Cheat meals: Good idea or bad idea?

A LITTLE BITE OF JUNK FOOD EVERY NOW AND THEN ISN’T A PROBLEM, RIGHT? DEPENDS ON YOUR PERSONALITY!

A lot of people wonder how often it’s okay to “cheat” a little on their normal diet–whether it’s okay to have a bite of not-so-good food or a meal of it every now and then.

The answer is this: IT DEPENDS ON YOUR PERSONALITY!

One thing that is valuable is understanding whether your personality type (as it relates to emotional eating or junk food eating) is whether you are an ABSTAINER or MODERATOR.

So for example, one common piece of advice might be “Be balanced in your approach to changing your junk food eating habits. Don’t have ice cream and potato chips every night, but maybe once in a while, because if you try to restrict too extremely, you’ll fall off the wagon and binge.”

This kind of advice works really well for the “Moderator” personalities. But believe it or not, some “Abstainer” personalities actually find it easier to just abstain from the substance entirely. I have worked with dozens of abstainer personality types who find this “balanced” approach totally counterproductive, as it throws their dietary habits off for days (or sometimes up to 2 weeks) after the “cheat.” (And there is evidence to support the notion that cheat meals can be counterproductive.)

If moderators try to abstain, they feel compelled to revolt and triggered to binge. If abstainers try to moderate their eating behaviors, they will often consume lots of psychological energy rationalizing to themselves about why they should indulge.

To put this more simply:

MODERATOR: does best with occasional indulges or “cheat days” and panics at the thought of having to “never” eat something again.

ABSTAINER: Has trouble STOPPING once they’ve started, and tend not to be tempted by things once they’ve decided that they’re off-limits.

Both approaches can work for some people, but it’s important to figure out the best strategy for YOU as a unique individual.

Know your personality! Your individual personality tendencies–whether you’re more of a moderator or abstainer–DO influence what strategies will work best for you.

So cheat days are a good idea for some personalities, and a terribly counterproductive approach for others.

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