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The process of transforming your eating habits into healthier ones isn’t easy. In fact, it takes some real time and effort (they say it takes 21 days to form a new habit). But you’re only human, and sometimes, the heart wants what it wants.

I’m talking about pizza, of course.

That’s where cheat meals come in. According to experts, an occasional cheat meal is necessary for a successful diet. The less you allow yourself to indulge, the more likely you will lose control when you can finally get your hands on a favorite treat. But there is a difference between cutting yourself some slack with an infrequent indulgence and making it a daily ritual that you continuously overdo it on. Such decisions can slow your progress and expand that waistline you’ve been trying to minimize.

So how do you go about a cheat meal the right way and still keep your diet (or, excuse me, “clean eating“) on track? Allow me to break down the don’ts so you know what to do.

You make it an entire day.

Instead of having one cheat meal (an especially effective one is a meal had after a good workout when your body needs some good macronutrients), you had to go and make it a cheat day. A burger wasn’t good enough. You had to have the French toast for brunch, the big bag of Cheetos for a snack, rice and peas with oxtail for dinner, and a big bowl of ice cream for dessert. A day’s worth of damage, equaling out to an extensive increase in calorie intake, is going to require quite a bit of work to fix. Plus, once you go buck wild one day, it’s hard to get back to a particularly clean diet the next day, making the process of getting back to your regularly scheduled program much slower.

You binge instead of cheat.

So you were able to stick to a meal and not make it a day of bad choices. Bravo!

But it might as well have been. Instead of having your favorite food in moderation, you had damn near all the servings available, derailing your diet. If every cheat meal is an opportunity for you to lose your mind, you’re going about it all wrong.

The guilt takes over.

If your cheat meals leave you feeling as though you’ve gone too far, two things: It’s time to rethink the way you’re going about these meals, and you need to give yourself a break. So you’re feeling a little regret. It happens. Just know that going too far with one meal or in one day is only a minor setback that, if you’re determined, you can quickly move past to get back on track.

The only bright spot in your week is your cheat meal.

A change in mindset when it comes to food is what this is all about, folks. Having a delicious cheat meal occasionally is a nice thing to look forward to, but you shouldn’t be so pressed about them. Start doing research for unique recipes and healthier takes on some of your favorite foods so that you can be more excited about eating better daily. That’s better than waiting for the moment when you can finally eat whatever salty, greasy or sugary thing your heart desires (that could clog it up later).

You literally feel terrible after the fact.

Guilt is one thing, but physical discomfort is another. And no, I’m not talking about gas.

If your cheat meals are so heavy that you literally feel sick to your stomach after the fact, again, it might be time to rethink that meal plan. Eating better can cause your body to have a less than positive reaction to some of the processed foods and red meats you once thoroughly enjoyed. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s your body’s way of telling you that you don’t need it after all.

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