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Get your mind out of the gutter — by “cheating,” I do not suggest to cheat on your partner, but instead on your diet. There are so many different diets out there but they more or less share the same goal — to make you a healthier version than you were. What exactly defines “healthy” is debatable but it often means losing a few pounds and steering clear of certain foods. Depending on which specific diet you follow, those foods may include carbohydrates, gluten, fat, dairy, meat, fish, or almost anything but water.

I have been on several journeys down the dieting road and I can tell you — if your diet requires you to stop eating something that you really like, it will be hard! You may have to remind yourself once or twice exactly why you are doing it. But constantly abstaining from things you love, while it may be helping you shed those unwanted pounds, can make you irritable, miserable and, in the end, unhappy.

sad woman on a diet eating a small salad

Enter cheat days! If you starve yourself for a month, you will probably lose weight, but chances are that when the month is over, not only will you be miserable but you will go on a binge and gain everything back and then some. But if you allow yourself to eat whatever you like for one day and stick to your diet of choice for the rest of the week, you might actually see better results!

Kate Moss once famously claimed, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” but for the rest of us who don’t make a living of being super skinny, it is nice to have both. If you eat healthy for six days, you can reward yourself a day when you can eat whatever your heart desires and still stay on track. Denis Faye, a nutritionist at Beachbody, suggests staying on path 80 percent of the time and allowing yourself to stray 20 percent of the time. By allowing yourself to cheat a little, both your body and mind will be satisfied and it can actually be beneficial in more ways than one.

Contrary to beliefs, cheating on your diet may actually increase your metabolism, if but temporarily. It may also boost the production of the hormone leptin. Leptin administers hunger and metabolism but may also help increase dopamine. We all know what dopamine does! It makes you happy! And when you are happy, you feel more motivated and are more likely to go back to your diet. (via Greatist)

But be warned, the cheating needs to be controlled in order to be useful. Dr. Douglas Kalman, expert over at Greatist, recommends to look for cheat foods that are actually nutritious; sweet, but high in fiber for example. So in other words, going to an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet following a dozen doughnuts for breakfast on your cheat day will not be beneficial: not for your diet and definitely not for you.

>> Read more: 11 Clean, Skinny Desserts Tasty Enough for Cheat Days

To sum up, cheating may actually help you stay committed to your change in lifestyle and keep you motivated, but don’t go all in. Calculate your straying and keep it somewhat nutritious so you can eat the cake and have it, too!