Cheating on a diet - good or bad?

In discussions about dieting, a topic that often comes up is that of "cheating"; is it good or bad to cheat once in a while during a diet?

In order to answer this question appropriately, it is necessary to look at both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of dieting, and the physiological and psychological responses they each elicit...


Dieting - what are we really talking about?

The dictionary definition of "diet" and "dieting" is "to eat and drink sparingly or according to prescribed rules" or "a controlled intake of foods, as for medical reasons or cosmetic weight loss". 

However, these definitions do not tell us anything about the two different aspects of dieting; the quantitative and qualitative parts, and their respective consequences.  In everyday parlance, dieting usually implies both eating less calories (quantitative aspect) than usual, and eating "specific" foods (qualitative aspect). 

Nevertheless, when considering the consequences of "cheating" and trying to answer the question whether it is a good or bad practice, it is important to distinguish these aspects of dieting. Let's take a quick look at each: 

 

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Dr. Pierce's Medical Organization Affiliations

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