When we call our splurge a "cheat meal" or a "cheat day," it sounds like we're doing something wrong. It sounds naughty or possibly illegal. But a splurge can actually help you lose weight in the long run.
Yes, it's really true! Eating that slice of pizza, or that juicy burger, or even a piece of cake, can satisfy our cravings and keep us going forward on a diet that might otherwise seem too restrictive. If we constantly feel deprived, dieting might not last. We need a program where we can lose weight, yet still feel happy and satisfied with our food choices and our lives.
An occasional splurge might be a good thing, but how often can I splurge? Of course, this depends.
Tim Ferriss suggests a weekly cheat day in his book The 4-Hour Body. And the term cheat "day" implies not just a meal or a snack or a dessert, but an entire day of decadence once per week. This might work for someone young, fit, and athletic. Maybe someone training for a marathon. Being male might also help. Unfortunately, an entire cheat day once per week doesn't work for me. I have tried this plan. After 30 days, I realized I wasn't losing any weight at all.
I have also tried once per month having a cheat meal out in a restaurant. I forget about calorie counting and fat grams and carbs and just eat anything I want. Chowing down on a burger and fries once a month--no dessert--works well for me, although I always bring half the burger home for lunch the next day. So this single cheat meal isn't too terrible, gives me a tiny break from calorie counting, and feels decadent enough to satisfy.
I recently read that the sweet spot for dieters is to "cheat" once every 2 weeks. I think this could work, as long as the splurge is fairly small. A single slice of pizza, a cupcake, or something that size might not interfere with ongoing weight loss goals. An entire pizza, a Costco-sized layer cake, or a huge tub of ice cream, on the other hand, could spell disaster!
If an occasional splurge will help you stick to your diet, then I recommend trying either the once-a-month cheat meal or the every-two-week single treat. See if you feel more committed to your diet after a little splurge. If you feel completely derailed and unable to recover, then the splurge is not for you!