By Tina HaupertLosing weight—and maintaining that weight loss—means knowing when to save your calories and when to splurge. Last weekend I faced a serious diet splurge test.

Saturday night was date night with my husband. Mal and I hadn't been out to dinner in ages, so I decided to get all dolled up and really make a night of it. We were headed to Publick House, one of my favorite Boston haunts, where I knew the perfectly seasoned french fries would be calling my name. All day long I ate healthy and filling meals, but I made sure to "save" some of my calories so I could splurge at dinner. I opted for a veggie-filled egg scramble instead of my traditional oatmeal for breakfast, and ate an open-faced sandwich (instead of using two slices of bread, like I usually do) midafternoon. I didn't deprive myself at all—and I certainly felt satisfied after each meal—but I also gave myself a little room to order my favorite foods at dinner.

When 7 o'clock rolled around, Mal still wasn't ready for our date. He had just returned from the gym, so he needed to shower and shave… and see the score of the game… and check his email. I didn't mind waiting for him—he's certainly waited for me many times over the years—but I hadn't eaten since lunchtime and my stomach was growling loudly.

So what's a good dieter to do? I had to decide whether to have a small snack to hold me over or risk attacking the bread basket the moment we sat down.

I've always hated the feeling of hunger. It's a feeling I try to avoid at all costs, mostly because I worry that I will later overeat as a way to compensate. I used to eat as soon as I felt hunger pains, and while it supplied instant gratification, those calories added up—especially when a splurge was in my immediate future. Many successful dieters will tell you to have a small, protein-rich snack before a big night out, but I'm proof that the theory doesn't work for everyone.

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The old me would have grabbed a snack to settle her stomach, but I’ve learned that I don’t enjoy a splurge nearly as much if I don’t have a healthy appetite. Over the years, I've come to terms with allowing myself to become a little hungry when a special occasion arises. I don't see hunger as an emergency situation anymore, and I can usually wait patiently until my hunger passes.

When we arrived at the restaurant for date night, I was more than ready to splurge. I probably ate more calories than I usually would at a regular dinner at home, but I planned my splurge the right way—by saving calories and my appetite. And I enjoyed myself and overindulged 100% guilt free! So it all comes down to what works best for you—if you know you'll binge on the bread basket, a small snack is probably the right choice for you. But if you know you'll have a piece of bread regardless, you may be better off holding out.

What do you do when hunger strikes before a planned splurge? And what other diet tips just don't work for you?

Read Tina's daily food and fitness blog, Carrots 'N' Cake.