“Many people, after having been wheat-free for more than a few weeks, will become ill when they are re-exposed,” says William Davis, MD, author of the upcoming Wheat Belly Total Health, who believes everyone (whether they have Celiac disease, are gluten-sensitive, or neither) benefits from giving up gluten. Dr. Davis says that reintroducing even a little wheat into an otherwise wheat-free diet can lead to everything from gas, bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain to depression, anxiety, and anger. And, symptoms can persist for days to weeks after re-exposure (a.k.a. The Splurge).
“People too often engage in the dreaded all-or-nothing thinking,” Dr. Ochner says. “They eat a little bit of a ‘forbidden food,’ and then (consciously or unconsciously) figure that the program is blown at that point — so they might as well enjoy themselves. This often leads to an all-out binge and derailment. In reality, however, the ‘splurge’ (disinhibiting stimulus) would have made very little, if any, difference if you had just carried on as you were, after having the treat.”
While no one is arguing that your average cookie is secretly super-healthy and nutritious, whatever it contains won’t undo all of your hard work — whether you’re working to ward off inflammation, reduce blood pressure, or just feel healthier, Mass says.
“Personally, I don't believe in [the idea of] cheating. I believe in a cost-benefit analysis of what I'm eating,” Dr. Ochner says. “No matter how bad it may be for me, if I really enjoy it, and there's no way to do a healthy conversion, I go for it because it's worth it. I never deprive myself if I really want something, but nine times out of 10 there’s a healthy version or alternative that makes me just as happy.” For example, if you’re going Paleo, try satisfying your hankering for a big glass of dairy milk with one of the coconut variety.