How To Splurge Without Derailing Your Weight Loss

Perfectly adhering to any diet 100 percent of the time is a challenge in the real world, and that's where both you and I live. I don't want you to experience the guilt commonly associated with "cheating" on a diet. Instead, I want you to get into the mindset of "sensible splurging." (Note: Dr. Phil's 20/20 Diet has three phases; this is part of Phase 2.)

Studies show that people who know there is a splurge available to them tend to actually splurge less and be more successful on weight loss programs. Just knowing that you can have a splurge is often enough to satisfy you, and you don't have to actually follow through with it. Sure, you might be thinking, Oh great, this is some psychobabble that's just trying to talk me out of my glass of wine. No, it's really not, because I'm also telling you that you can absolutely have the splurge and it will not totally derail your weight loss, if you follow the rules. That's a big "if" there, and I want to make sure you caught it. There are rules for this — having a splurge does not mean going rogue.

First, you need to understand what a sensible splurge looks like. Because if you think a bucket of popcorn the size of your head or a king-size candy bar you picked up in the checkout line is "sensible," you are kidding yourself. A reasonable splurge portion should not exceed approximately 100 calories. Here are some examples:

4-ounce glass of red or white wine
14 potato chips
2 store-bought chocolate chip cookies
1-ounce bar of dark chocolate
4 oz. gummy bears
2 bite-size candy bars
3 vanilla wafer cookies

Before you indulge in a splurge, I want you to complete a 30-second assessment. Here are the questions:

1. Is there an emotional reason why I want this splurge (sadness, stress, or boredom) and if so, is there another way I can address the emotion without turning to food?
2. Is it enough just knowing that a splurge is allowed and available to me, so I can skip it this time?
3. Would a glass of regular or sparkling water or a cup of tea help this desire pass?
4. Can I distract myself from this desire for a splurge by doing another activity (take a bath, go on a short walk, etc.)?

Make an honest effort to bypass the splurge if you can. Even doing so occasionally will demonstrate to you that it's actually not that bad to go without it. If, however, the answer to all four of the above questions is "no," then go ahead with the splurge, but ONLY if you have already exercised or will definitely be exercising later that day. That exercise is a key component to making these splurges fit into your overall weight loss plan.

If you're worried about not being able to stop at a 100-calorie splurge, remember that beyond that amount, it will start to harm your efforts to reach your goals. You have now attached consequences, either positive or negative, to your behavior, so you'll find that you're able to control it better than ever.

Modified excerpt from The 20/20 Diet: Turn Your Weight Loss Vision Into Reality by Dr. Phil McGraw.

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