Want to have your cake and lose weight too?
You can! Just change your attitude. A 2014 study published in the journal Appetite found that participants who associated eating chocolate cake with guilt lost less weight than those who associated it with celebration.
It’s scientific evidence that backs up a common-sense approach to weight loss that works: Any diet that’s based on deprivation is bound to fail. Even mice know to get off that wheel. A study conducted by researchers at Princeton University found that mice who were given access to sugar over a 12-hour period, then deprived of it for 12 hours, ate progressively more each time the sweet stuff became available again.
“Fact is, ‘strict and calculated’ simply doesn’t work,” says Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin, a psychoanalyst, in The Naughty Diet. “We’re not robots. We’re bodies, with real wants and needs that are constantly evolving.”
How Cheating Can Help You Lose Weight
What’s more, studies show that having the occasional cheat meal or treat can actually help you achieve your weight-loss goals faster! A cheat meal can boost the metabolism is by increasing leptin, the anti-starvation hormone that sends hunger messages to the body. When your body senses a calorie deficit, leptin levels drop, prompting the metabolism to slow down and conserve energy. Throwing a calorie-rich cheat meal or treat into the mix tricks your system into thinking food is plentiful and that it’s OK to burn through fat stores.
How to Beat Food Guilt
It might take some doing to squash your guilt about treating yourself. Not to worry; there are proven strategies you can employ to make yourself feel less guilty. Limit yourself to one cheat like chocolate cake per week: Schedule it in your phone. You can also bank some calories: Eat a high-quality, high-protein meal before your chocolate cake, preferably with high-fiber, low-starch veggies to slow down digestion. For example, a big green salad with a grilled chicken breast and a squeeze of lemon will maximize satiety with a minimum of calories. Your treat may even “pay” for itself.
If your indulgence is dark chocolate, savor the fact that it comes with some real health benefits. Dark chocolate can lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart attack. It contains antioxidants called flavanols, which improve blood flow to the brain. They can even put you in the mood by boosting blood flow elsewhere too, reducing stress and relaxing blood vessels.
So remember: A treat isn’t a treat if it’s the rule instead of the exception. Have your cake and enjoy it—just don’t reach for it as your regular afternoon snack.