How to Avoid Cheating on Your Diet, Even at the Most Tempting Time of Day

The Time of the Day You Are Most Likely To Cheat on Your Diet

Cheating on your diet

What’s the best time of the day to have your “cheat meal” while dieting? What a strange question, right? After all, why are you actively thinking about cheating on your diet in the first place? Also, can there be a “best” time to cheat?

First of all, let’s get rid of the idea of “cheating” and “cheat days.” May I suggest that the far healthier, more accurate and realistic way to think about this is to consider it a planned “choice” – not a “cheat.” I bet you’ll feel more empowered and less guilt-ridden if you do this! After all, “cheating” has a negative connotation, but what you’re really doing is making a choice.

Now, let’s examine why you’d choose to veer away from your well thought out and carefully planned healthy eating routine in the first place. Believe it or not, there’s actual research on this topic and it’s published in the esteemed Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Seems the Brits wanted to know what type of life situations make people want to choose (ok, they did use the word “cheat”) to go off of their diets the most, so they asked 80 dieters to monitor themselves for a week.

Here’s what they discovered to be the biggest threats to your healthy eating habits:

  • Late-night snacking
  • Feeling tired
  • “Alcohol made me do it”
  • “Friends made me do it”

Ah but wait, there’s more. The study also sought to find out the specific time of day people chose to stray into the land of the junk food: the salty, sugary, quick nibbles. So, they went back to their research labs and this time asked 1,000 folks about their eating patterns.

Ready for the time of day they found most people “cheat” on their diets? Well, before I reveal this important bit of info, I’ll tell you that it makes perfect biological sense, given that sugar levels commonly drop around this time of day. Afternoon snacking can be a huge temptation, especially considered that our blood-sugar levels normally drop around this time of day anyways.

The very specific time for cheating on a diet (at least according to those 1,000 people in the study) was, drum roll please, 4:12 p.m.

Want to curb your desire for that planned “choice?” Looking for some healthy tips to help you stick to your healthy eating plan? Look no further for your dieting support.

How to Stick to a Healthy Eating Plan

First, choose to enjoy a low calorie snack (about 150-200 calories) with healthy fiber and protein, Make sure you have this snack handy in the afternoon to ward off a drop in blood sugar. For me, typically a few apple slices with natural almond butter works wonders.

You see, a planned choice to step away from a healthy eating plan doesn’t have to be the end of the world — or a successful diet. If you’re smart about it, these choices can motivate you enough to continue with your healthy eating plan. Depriving yourself of your favorite foods will only make them appear more desirable. That’s why I advise “thrive, don’t deprive.” This mantra allows for more positivity and encourages eating for hunger, not for self-created feelings of deprivation or emotional pain. The more you focus on positivity: seeing yourself in charge, choosing not cheating, and trying to make healthier choices, the better you’ll feel about yourself and the more the positive cycle will continue.

The key to making smart choices is planning. So, if you’re going to eat something outside of your healthy eating plan, make sure it’s a planned choice. Pick an afternoon, a weekend night, or a lunch ahead of time and make it your chosen time to indulge.

If you decide to “cheat” with dessert when you go out to eat with your friends, check the desserts before you order your main course. That’ll help you plan your meal more wisely. It’s smart budgeting. If chocolate cake with the thick icing is going to be your cheat, then you may want to avoid the double burger with extra cheese.

When you do choose to go off your healthy eating plan, do so with as much of your senses as you possibly can. Eat your meals in such a way that every bite leaves you feeling satisfied. That’s what “mindful eating” is all about. Be mindfully aware of your choices and fully enjoy them.

Since it’s a choice, not a cheat, you’ll feel power in choosing and planning your week ahead of time. That’s when you know it’s no longer a cheat.

Lastly, if you do “cheat” don’t blame yourself or put yourself down. There’s no point in starving yourself afterwards, either. Instead, drink more water, eat more high-fiber foods such as veggies, and hit the Total Gym again — nothing will help you refocus, lift your mood and kill the cravings more than a little physical activity.

Dr. Michael Mantell

Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D. has been providing psychological and coaching services for nearly 5 decades and continues to empower positive change among his global clients to enhance life in every way. He is a highly sought-after healthcare professional coach, an executive and team building consultant, and a longtime specialist in cognitive behavioral coaching.

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