuring out just how much you can cheat without going overboard is the secret to balancing your diet.

A quick rule of thumb is to think about a cheat meal, not a cheat day. If you cheat the whole day, your diet is likely to derail and you simply won’t receive the benefits you’re hoping for.

This boils down to eating healthily 90% of the time, with a tempting piece of cheesecake at the end of those heaps of vegetables so it all seems worthwhile.

Not only will this approach help you physically, it will also assist you psychologically…

Even top athletes can’t stand strict diets for months on end as they work hard to obtain their ideal body shape. They, too, need an occasional comfort meal to balance out the endless string of healthy food.

Remember that even when you’re having a cheat meal, you need to show some self-restraint. No eating 3 cartons of ice cream in one sitting because you are physically able to cram it into your stomach, and you know you won’t have the opportunity again for several more meals.

How often does 90/10 work out to cheat meals in your diet?

If you eat 35 times per week­—5 small meals a day, which is a common diet plan­— you can aim to cheat about 3 times a week. This is often sufficient reward to enable you to power through those less exciting meals knowing fully that something extra-tasty is just around the corner. Equally, the treats are not spaced so closely together that your sensible eating plan spirals out of control.

Guidelines for Cheat Meals

We already talked about how overindulging on your cheat meals won’t help you lose weight.

While moderation is key, there are 3 key things you can do to help you get the most out of your cheat meals…

1) Make The Best Possible Cheat Choices

We know, it’s your cheat meal so you should be able to eat whatever you want!

Well, you can.

If you want a sweet treat, however, choosing between real sugar and corn syrup, high quality chocolate or dye-filled Popsicle, can all make small differences in your overall health.

If you can bump up the quality of your cheat meal, do so. Your body will thank you.

2) Make Your Protein Source The First Thing You Eat

Protein will not only help calm cravings, it will also balance your blood sugar.

When you are indulging in carbs, this can make a big difference in how you feel after a meal.

Get your protein down the hatch first for best results.

3) When You Get Up, The Meal is Over

Eat at a table, away from the TV or any other distractions.

When your butt leaves the chair, your cheat meal is over.

This is an important distinction to make because indulging your cravings can often lead to a food-fest that goes on for hours.

Staying true to your diet demands being able to stop those cheat meals so you can maintain the benefits both of cheating and dieting.

The Verdict

Your diet doesn’t have to be straight vegetables and proteins forever. There is room even in the strictest diet for the occasional date with Ben and Jerry’s.

If you plan on keeping up long-term lifestyle changes for the benefit of your health, consider making cheating an integral part of your weight loss plan. Doing so will benefit you on many different levels, from your physical health to your psychological health as well so we’ll leave you on that happy note to go and rustle up your favorite indulgence!

Related Articles