Why do I always cheat?

Whether it’s for general well-being or specific to weight loss, there are many fad diets out there. What’s common among them all is that there is always a timeline which promises rapid results with minimal effort. So, then why do we always cheat? The reasons below are key factors that lead us to stray from our diet plan.

Restriction and deprivation

Going on a strict temporary eating plan leaves you feeling deprived and unsatisfied. This type of quick fix does not teach you healthy eating habits. Rather, you are cutting out food groups entirely and creating an energy deficit, which is one of the reasons why you may drop a few kilograms in the first week or two.

With this restrictive way of eating there are often lists of ‘forbidden’ foods leading to overindulgence when having ‘cheat days.’ These days can include excessive eating of unhealthy ‘bad’ foods and can undo all the work that you have done to get to that point.

Poor planning

If we don’t plan our meals for the week then we tend to lean on convenience options. Take away or ready-made meals are generally extremely high in kilojoule content. By visiting the shops more frequently, you are more likely to throw the unhealthy snacks into the shopping basket because you are more exposed to the temptation.


The power of habit is stronger than we think. Often, we grab that chocolate after dinner because last night we had some chocolate and we have created the expectation of having it again. By keeping unhealthy snacks at home or in our desk drawer, we are constantly being tempted and this of course increases the likelihood of indulging even when we aren’t hungry.

So, what can we do to prevent this?

The best solution is to move towards adopting a healthy lifestyle mind-set as opposed to following a strict temporary plan.

  1. Make an appointment to see a dietitian on a regular basis. He/she can help educate and train you to adopt a healthy lifestyle by creating an eating plan that suits your individual needs and circumstances.
  2. Follow the 80/20 rule, it calls for a mindful approach to the foods you eat 80% of the time and allows flexibility for the other 20%. This empowers you to make better choices whilst still enjoying your life without being restrictive.
  3. Pre-plan your meals and do as much meal preparation as you can over the weekend. Do weekly grocery trips as opposed to a quick stop after work each day.
  4. Remove the temptation and create a healthy food environment at home and at work. Leave your wallet in your car so you aren’t tempted to go to the vending machine when it hits late afternoon. Rather save your treats for special occasions, such as birthday parties or when meeting up with a friend.
  5. Practise mindful eating to improve your relationship with food. The next time you want to grab that chocolate bar or bag of crisps, ask yourself if you are really hungry, or just eating for the sake of eating as per habit.

Healthy food swops

We need to keep in mind that there is a big difference between general healthy eating and eating for weight loss. It is never solely about what foods you are eating as other factors such as portion control play a huge role.

Are these swops really a healthier option?

  1. Potato ➡️ Sweet potato

These two starchy vegetables have approximately the same amount of carbohydrate and energy content, which is around 15-17g carbohydrate and 311-354kJ per 100g. However, sweet potatoes have a lower glycaemic index (GI) and glycaemic load (GL). They are an excellent source of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene and they have a higher vitamin C content.

  1. 4 Finger KitKat  ➡️ Woolworths Nutty Almond Snack Bar

As a disclaimer, this is a sole comparison of kilojoule content, but believe it or not these ‘health’ bars contain more kilojoules (1177kJ) than a KitKat chocolate bar (868kJ).

  1. Crisps ➡️ Popcorn

Popcorn comes in as a much healthier alternative with a total energy of 1400kJ per 100g compared to 2320kJ for a 100g bag of crisps. The total fat content in crisps is 36g compared to 8g for popcorn.

  1. Salticrax ➡️ Ryvita

One of the biggest difference between these two cracker options is the fibre content. Salticrax has almost no fibre coming in at 0,3g per serving (2 biscuits) compared to Ryvita which has 3g. Salticrax are also higher in added fats with 3,2g per serving compared to Ryvita with only 0,2g. Here we can see that products containing similar energy contents (267kJ vs 289kJ) can have a very different nutritional composition.

Remember that following a healthy eating plan is a lifestyle and not a quick fix. We need to be conscious about including a variety of foods from all the food groups and eating regular, structured and balanced meals. Moderation is key.


Jessica Oosthuizen RD (SA) is a Type 1 diabetic herself (since the age of 13) She has a special interest in the nutritional management of children and adults with diabetes. She also has a key interest in weight management and eating disorders. Her experience includes working in the clinical hospital setting as well as experience with a variety of chronic diseases of lifestyle, such as obesity, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.