CHEATING. Whether it’s in sport, relationships or life, the word itself almost always carries a negative, even hurtful, connotation. And when it comes to meeting your fitness goals, cheating – on your diet, your workouts, your food journals – can feel like a betrayal to yourself. Why work so hard, if you’re only going to undermine your efforts with a cookie, or two – or five? But what if cheating was actually somehow good for you? What if taking a break from discipline can actually help you in the long run? It might seem counterintuitive, but there is scientific evidence that relaxing the rules occasionally can improve your chances of staying fit and healthy for life. What’s more, it can also help you feel better about your body, and reduce your likelihood of developing a negative relationship with food.
HOW CAREFUL CAN YOU BE?
For years, researchers have studied the effects of what is known as dietary restraint on eating habits and weight. Put simply, dietary restraint means consciously watching what you eat and trying to say no to temptation –think: you always politely saying “no thanks” to your colleague’s cupcake offerings. The results from the studies have shown that dietary restrainers tend to have a more sluggish metabolism and higher levels of cortisol, that nasty stress hormone that tells your body to hold on to fat. What’s more, research reveals that dietary restraint appears to be a potential trigger for overeating.
In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto, restrained and unrestrained eaters were both deprived of chocolate for seven days. At the end of the test period, the restrained eaters not only reported more intense cravings than unrestrained eaters, they also consumed more chocolate when the restriction was lifted. More recently, the same research team fed restrained and unrestrained eaters a slice of pizza, followed by an unlimited amount of chocolate chip cookies, which they were asked to sample for taste. The restrained eaters not only ate more cookies than their non-restrained counterparts, but those who were given what they thought to be a larger slice of pizza ate more cookies than anyone! As it turned out, the pizza slices were actually the same size, yet the restrained eaters who ate what they thought was the larger slice felt guilty enough that they responded by eating more cookies than anyone else in the study.
It seems to all boil down to what has come to be known as ‘the dieter’s mindset’: an on-again, off-again eating cycle that begins with a plan to eat perfectly, but falls to the wayside as soon as the person feels they have deviated from the plan. In the end, restrained eaters tend to consume more calories when they open the proverbial door – even just a crack – to forbidden foods. Overeating on the weekends is a prime example of this mindset.
To read the full article purchase the latest issue of Woman's Workout Annual on the 13th August 2015