If you’re on a strict diet—Paleo, say, or Atkins—there are likely some foods you’re instructed to rarely, if ever, allow near your face.
But a recent study suggests that it’s best to plan certain days on which you’ll cast off the shackles of your diet—or budget, or workout plan, or whatever ascetic goal you’ve set for yourself—and really just let loose. Temporarily, that is.
These so-called planned hedonic deviations, or “cheat days,” can boost your drive in the long run.
Over the course of three experiments published recently in the Journal of Consumer Psychology and flagged by BPS Research Digest, researchers gauged whether subjects would be better able to stick with their goals if they were allowed cheat days.
First, the participants imagined either being on a 1,500-calorie diet every day or a 1,300-calorie diet with a 2,700-calorie splurge day at the end of each week. Those with the splurge option predicted they would have more self control by the end, and they could come up with more strategies to overcome temptation than the others, even though they were on the stricter diet plan.
Then, the researchers asked 36 participants to actually do the two diets for two weeks. Those who had the cheat day reported they were better able to sustain their motivation and self-control than those who ate the same amount each day. Surprisingly, the two groups lost similar amounts of weight.