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Cheat days work—it’s science

Photo: Foodies Feed
Photo: Foodies Feed

You’re super regimented about what you eat all week—heavy on the veggies, light on the Ben & Jerry’s—but when Saturday hits, you go all-in on eggs Benedict, pizza (extra cheese, please!), and the brownie sundae of your dreams. Instead of waking up Sunday morning with a guilty conscience and a food hangover, though, science says you’re actually all good.

A new study suggests that planned lapses in control may actually help people stick to their goals in the long run, The Atlantic reports. The small study—researchers only surveyed 36 participants—assessed whether people would be better able to stick with their goals if they were given cheat days along the way. (Think a 1,500-calorie-a-day diet versus a 1,300-calorie-a-day diet with a 2,700-calorie day at the end of each week.)

Within a two-week period, participants on both the 1,500-calorie diet and the 1,300-calorie diet lost the same amount of weight, but the cheat day-ers reported being better able to sustain their motivation and self-control than their higher-calorie counterparts. Plus, participants in each group lost similar amounts of weight within that time frame.

Small lapses in pursuit of our goals can often feel like major setbacks when, in fact, they’re more like mini-vacations.

In an additional study, the researchers asked participants whether they believed they could better reach their personal goals in a plan that allowed cheat days versus one without. The verdict: cheat days, please!

Whether it’s a “cheat day” (and maybe we should stop calling it that, since it’s potentially beneficial rather than a guilt-inducing scandal) from your diet, your budget, or your workout regimen, the study’s authors suggest picking a day to temporarily go wild (cupcakes and shopping sprees and rest days, oh yes!) before returning to your status quo.

It works, they theorize, because small lapses in pursuit of our goals can often feel like major setbacks when, in fact, they’re more like mini-vacations. (And who doesn’t need a vacation?)

Eyes on the prize—and the occasional slice of deep dish.

May we suggest a yummy vegan milkshake for cheat day (or any day)? Here are 10 recipes for spring and summer sipping—plus a selection of chocolate desserts that are actually healthy.