Indulging in chocolate and biscuits for one day a week could make it easier for dieters to lose weight, say scientists.
Research has found that having a planned “naughty” day means slimmers are more able to resist temptation the rest of the time.
Not only will your self-control stay stronger, but a treat day could even make dieting seem appetising. It sounds like it’s too good to be true, but a trio of experiments back it up.
In the first, 59 men and women role-played being on a diet. Half imagined being on a traditional diet, while the others dieted for six days but cut loose on the seventh.
Then, at the end of the process, they had to imagine walking down a supermarket snack aisle when hungry and think of ways to avoid giving in to temptation.
It was found that those on the “naughty day” diet were able to come up with more strategies.
Next, the researchers tracked the weight, mood and willpower of 36 men and women who actually dieted for a fortnight.
Half were asked to follow a strict diet of 1 500 calories each day, while the others were told to eat 1 300 calories a day – apart from on Sundays, when they could feast on 2 700 calories.
Tests showed that while self-control weakened for those on the conventional diet, it remained strong on those allowed a “naughty” day. They were also happier and more motivated – and lost just as much weight as those in the normal diet group. This last finding is important because it shows that having a “naughty day” didn’t derail a diet.
The Dutch and Portuguese researchers said that conventional diets are often so strict that they are hard to follow. As a result, when a dieter slips up, they may feel they have failed and give up all together.
Plus, if chocolate cake and other tempting foods are off-limits, they only become more appealing.
A third and final experiment showed that the same theory can be applied to other goals, such as saving money. There, the occasional splurge may make it easier to stick to a budget.
Researcher Marcel Zeelenberg, of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, said: “The findings show it is important to plan hedonistic moments in goal pursuit when it is ‘good to be bad’.
“Sometimes it is good in the long run to be temporarily bad in the short run.”