Listen up, dieters. According to a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, cheating on your diet is actually good for your diet—as long as you set some parameters.
The study, which surveyed two groups of participants—60 college students in a simulated environment and 30 people who were dieting in real life—suggested that planning a cheat day (or, as the study puts it, a "hedonic deviation") in advance helps dieters manage their impulse control and maintain motivation for keeping long-term goals.
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Here's what it says in the abstract of the study, which was co-authored by Rita Coelho do Valea, Rik Pietersb,and Marcel Zeelenbergb:
"Including planned goal deviations during extended goal striving, compared with following a straight and rigid goal striving process, (1) helps regain self-regulatory resources, (2) helps maintain consumers' motivation to pursue with regulatory tasks, and (3) has a positive impact on affect experienced, which all contribute to facilitate long-term goal-adherence.
Basically, the study says, planning for a day of unchecked pleasure helps people stick to their diets.
As Mental Floss notes, this principle applies to the pursuit of other long-term goals, as well: A related study showed that hedonic deviation works for people who are trying to save money, too.
We should mention one caveat: The sample size for the two studies was quite small. That said, we are all about the cheat day. What is life without the occasional indulgence? On a related note, is this a good time to show you to some great chocolate cake recipes?