The cheat day has mixed reviews. Some say that by labeling your burger, bowl of pasta, or ice cream as a "cheat" or a "splurge," you're putting that food on a pedestal and will spend all week dreaming about it. On the other hand, 39 percent of women ages 18 to 34 say that reserving a meal or day for eating outside of their calorie budget helps them stick to an otherwise balanced diet, according to market research firm Mintel.
And whether you're a fan or not, there's no denying that different splurge strategies work better for different people.
Check out these three winning strategies and let us help you treat yourself.
The Mini Cheat
Best if: You're constantly fighting cravings, says Krista Varady, Ph.D., an associate professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Why it rocks: If your diet regularly leaves you fantasizing about all things salty-sweet, a daily splurge of 200 to 300 calories may help you stay on track better than white-knuckling it all week and then caving in a big way come cheat day. (Learn how bone broth can help you lose weight with Women's Health's Bone Broth Diet.)
The Cheat Meal
Best if: You feel deprived at social events.
Why it rocks: Got a bud's birthday coming up? Having a once-a-week indulgence to work with allows a burger and fries to fit into your plan. "A weekly cheat meal is beneficial for those who like to bond over food during holidays and events and feel left out—and are therefore more likely to overeat eventually—if they don't partake," says Varady.
Check out the craziest things people have tried to lose weight.
The All-Out Cheat Day
Best if: You're sick of logging cals.
Why it rocks: If tracking nutritional facts 24/7 becomes tiring, taking a full day off per week can keep you motivated and prevent you from ditching your plan out of frustration. But if cheat days turn into cheat weeks, one of the two strategies above might be the better move.