If your diet makes you spit out other four-letter words, allowing yourself some wiggle room could make weight loss more bearable. The problem with sticking to an all-work, no-play eating plan 24/7 is that willpower is finite. Think of it as a muscle—you can’t keep it flexed forever.
But what exactly do we mean by wiggle room? “A cheat day can help you stick with a plan the rest of the week,” says Marjorie Nolan, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It gives your willpower muscle a break, and decreases your chances of falling off your diet plan altogether. After all, a successful diet requires a positive mentality almost as much as it does a handle on calories and hormones.
Still, it’s important to define what a cheat day is going to look like. An entire day’s worth of binging on unhealthy grub definitely has the potential to set you back. The safest approach to cheat days: choose small indulgences that still keep you within your daily calorie allotment. Choices like ordering stuffed salmon instead of baked or stopping for frozen yogurt after dinner are signs you’re on the right track. Or pick one treat—wings on football Sunday, for example—and work toward it by resisting the doughnuts and birthday cake hanging around the office all week.