Is It Okay to Indulge Once in a While When Dieting?

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Tedium, boredom and deprivation are words sometimes associated with going on a diet, while indulgence is often not. If you are trying to lose weight, finding the balance between making the healthiest food choices on a consistent basis and fighting the desire to indulge in your favorite foods can be challenging. Learn how to indulge yourself and still meet your diet goals.

It's All About Calories

Even though there are hundreds of diet plans available for you to choose from, the number of calories you consume makes the difference between success and failure, according to Frank Sacks and his colleagues. Their 2009 "New England Journal of Medicine" study found that reducing calories caused the participants to lose weight, whether the calories were predominately from carbohydrates or predominately from protein. Allowing yourself an occasional food indulgence that keeps your calories within a weight-loss range will not affect your rate of weight loss or overall success.

Benefits of Indulging

When you indulge a bit on your diet, you benefit both psychologically and physically, says author of "The Cheat to Lose Diet," Joel Marion. As you reduce your calories, your body's leptin levels, which signal to your body whether you are starving or not, decrease. Marion says that a cheat or indulgence helps the leptin levels increase, sending your body the signal that you are not overly hungry and to continue to release fat. Knowing that you can have an indulgence occasionally may make it easier to stay focused on healthy eating most days of the week.

Planning for Indulgences

The key to successfully indulging yourself while dieting is to plan your food indulgences into your weekly or daily eating schedule. Planned indulgences remove the guilt you may feel from eating a treat on occasion. In addition, Judith S. Beck, author of "The Beck Diet Solution," indicates that part of weight-loss success is having the flexibility to include planned treats into your diet, as well as learning to self-monitor your eating while changing your eating habits. Reserve planned indulgence calories into your calorie allotment, or plan on exercising more to burn additional calories on the days you eat a special treat.

Types of Indulgences

While in the beginning of your diet, you may crave indulgences that were previously part of your daily diet. French fries, brownies, chips or fast food may appeal to you. If fast food is your indulgence of choice, order a child's portion and split the meal with a friend to eat fewer calories. Purchase a single brownie or cookie from a bakery rather than baking an entire batch. Buy a single-serving bag of chips to avoid having the whole bag at home. Over time, your cravings for those types of foods may decrease. Look for slightly healthier indulgences when possible. Dark chocolate is healthier than milk chocolate, baked chips are lower in calories than fried, and brownies made with applesauce allow you to indulge in a healthier manner.

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