28 Sep 2015

How To Cheat On The Diet Without Gaining Pounds

boulangerie in rue mouffetard in paris, vickiarcher.com

Cheating on the diet without gaining pounds is far from ideal but sometimes temptation wins out.

We know better than to think that following a “diet” is about being deprived and we are fully aware that diet is all about health and wellbeing but every so often we cannot help but crave the unmentionable, those naughties that we spend a great deal of time and emotional energy avoiding. I am talking about you, sugar; the greatest temptress of all.

Winter is nearly upon us in the northern hemisphere and it is the time when all my best intentions are challenged. I am aware that I am heading into weight gain territory. The shorter days are condusive to delicious dinners and more sedentary behaviour. How we dress is about covering up and even without calculation, a multitude can be hidden.

We all strive to be our best but sometimes we have to live a little and break the routine. Even the most disciplined of us have to let go of the diet rules on occasion. The art is to find the balance and reward without going completely off the rails. Nobody is perfect, we all crave indulgences, and whether they are sweet or savoury, it is how we manage them that makes the difference.

The fast path to decline is breaking the regime once and then subconsciously accepting that those patterns can continue. Indulging ourselves every now and then is a necessary part of life, repeating what we know we shouldn’t time and time again is not beneficial.

If you are fortunate to have a racing metabolism then cheating on your diet is irrelevant, if you are like me and your metabolism moves at snail’s pace then this cheat sheet might help.

The Diet Cheat Sheet.

We know we shouldn’t but what if we do want to cheat a little when we are on our diet. Here are a few simple ideas that will help us toughen it out and get us through without putting back those unwanted pounds.

1: When breaking the diet make it worthwhile.

Break with the finest and enjoy those extra calories, every mouthful and with no recriminations. Do not break for something that is half-hearted. Restaurant meals are full of hidden calories. Try and cook yourself with the best of ingredients.

2: Take time to consider choices.

Are you sure that extra packet of M&M’s after dinner and right before bed is a good idea? Sleep on it and if you still want them the next day, indulge, enjoy and start again. Most likely the mood will have passed.

3.Cheat in small doses.

Don’t go overboard all day long. Indulging over one meal doesn’t mean it is a good idea to indulge all day.

4. Exercise more often.

The more you eat, the more to exercise. Take a long walk or go to the gym; there is nothing better than a dose of physical exertion to elevate our mood and keep us motivated.

5: Portion control.

Indulge but don’t over indulge. Leave a mouthful, a spoonful or a sip. Enjoy and savour the taste. Avoid tell tale triggers, those foods and beverages that leave you wanting more. Don’t buy what you shouldn’t and make those excuses that “it” is for someone else in the household. How often that white lie has lead to unwanted pounds.

Have you any tips that makes dieting easier or any little ways that we can indulge without falling completely by the wayside?


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Cathy C

Hello Vicki,
Great tips ~ each one important if one is to keep a livable regime. I love baking, but I have learned to only bake things that I will take out of my home ~ to friends, work or school. I simply cannot have sweets in my home! Their lure is far too strong for this mere mortal! If I am entertaining just one or two friends, I do like the Parisians do, and buy something small at our local French bakery and share a splurge.
This post is timely, as I always like to kick start Autumn with a bit of an eating revamp and this is just what I needed to take the first step. Thank you and ciao!

Felicity Lock

Vicki, you always seem to write about the very thing we are all thinking!
Everything you say is completely right but I think portion control is the most important.
I was once told to have 5 small meals a day as this wakes up your metabolism and you burn off little portions quicker of course.
As it is Monday, that is my goal this week.
I will probably go for four small plates of homemade yummy food.
Just made a huge pot of Minestone so there is my ‘go to’ if I’m hungry.
Huge thanks for your wonderful posts.
As always, kindest wishes,


Great idea for the Minestrone, Felicity… I might do that this week, so I have a “go to” that’s easy too… :)

I think the small portions and frequently is a good idea… I know it is the eating out that really plays havoc with teh regime!

Laurie McKay

Last night I made chicken cordon bleu with homemade breadcrumbs and a sauce on top. Oh my gosh it was so good. I did not have much to eat all day just so I could enjoy it. I agree with you, the best idea is to savor it! Sometimes at a restaurant I eat half, just so I can take it home and enjoy it again tomorrow.


I have had really good weight stability by keeping my fat and protein intake up. I can’t eat sugar at all without triggering binge behavior. I eat really well without it though. My current favorite dessert is coffee with cream – WHOLE cream. It is delicious and tastes decadent. I eat my cooked veggies with butter.


I am the same way! I must have fat…and it totally satiates! Full cream in coffee, almond butter in oatmeal, irish butter while cooking, whole milk in tea, cheese with fruits, veggies with olive oil or butter, etc…without it I am constantly hungry. On the other hand I just can’t eat much in the way of carbs…causes bloat and sugar cravings!

Donna clark

Good advice Vicki…as though we all haven’t heard it 1,000 times! A good reminder though. My husband and I vigilantly try to live a healthy lifestyle so in addition to working out we ALWAYS share a meal.
In the states the portions are so large but even when recently in Paris we did the same. In France for three weeks and did it the whole time and I’m glad to say we didn’t gain a pound!!
I asked several French women ( who ALL tended to be very skinny) how they stayed so slim and they all said they didn’t eat much during the week, but come the weekend they indulged.
By the way, most French women I noticed were all wearing sneakers, flats and boots. Per your advice, I didn’t take my sneakers, alas got terrible blisters from walking so much. Such is life!! Wonderful trip!


I think in my 3 Shoe Rule, Packing For Paris article, I did include sneakers, Donna… maybe I misread your comment?
Well done on the trip, not gaining a pound… maybe that’s what we should add to our list… A trip to Paris! :)

Anne Masri

As a board certified nutritionist, I encourage clients to follow the 80-20 rule. Nourish yourself 80% of the time with fresh, wholesome foods and stay well hydrated and your body will be able to support you 20% of the time when you allow for indulgences. Not making room for special treats ultimately leads to over-consumption and becoming disengaged from one’s own internal compass. Listening to your body is the greatest gift you can foster for yourself.


Thank you Anne,
I agree it is impossible to stay focussed every day so having a ratio to follow is a good way of staying in control.
Listening, really listening to ourselves in every way is a great gift, for sure. :)


It is easier for me to lose weight if I cut my portions in half. This is the advice you give on portion control. I drink a full glass of water before a meal and have a half sandwich at lunch eating very slowly. Dinner on a smaller plate. An hour walk every day. I love this post as it is motivational. You have to be able to cheat once in a while or you go “hog wild!” Great ideas!

Louise Percy

Vicki, so timely! I have just arrived in Villefranche sur Mer from Australia for another month long course at l’Institut de français…a three course lunch is served…portion control in place!, but then to be sociable we students, particularly in the first few days, gather for a post school apero and then dinner…tricky! I think an evenng soup will be my choice…


I follow your idea, if you are going off the diet (hate that word), then make it worth your while. I have something that is made with the best ingredients. It’s no use having poor quality or empty calories.


Hello dear Vicki
I am reading your ideas and everyone’s tips with interest. You gave me a great idea some time ago, to eat a small starter before a meal, the appetite feels more satisfied. Carrot salad with ginger, or another sweet vegetable, asparagus are all favourites.
Enjoy little treats when you need to, life is short
or…. watch the video you posted of Gisele dancing last week…if that isnt inspiration to diet I dont know what is!!
I hope the sun is shining for you
Sally x

Beth Anderson

Two things helped me get down to the weight I like. Mind you I wasn’t even fat before, but this helped me get *skinny*:

1. I visited a very skinny friend and her husband for dinner. He ladled out the portions for us. He made them uniform. Initially I thought, wow, that is a really small portion. But we were talking and drinking wine and when I finished it I realized, this was enough. We didn’t skimp on the wine, mind you. So often we get used to our portion sizes – I’ve never been one to finish *anything* at a restaurant but we need to be mindful at home, too. This was a reminder! The funny thing is, with all of my friends but for this one, I was always “the skinny one” and it made me realize there was yet room for improvement.

2. I accidentally gave up regular sugary carbs. Meaning I stopped drinking milk, other than in my coffee or tea, and thus the every morning cereal went away. I now have fruit (mostly) and sometimes a bagel instead.

Bonus (#3): This helped even more: I was out of work for a year and the routine changed. No more sitting on my butt 9 hours a day. I walked no less than four actual exercise miles daily, plus incidental walking, and I found that not being chained to a desk meant the boredom snacking didn’t happen. You don’t need those M&Ms, and you might not even want them. But you are caged. And even going for a 15 minute walk a few times a day doesn’t really get rid of the caged feeling…

Now that I am working again I have to be vigilant again. It’s tough, and indeed the toughest part is the boredom snacking.

Beth Anderson

ps if you want to combine this with my other note, feel free.

In France, I eat like a king. I never turn down foie gras or cheese and bread and wine. Or duck confit. The key is the constant walking, and, that while these foods are rich they are real foods.

I truly believe a large problem with weight in the USA relates to processed foods.

My motto, that as long as I stick to it does wonders:

If you have to prep the food you are going to eat with a knife, you will be just fine – even if you overindulge. If you prep the food by opening a box or a bag, watch out. Whatever that may be, from candy to crackers to whatever comes in a box or a bag – minimize it as much as you can. As you probably can guess, most of this latter category contains carbs. I recently added a new twist to my motto: other than wine or tea, don’t drink your calories. I would say coffee but the caveat with that is “it must be just coffee and some sugar and cream – not the Starbucks specialty drinks”. I firmly believe people discount things they drink as a significant calorie source. Wine is fine (IMHO) as long as you aren’t also overeating due to reduced inhibitions. Having a glass of wine each night, big deal.


Vicki wonderful tips. Over the years I have found that if it is not in the pantry or the frig, then I am not tempted. Once it comes in the house it is time to use restraint!

The Arts by Karena


Never cheat more than three days in a row. If I get back on track (stop eating sugar and refined carbs within three days), the pounds fall off quickly.

Sandy Jones

Get one or two desserts for a group and take a taste of each. That is enough. If it is only the two of you, split it and take half home. It really works.


Thank you so much for the timely reminder! We were blessed enough to visit Spain and France over the summer and while I did indulge – I ate almost an entire box of yemas from Avila by myself – but it took over three weeks, eating two everyday. I splurged on the fantastic fruits and ate full meals but would share desserts with husband. I would order a cafe gourmand, he an espresso, and we’d split the desserts. No limits on the wine. Walking everywhere! I lost weight, in fact. I must get back to these tactics immediately.

Anita Rivera

Good morning Vicki! I am late again, school taking over my life which I am not happy about.

This is a topic important for many reasons, and for me, it’s about GOOD HEALTH as I get older. Your tips are so right for anyone who has a racing metabolism or not. One can be thin but terribly unhealthy on the inside from too much sugar or junk food….there are so many tips and strategies, but I think your ideas here of moderation and self-control win out every time. ENJOY YOUR DAY!


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