My diet is far from perfect.  In fact, I have no idea what qualifies as perfect.

Like eyebrows, what seems “perfect” by some standards can be downright scary to someone else.  

From what I’ve heard, most people assume fitness experts shun all sugar, carbs, french fries and alcohol, do push-ups between bites at dinner and run laps around the house during commercials. 

I can only speak for myself when I tell you: That’s more than a slight exaggeration. 

I do, however, know a triathlete with a Twizzler obsession. So there’s that.

But here’s the thing. Being a fitness pro is one of the few occupations where your appearance and body is literally your advertisement.

(In fact, you don’t even have to be a pro. If you look fit, people will ask for your “secrets” without a care about whether or not you know what you’re doing, but that’s a whole other story.)

You don’t see this in many other occupations.

You can’t simply look at a person to know if they’re a good architect, for example. Sure, you’d be hard pressed to hire someone to build you a house if you found out their own abode just collapsed because they used the wrong nails.

But how would you know unless you asked to see their blueprints and knew something about the field?

To further illustrate my point, there’s even a hilarious commercial for a financial planning firm, where the financial “expert” is actually a club D.J. People trusted him because once the dreadlocks and nose rings came off, he cleaned up nicely and talked a good game.

This came to mind recently when a member of my Facebook group credits her weight loss to abstaining completely from sugar.

First of all, I think that’s awesome and more of us should follow her lead, including me.

But bear in mind eliminating sugar means more than forgoing dessert. That would be fairly easy for most of us.

Truth is, sugar is literally in every packaged food, from spaghetti sauce to catsup, salad dressings and a whole heap of foods you’d never consider “sweet”.

I do not eat dessert or other sweets except on very rare occasions, when I may have a bite of chocolate.    

But I DO love me some catsup on my turkey burger! And barbecue sauce. I know these condiments contain sugar, but I enjoy them in moderation and am not about to eliminate them.

My choice.

In fact, my diet is not only NOT sugar free, it’s also not carb free or gluten free.

I don’t feel a need to completely eliminate anything from my diet, but I also know this approach enables some people to reach their goals, so it’s very individual.

And unless you have a health issue (e.g. celiac for gluten) that requires eliminating one of these or eating them in controlled amounts, it’s up to you to decide if and how to fit them into your diet.

The bottom line: You do not have to live the life of a cloistered monk, deprivation and caloric celibacy in order to lose weight.

You just need a plan to include these true loves in your life.

For some people (raises hand), telling myself I can’t have something triggers that 3-year old in my brain to instantly want it NOW.

On the same note, yes, you do have to reign in those that “trigger” foods (those you can’t stop eating) that sabotage your efforts if you overindulge.

With that in mind, here are ways you can cheat and still stay on track…

1. DO NOT STARVE YOURSELF SO YOU CAN SPLURGE ON WEEKENDS

Allow yourself a cheat meal or dessert, not an entire day or — worse yet — weekend. A day of cheats, starting with pancakes and syrup for breakfast and ending with a rack of ribs and cherry pie for dessert (yes, that sounds really good, I know…) can easily rack of thousands of extra calories. Multiply that times two for a weekend that can easily set you back way more than a week’s worth. In the end, you’ve just undone all the clean eating you did from Monday through Friday. Plus, getting back on track Monday will be extra hard.

2. DECIPHER YOUR CRAVINGS

Seek out the flavor profile you crave and look for similar ways to satisfy it with fewer calories. For example, if you love pizza, what do you love about it? The cheese? Crust? Sauce? If it’s the cheese, for example, try a whole-wheat English muffin with melted cheese and a dollop of spaghetti sauce on top. You’ll cut out hundreds of calories and still get the gist of the indulgence.

3. EAT ONLY WHAT YOU REALLY WANT

If you really want a piece of chocolate cake, and you know an apple won’t do to satisfy your craving, eat the cake, not first the apple and then the cake. The latter defeats the purpose. Stop at one piece, put down the fork, and then go about your day.

4. HAVE A PLAN

Plan your cheat meal ahead of time and cut back on calories throughout the rest of the day. If you’re going out to dinner at a restaurant specializing in a ridiculously rich chocolate volcano cake, eat lighter earlier in the day. Skip the rolls and appetizers (or eat a salad) to allow for the caloric splurge and it won’t be nearly as damaging.

5. ENJOY IT WITHOUT GUILT

Pick one cheat option and enjoy the hell out of it. Don’t eat it while watching TV or surfing the Internet, or anything else that makes you wonder where it all went. Be in the moment! Enjoy every single calorie, immerse yourself in the flavors by focusing totally on your treat. And do not feel one bit guilty afterward.

You earned it.

NOW YOU:

What’s your favorite cheat meal or snack and how often do YOU indulge? Let me know in the comments section below… 

Other posts you may like:

6 Key ingredients for a DIY success plan

10, 100-calorie, healthy snack ideas

#1 Reason why even fit women gain 8 lbs. during menopause (and how to fix it)

Got questions? Fire ’em to me at linda@lindamelone.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Your Ageless Body Coach,