Are you someone who shuns a moderate diet? Who wants instant gratification? An all-or-nothing thinker? You're not alone--Many people who struggle with weight control sabotage themselves due to these two reasons. They mistakenly believe that they should work out every day and diet perfectly--or they might as well sit on the couch eating bon-bons. It might seem silly to present all-or-nothing thinking it in this light, but chances are you've fallen prey to that type of thinking and can relate.
The reality is that "flexible dieters" following a moderate diet approach lose more weight (AND keep it off) as compared to the rigid dieters who try to be perfect every single day. This is due to both physiological and psychological reasons.
I’ll start with explaining the psychological reasons, which will surely affect most folks. See, the human mind can be a difficult thing to tame. When you tell yourself that you'll have chicken breast every day and won't touch a slice of pizza ever again, you increase the likelihood that you will start to crave the pizza more than you EVER would have if only you hadn't laid down that ultimatum on yourself. You indirectly make it even harder to follow a diet when you tell yourself you must be perfect. Also, life will feel a lot tougher when you can't see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. If you have 40 lbs. to lose, that might mean 20-40 weeks for hard workouts and dieting to take that weight off--and if you intend to never give yourself a break and allow yourself anything "off plan," you’re not being realistic and you’re only setting yourself up for failure, or (perhaps worse), for obsessive behavior. Following a moderate diet plan is healthier all the way around, and you should get good results by being consistent with a moderate diet plan.
By generally being strict with your diet but occasionally allowing yourself to deviate from your regular plan, you can follow a more moderate diet overall that still yields great results. Also, there is a specific psychology to "planned cheats" versus unplanned ones. If you plan to go off your diet and don't beat yourself up about it, you tend to look forward to going back to your regular diet plan--but on the other hand, if you "slip" and go off without intending to or seeing the value in it, you tend to give up on the diet completely out of frustration and disappointment.
The physiological reasons why "cheating can actually HELP the progress of a diet come into play more for leaner folks, but having a meal of two "off plan" has a place in everyone's diet. You see, the body adapts to any situation that it encounters over and over, such as dieting. If you consume fewer calories than you burn to facilitate weight loss, your body will burn fat at first, but after awhile your weight loss will slow because your body won’t want to let go of all of your fat stores (you would die if that happened!) Your body gets "nervous" about rapid weight loss even if you still have excess bodyfat you could stand to lose. This adaptation happens more quickly and severely the leaner you are, so planned "cheats," "free meals," or "refeeds" are especially important for those who are thin or have already lost a lot of weight. This creates a more moderate diet and moderate calorie deficit so you body doesn't start slowing its metabolism too much.
The most important point to take out of this article is that you should follow a moderate diet and a flexible dieting plan you can live with for life if you seriously intend to keep the weight off. Once you have lost all the weight you want to lose, you will usually be able to increase your calories a bit to maintain your weight--but remember, at this point your body won't be burning as many calories as it used to when you were heavier, so your food intake must be adjusted accordingly. You can't simply return to the way you were eating before you tried to lose weight and expect to keep the weight off.
Also, try to develop better habits for yourself rather than just following someone else's set of rules. if you don't want to eat a can of plain tuna three times per day for the rest of your life, don't think you should do it to lose weight, only to go back to your sugar and fat laden diet after the weight is gone. And don't think that having one cookie constitutes blowing your diet--one cookie sure doesn't, but a bag of them because you gave up does indeed.
If you're interested in learning how to design a basic flexible, moderate diet, this book will reveal everything you need to know.