New research has confirmed what many dieters have hoped all along – that occasionally eating less healthy food can actually help you lose weight.
Portuguese scientists studied participants who were allowed just 10,500 calories per week – significantly lower than a man’s average 17,500 per week.
They allowed half of the participants to eat whatever they liked on a Sunday.
They found that people who include a ‘cheat day’ in their diet are able to remain motivated to stick to their plan during the rest of the week.
After two week the difference in weight lose between the two groups was not huge but the scientists found that the group that had been allowed to ‘cheat’ were far more motivated to continue.
Researchers say that occasional indulgence makes dieting ‘more sustainable’.
They even found that participants in the ‘cheat group’ did not necessarily feel the need to go overboard with ice cream and pizzas on the cheat day.
Rita Coelho do Vale, Ph.D who authored the study said that the psychology of the cheat day was vital in helping dieters stay motivated.
If somebody is craving a more unhealthy food such as pizza during a week night they will be more able to resist if they know they can indulge on Sunday without ruining their diet plan.
On the other hand, self-restraint can be mentally draining and if there is no end in sight it could be far more tempting to throw in the towel.
Dr Coelho do Vale says that planning ahead is the key to maintaining a successful diet. If a dieter loses control and indulges on a donut in the spur of the moment may feel they have blown their diet and immediately stop trying.
However, if they know they can eat that donut in a few days’ time they are more likely to resist it in the spur of the moment.
Dr Coelho do Vale said it was important to remain within the 10,500 limit for the week so that means while pizzas and donuts are ok once a dieters should not allow those foods to take them over the weekly limit.