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Diet 'cheat days' can actually boost your chances of weight loss success

Many of us think that starting a weight loss diet means forsaking the fattening foods we love. No sweets, no cream sauces, no chips, no wine, no fun!  But this kind of weight loss plan can actually lead to more cravings, fixating on forbidden foods -- and goals abandoned long before their time. The truth, experts say, is that you can have your weight loss and eat cake, too -- as long as you "cheat" on your diet the sensible way.

Taking away a person's favorite foods can be the death knell to a diet, says David NW. Grotto, RD, LD, author of 101 Foods That Can Save Your Life. "I think splurging on a diet is mandatory, not an option," he says.

Grotto calls it "structured cheating." There's a difference between enjoying your favorite foods occasionally and eating everything you adore, he says. The key to maintaining control, he says, is deciding what you want and how much you'll have, and then to "eat it with full consciousness ... lick your lips, and then move on with your life."

Carolyn O'Neil, RD, agrees. "I think sensible splurging is really the key to being able to achieve a healthy lifestyle," says O'Neil, co-author of The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!

Anyone can follow a restrictive diet for a short time, says O'Neil. But sooner or later, most people will break down and overindulge on the foods they've been denying themselves. "So why not come up with a sensible diet, so your chances of success are much greater in the long run?" she asks. 

When you know what you're getting into, you have more control, O'Neil says. So if you love cheesecake, memorize the calorie count of your favorite type, and then you can manage your diet splurge with portion control. O'Neil sums up her diet philosophy this way: "The more you know, the more you can eat!"

12 Healthy Ways to Cheat on Your Diet

Beyond sensible splurging, WebMD asked nutrition experts for more tips to how you can cheat on your diet and still lose weight. Here's what they said:

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