If you’re on a diet, the best thing to help it succeed may be a big piece of chocolate cake.
That’s the conclusion of a new study, at least, which found that “cheat days”—or days off from the rules of a diet—can help improve a dieter's motivation.
“Basically we propose that it may be good in the long run to behave ‘badly’ on occasion, as long as it is planned (and happens not too often),” university professors Rita Coelho do Vale, Rik Pieters, and Marcel Zeelenberg wrote in their abstract of the study.
The key, they say, is that these cheats—which they call “hedonic deviations”—are part of the dieter’s plan from the beginning. So a spontaneous ice cream binge wouldn’t count, but a scheduled day of eating “bad food” might actually help the dieter follow the rules again afterward.
“In our set of hypotheses we propose that planned goal deviations can help consumers’ motivation to persist in goal-striving, improve emotional experience, and help consumers regain self-regulatory resources, which altogether may ultimately reduce the likelihood of goal desistance,” the three professors wrote.
In other words, if you planned to grab pizza for lunch, there are at least three people who won’t judge you.