We have all been there. Dieting and wondering if you have that cookie, or those chips, or that drink, will you lose your progress. Will a cheat day ruin your diet and hard work?
It is an important question to ask because no one wants to destroy all their hard work and have to start over again.
By the time you finish this post, you will know everything you need to know about cheat days and if they will ruin your diet.
Define Cheat Day
I’m sure even if you do not have an exact definition that you already know what a cheat day is. But it is important to cover to ensure you understand what we are talking about.
A cheat day on a diet is when you disregard your diet restrictions on the amount or kinds of foods you eat.
In other words, you eat things you would normally avoid for health reasons. Take for example, cutting out sugar if you are pre-diabetic or diabetic.
In order to have cheat days, you must first hold yourself back from certain items.
For example, say you are on the keto diet. Keto is a low carb high fat diet. That means you would greatly limit eating foods with carbs, like bread and pasta.
To learn more about the keto diet, read Beginners Guide to the Ketogenic Diet.
Are Cheat Days on a Diet Okay
The simple answer is yes. It is okay to have a cheat day on most diets.
It all just depends on if you are doing it the right way. If you are one of those people that says that they will fall off the wagon if they have a cheat day, then you are doing it wrong.
Many people don’t even feel like they need a cheat day within the first few weeks of their diet.
When you get into the routine of a diet, a small deviation in most cases will not cause you to quit your diet as most people think.
It is also important to know and remember that a cheat day should not be used for you to go to the extremes and overindulge. We will get more into that in the cheat day tips section.
Much of what you are going to read in this post is going to reiterate that it is okay to have a cheat day once in a while, and how to do it the right way.
Benefits of a Cheat Day on a Diet
Letting loose from your diet a little bit can be good for weight loss. If you get stuck on a weight loss plateau, a change from what you normally eat can help jump start your weight loss again.
Check out, Understanding Your Weight Loss Plateau and How to Beat It, if you are feeling stuck for more ideas.
It can also help reduce the urge to snack and prevent binges. When you aren’t depriving yourself of the things you want all of the time, you won’t always crave them because you are satisfying that craving.
A cheat day can likewise boost your metabolism by increasing your leptin levels. Leptin is a hormone that helps regulates appetite and fat storage.
So, by increasing those levels, your appetite is better controlled and the amount of fat your body stores is reduced.
And one of the biggest benefits is that it provides a mental break from dieting. Let’s be honest, dieting takes its toll.
It is so important to make sure you are in a good place mentally, so you can be physically as well.
Cheat Day Tips
Following these tips is vital to ensure you are treating your cheat day the right way.
Write them down.
Do what you need to, to help make sure you follow them. These cheat day tips are going to help you be successful and keep you from ruining the progress you have made thus far.
1. Healthy Relationship with Food
I think this is one of the most vital cheat day tips. In order for you to be successful with dieting and having a cheat day, you must first have a good relationship with food.
That means that you eat foods for the right reasons and eat mostly good for you foods.
Many people associate food with a certain emotion. For example, stress eating. You want to have that type of relationship with food under control.
And you want to make sure you are eating foods that are good for your body. It doesn’t have to be 100% of the time, but it should be the majority.
2. Plan a Cheat Meal Day
Planning ahead of time can help in several different ways. By planning just a cheat day meal, you can help ensure you do not overeat or indulge too much during the day.
You will be thinking about that meal for the day, so not only will it be that much more satisfying, if will help keep you from snacking since you will be saving it for your cheat meal.
It also allows you to cut a few extra calories during the day because you know you will be having a cheat meal and what it will be.
3. Water Weight
Be aware that depending on the diet you are on, you may notice an increase in weight. But it is water weight. This is something you want to keep in mind and keep an eye on.
4. Do Not Overdo It
Pick what you are going to splurge on. Whether it be pasta, dessert, or cocktails. Don’t do all in one sitting. This will push you past your tipping point.
5. No Full Day
A cheat day on a diet does not need to be a full day. In fact, it is best if it’s not. When you give yourself a cheat day, make it more of a treat day.
Much like tips number 1 and 3, make it a meal or pick what you want to indulge in.
By limiting your cheat, you won’t overeat or fall back into bad habits.
6. Don’t Feel Guilty
If you feel guilty for having a cheat day or cheat meal, try calling it a treat instead. You work hard all week making sure you eat right and exercise. So, you deserve it!
And getting excited can boost your metabolism and get you motivated to work harder when you work out.
7. Add Protein to Your Cheat Day
Add protein to your cheat meal. This will help fill you up so you aren’t overdoing the carbs.
It is also great if you going to be working out because it will help build muscle. Just be sure to not add too much protein to your diet.
8. Sit and Eat Slowly
Sit down to eat your meals and eat slowly. When you do this, you can focus on your food and will be less likely to overeat. Plus, you get to actually enjoy your meal.
When you are distracted, you eat up to 25% more calories. Eating while doing other things or eating fast makes it hard for your body to tell you that it is full. When you slow down and focus, your brain can tell you when you are full.
9. Don’t Skip Workouts
Instead, workout beforehand. This will help to reduce the glycogen, a form of sugar, in your body.
By reducing that, your body will use more of what you eat instead of storing it.
Try fasting before your cheat meal. This will also help reduce they glycogen in your body. Plus, you will be able to enjoy what you are having that much more because you will be hungry.
11. Don’t Deprive Yourself
Now, I know cheat day tip number 9 said to try fasting, but you don’t want to go overboard.
Don’t deprive yourself before you cheat. While it is alright to fast to give yourself a little bit of a buffer, or even workout prior to, doing too much can cause you to overindulge.
If you are starving, do you think you will be able to sit down and eat slowly? Chances aren’t good. There is a happy medium, so find that.
12. Avoid Bad Cheats
This is an important cheat day tip.
Avoid the worst type of cheat meal.
What I mean by this is, don’t go to McDonalds. High fat meals such as that cause more immediate fat storage than high carb meals.
So, pick what you eat wisely.
13. Portion Control
Just because you are allowing a cheat day on your diet does not mean that portion control gets thrown out the window.
Without it, you will overeat and have to start back at square one.
Play close attention to how much of a cheat items you are having. Ensure it is an acceptable serving beforehand.
14. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Having a controlled cheat day on a diet can be difficult. So, I want you to really take this tip to heart.
If you end up going off the rails and having too much on your cheat day, don’t beat yourself up over it.
Instead, learn from it. Find out where you when wrong and what you can do to make better choice the next time. For example, maybe you decide you need to plan a cheat meal, so you don’t overindulge.
Cheat Day on the Keto Diet
I am adding this section specifically because keto has become such a popular diet and not just for weight loss purposes.
Doing keto is not like any other diet, so a cheat day on keto is different as well.
Depending on your metabolism and the foods you choose on your cheat day, you may experience the keto flu symptoms.
You could get headaches, nausea, fatigue, and mood swings.
It is important to know that if you do the keto diet for a health condition, such as type 2 diabetes or poor cardiovascular health, a cheat day could spike your blood sugar levels.
It can also bring cravings for carbs and sugars back if you remove yourself from a ketogenic state.
Can A Cheat Day Ruin Ketosis
Again, depending on what you decide to have, your cheat day could take you out of ketosis.
For example, if you eat high-carb food such as pizza.
Watch your overall carb intake for the day when you are planning to cheat. This allows you to make sure your other foods are very low to no carb.
Some people even recommend checking your ketone levels. This would be done with a blood ketone meter, much like diabetics check their blood.
How To Do A Cheat Day on Keto
Sticking with a ketogenic diet can be extremely difficult and isn’t for everyone. You should always consult your doctor to see if it is right for you.
With that being said, when it comes to a keto cheat day, many people do what is called the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD). This is where you eat a standard keto diet for 5 days and a high carb diet the other 2 days.
By doing it this way your body does not stay in ketosis, but it is much more mentally manageable.
You can also cheat without completely cheating.
What I mean by this is that you can have the things you are craving but a keto version of them.
For example, a pizza with cauliflower crust. Or cheesecake made with keto friendly sugar replacements and an almond or pecan flour crust.
What to Remember About Cheat Days
The biggest thing to remember is that it can be okay and even helpful to have a cheat day on a diet.
Make sure you have a healthy relationship with food before you even start dieting.
Keep in mind that a cheat day can give you a mental break from your diet and what type of diet you are on will contribute to how a cheat day will affect you.
Make sure that you do not overindulge. Take your time when you eat and make sure your portions are under control.
Think of your cheat day as more of a treat day. Pick a meal or a certain food to have. Don’t have a whole day of junk.
Finally, if you are on the keto diet, a cheat day may not be the best idea.
It could spike your blood sugar and knock you out of ketosis. So, if you are in need of a cheat day on keto, try some keto friendly options, such as keto cheesecake.
Keep these cheat day tips in mind and you will be able to have a successful treat day that won’t ruin your diet.