How bad is cheating on your diet?

Meyken Houppermans, PhD. CrossFit Level 3 Trainer.
Founder and Head Coach
For weeks you didn't snack or drink alcohol. But then: cake, chips, beer, and feelings of guilt. How bad cheat on a healthy diet?

Sometimes things don’t always go the way you want. For weeks you’ve been eating healthy and haven’t snacked or dranmk alcohol for one bit. But all of a sudden: A piece of cake, a bag of chips or a few glasses of alcohol. You might feel cheating on your diet nullifies all your hard work. But how bad is it to cheat on a healthy diet?

Several sides to the story

As on many topics in the field of sports and nutrition, opinions are divided, and research results do not always match up. Some argue that cheating on a healthy diet nullifies all your hard work and cheating should always be avoided. Others say that once a week a cheating meal can boost your metabolism and will make you burn more fat. Of course, everything depends on several things among which the extent to which you cheat (is it one snack or fast food for a month), and what your goal is with your healthy diet.

If your goal is to eat as healthy as possible in a sustainable and well balanced way, and healthy eating is part of trying to live a healthy lifestyle, then having a snack every once in a while is probably not an issue. If you have a specific goal to which your diet is instrumental, such as to lose weight, to achieve a sport- related goal, or to avoid an allergy from flaring up,, then a cheat meal could be a road block.

Mental effects of cheating

For many of us it is often very hard to maintain a healthy diet for 365 days a year. Life has many events such as parties or holidays in which you are confronted with food that is not necessarily always the healthiest option. Most of us are not 24 hours per day engaged with our eating pattern. You also just want to live your life and divide your attention to other things besides food.

Sometimes it’s good to loosen up a little bit and to set the bar a bit lower. Occasionally a little cheating, for example once per week 1 product, makes you more likely to stay motivated and to keep up your healthy eating pattern. In addition, it makes life a lot easier and more fun! Motivation is an unreliable friend and willpower is not undepletable.

It can be helpful to plan your cheating moment and to consciously choose what you are going to eat. That helps to enjoy it more and also to pick up your healthy pattern directly after. In that case you’ll notice that the positive mental effects can be greater than the negative physical effects.

Create your own health!©