We’ve all been there: deep in a diet when the cravings start to hit you, hard. When you began dieting, your drive to be lean and mean made it easy to say no to the pizza your buddies were noshing on and the ice cream your girlfriend was eating for dessert. Yet suddenly the thought of pizza, a burger, ice cream, chocolate, cookies, chips—you name it—seems to drive you mad. And it’s getting harder to say no to these mouthwatering foods.

It’s Good to Cheat

If these cravings have you feeling like a failure, we have good news for you. Not only is this common, but research shows it may be good for your dieting results. Researchers from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University (Boston) found that 95% of subjects who were placed on a low-calorie diet experienced food cravings during the study. Those who lost the most fat while dieting were also those who craved foods that are higher in calories and fat. (They also gave in to these cravings less frequently than those who lost less weight. No surprise there.)

Combat Cravings

How can this study teach you a few things about your own dieting? First of all, if you find yourself craving foods that are high in calories and fat, such as pizza, burgers and tacos, you’re likely on the right track when it comes to dropping body fat.

The second point deals with giving in to the cravings. Obviously, the goal is to cave less frequently. But how? One of the best ways to cheat less often is to have a scheduled cheat day when you get to have one meal that’s “no holds barred”—you can eat anything you want.

Let’s face it: When it comes to dieting, even the most disciplined bodybuilders cheat. This is okay as long as you limit your cheating to about once a week. A scheduled cheat meal helps you stick to your diet, and you feel rewarded when eating it. It’s a win-win situation that helps you lose.