The Cheating Strategy for Dieting, Is it Effective? Ask an RDN.
Before I explain my viewpoint, I must define the word cheat from Merriam-Webster.
- To deprive of something valuable.
- Question: What food are you deprived of?
- To lead by deceit or trick.
- Question: Who are you deceiving or tricking?
- To elude or thwart by or as if outwitting.
- Question: Are you really outwitting anyone?
- Practice fraud or trickery.
- Question: Who suffers from the fraud or trickery?
- To violate rules dishonestly
- Question: What is wrong with your “diet” that you need to violate it and be dishonest?
- One that cheats: Pretender; Deceive
- Question: Who are you really deceiving and what are you accomplishing?
As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I often discuss with the patients who come to me for a “diet” to lose weight, and the concept of “cheating.” But what do most one-size fits-all diets recommend? Restrictions to small amounts of special kinds of food. And what prompts the need to “cheat”: Restrictions and Deprivation.
In addition, if you think that cheating means you’re eating bad food, this can set up a detrimental mind game. It is important to abandon the diet mentality – being “off or on”’ “good or bad”. These thoughts are part of the dieting ritual trap. It is this all or nothing dichotomy that may set you up for the next failure.
The entire concept of a “cheating” is a negative approach and based upon a food plan that is unsustainable. In my private nutritionist practice, I always develop along with a patient a personalized and effective weight management program. Like many other qualified, New York certified nutritionists and registered dietitians, I tell my patients that “you can eat healthily and be healthy without eating nutritious foods 100% of the time. When you remember this, it’s easier to stay on track with healthy eating because a less healthy meal isn’t viewed as a setback.”
Studies suggest that long-term adherence to restrictive diet programs is poor when there is little allowance for dietary wiggle room for cravings and indulgences. Whether it’s a piece of cake, a scoop (or two!) of ice cream or a juicy burger, scheduled splurges can be part of your customary eating pattern and healthy program.
In an Environmental Nutrition article, Should You Cheat on Your Diet (July 2022), MS, RD Samantha Cassety says, “Some people like to plan for their indulgences, and others do better with a more flexible approach, eating them when the urge comes up. No matter which way you approach it, remember that one role of less healthy food is to bring pleasure and enjoyment, and that’s part of being healthy.” Learning how to enjoy less healthful foods is part of developing a healthy and balanced relationship with your body and food.
In my practice as a registered dietitian, I emphasize that weight loss is about sustainability, not about dieting, it’s about appropriate eating. Traditional diet programs have not only been ineffective, but they have also been counterproductive, promoting psychological distress and unhealthy eating behaviors. In contrast, a long-term, sustainable strategy that involves a lifelong shift in eating behaviors and food choices is the most successful approach.
Kadey, Matthew, Environmental Nutrition, Should You Cheat On Your Diet, July 2022, page 4