How to cheat on your diet and get ahead on fitness

Chocolate chip cookies

If you’ve found recently that you’re feeling fitness FOMO more than fitspo when you look at Instagram, that could mean you’ve been phoning it in when it comes to exercise and wellness. But we all know being healthy is a tricky balance; you don’t want to obsess over every single calorie that goes into your body or be a gym fanatic, but you also can’t scour Pinterest every day for a new take on mac and cheese. So how can you achieve a better balance?

A good place to start is by allowing yourself to “cheat” every now and then when it comes to your diet. Here are a few ways to cheat without totally derailing your diet.

  • Indulge infrequently (on the really good stuff). Almost anyone could eat an entire bag of Doritos or a pint of ice cream, but that’s not what we’re talking about when it comes to cheating. When you cheat, it should be a single meal or snack, not a binge-fest. And it should also be a treat of high quality—like Ben and Jerry’s Half-Baked or a gooey chocolate chip cookie from your favorite bakery. A good rule of thumb? If your dessert is worthy of an Instagram, it’s good enough to warrant a calorie splurge.
  • But avoid trigger foods. Even when you cheat on your diet, moderation is still key. You can’t hoover an entire container of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups and expect to get stronger or shed pounds. So if there’s a food that you know will trigger major bingeing (see: Doritos), just steer clear.
  • Try healthy versions of treats. If you sweet tooth requires you to get a daily or bi-daily dose of sugar, then indulge more frequently, but with lower-calorie treats. Nutrition bloggers like Chocolate Covered Katie makeover traditional desserts with healthier ingredients and fewer calories, so refer to experts like her for more health-conscious versions of brownies made from black beans, or chocolate chip cookie dough that’s actually crafted from chickpeas.
  • Embrace carbohydrates. Some people drastically slash their carbohydrates when they start eating “healthy,” and while this may help with weight loss, it’s a dangerous habit to start. Your body runs mostly on carbohydrates. For most people, they should constitute about 50% (or more) of your diet. So instead of going overboard on protein and slashing carbs, keep a steady stream of healthy carbs like fruits and veggies coming in order to avoid sudden sugar cravings. Your cheat meals can be mostly carbs, too.
  • Push it at the gym. If you really can’t see yourself cutting back on sweets right out of the gate, create a bigger calorie deficit by working out a little bit harder or more frequently. Although overdoing it on sugar is an unhealthy habit, it could take some time to transition to a more balanced diet. So if you want to see weight loss right away, you’ll simply have to burn more calories by going for a longer run or taking an extra spin class.

How to Enjoy “Cheat Meals” Without Ruining Your Diet [Muscle for Life]

Why Cheating On Your Diet is Actually Good For You [Details]

How to Cheat on Your Diet—and Still Lose Weight [Health]