What to do after a cheat meal to stay on track

What to do after a cheat meal to stay on track

We’ve all been there. Super strict on that diet, eating clean, no sugar, no junk, no nothing. Then bam. Saturday comes, you’ve completely broken all your rules. This article will be outlining what to do after a cheat meal, so you stay on track.

The idea of a cheat-meal comes from the old school bodybuilding era. They’d have a strict bland meal plan of chicken and broccoli throughout the week. Then on a weekend, they’d indulge in whatever they wanted, to excess.

Ive been there and I’m sure most of your reading have.

If you YouTube “epic cheat meals” or anything like that you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Deep down though, we all know cheat meal is code for:

“I hate my diet so much. I’ve just gone and eating everything, which my diet plan said I wasn’t allowed to have”.

If you in this cycle of eating clean, then ruining it with an over the top cheat, this article will help you.

Calm down

The first thing you need to do is calm down. Just relax.

I know. It’s easier said than done. I’ve been there, I get it. You feel like you’ve screwed up all your hard work.

But you need to remember it’s only one night.

According to Google, the average human lives for 27,375 days. One day out of that is 0.004% of your life.

It’s not going to make the smallest bit of difference.

We know food guilt, is associated with worse eating habits. So it’s important you don’t panic. (1)

There are no emergencies in nutrition and fitness. If there are, you need to be in hospital, then your issue is way out of my scope.

The worse you feel and more shame, you thrust upon yourself, the more likely you are to repeat the pattern again.

What not to do

It’s only natural to try and makeup for things, but when it comes to dieting. I can say with a close degree of certainty it’s not.

So after you’ve calmed yourself down, make sure not to make these mistakes I see to many making.

Heavily restricting yourself

The natural reaction is to try makeup for the cheat day and restrict your intake to compensate.

This usually leads to a dangerous path.

You end up on the cheating cycle again.

This is usually a vicious cycle of over restricting, then over indulging.

The best way to stop this awful cycle, is to just stop.

So the best thing to do is just go back to normal. No restricting, no compensation just write off the day and move on.

Over exercise

You don’t need to run off what you ate. It’s an unhealthy mindset.

By all means do a workout or go for a walk.

But don’t try and do more, to offset what you ate.

Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do, not what you ate

Exercise is useless for weight loss anyway. You should be doing exercise for the health benefits, not to lose weight.

Most importantly I wouldn’t want you to associate exercise as tool for punishment. Otherwise you won’t be exercising for the right reasons and end up resenting it.


Food is food. So you’ve over eaten one day.

You’ve not poisoned yourself. Your body doesn’t need to detox itself. If it did, your liver and kidneys have you covered.

This isn’t to say eating vegetables is bad. It’s not, if anything I’d encourage you to eat more.

But you shouldn’t be drinking vegetable juice, to offset a day of over eating.

You should be eating a rich variety of vegetables to make sure you get adequate vitamins and minerals everyday. Not to compensate for over eating.

Associating vegetables with offsetting a cheat meal, is only going to give you a warped perception of what healthy eating is.

Besides vegetable juices don’t have the fibre, whole veg has. So actually it’s not as beneficial for you.

Change your diet plan

Usually im very nuanced in how I write. But when it comes to cheat meals and cheat days, I’m not.

Cheat meals are an awful idea.

Any diet that requires a cheat meal or cheat day, is a diet that you need to avoid.

The idea of cheating is setting you up for failure, before you’ve started.

Even though in the grand scheme of your life, they make next to no difference.

They can undo a weeks worth of dieting, in a day.

We know to lose weight, we eat less calories than we burn. (2)

Let’s say your calorie intake is 1500 calories per day. And you burn around 2000 per day. Thats a deficit of 500 calories.

It takes a deficit of 3500 calories to burn a pound of fat. So in a week you’d be burning a pound, if you don’t cheat.

But now on Saturday you have an extravagant cheat meal and you end up eating 5500 calories that day. That would be an extra 3500 calories. On top of your 2000 calorie maintenance.(3)

Yes I know it sounds like a lot, but trust me it can be easily done.

You have now completely undone your weeks work.

Luckily not all hope is lost.

Reframe your mindset

If you’re having to have cheat meals or cheat days, I need to ask do you really want to lose weight?

It’s not a problem if you don’t want to. There’s other things in life, which are far more important.

The only reason I ask, is because if the first thing you can think of is your cheat meal, I don’t think you’re in the right headspace.

It’s really not your fault. If I’m being honest, you’ve probably been lied to.

You’ll watch motivational videos on Youtube or see dramatical changes on Instagram. You’ll be told it’s easy or that you can do it without ever being hungry.

It’s not true. Your body is eating itself. You’re literally starving your body, it resorts to eating it’s own fat to survive. Of course you’re going to be hungry. That’s the only way you can lose weight.

You need to accept it, im afraid. If you’re trying to starve your body, so it can feast on its fat stores. Do you think having massive blowouts is going to help?

Yes you can still eat your favourite foods everyday, that’s not a problem.

But you need to be realistic with what you want.

You’re going to have to accept a little less pleasure. If your first thought is cheating, this isn’t the right time.

You wouldn’t cheat on your partner and expect everything to be fine. Im afraid losing weight is the same.

What to do instead

There a small group of people, who’ve lost a lot of weight and kept it off. Me being one of those people.

There’s a small set of habits we tend to have.

Anyway the main one is autonomy and flexibility. Something I preach to my clients.

No matter what, to lose weight, you must restrict your calories. It kinda sucks. But we can make it suck less.

Dieting flexibly

I have written how to diet flexibly, when looking to lose fat. If you’re stuck in the cheat day binge eating cycle, I highly recommend you read this next.

People that diet flexibly do so much better than those that diet rigidly. There’s studies to back this up. (4)

The quick lowdown is this:

To lose fat, calories in vs calories out, over a sustained period of time is the PRINCIPLE.

The diet you choose to do that is the METHOD.

This means, you don’t need to be married to one method. You don’t need to to follow any rules.

This means you can eat chocolate or drink wine everyday and still lose weight. You can count calories some days and do fasting other days, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is you adhere to the principle.

Why am I saying this? Most people eat nothing but kale Monday to Thursday. Then comes the weekend and they’re eating their bodyweight in chocolate.

Why not save a portion of your calories on your favourite foods everyday. If you’re on a 1600 calorie a day diet. Why not have 320 calories worth of chocolate and wine everyday instead.

That way you have something to look forward to everyday and you’re less likely to need to cheat, because your favourite foods are already factored in.

Maintenance day

Instead of going full strict throughout the week, then bingeing on the weekend, why not have some maintenance days.

So if you’re dieting on 1500 a day and your maintenance is 2000.

Have 2000 calories on the weekend.

So long as you’re in a deficit over the WHOLE WEEK, you’ll make progress.

This is not a cheat meal or cheat day. It’s fully planned and you still have to be mindful with how you eat.

It’s not a guilt induced blowout.

Non tracking day

If you’re counting calories to get in your deficit.

You can always have one day per week, where you don’t count.

This isn’t an excuse to pig out. It’s just a day where you don’t use your phone to log your food.

If you’ve been tracking properly, you’ll still make sensible choices.

The reason this works well, is because it gives you a mental release from the monotony of logging every morsel you eat.

Have a diet break

Sometimes we’ve been dieting so long, the thought of more restriction, makes you want to jab your eyes out with a fork.

When you’ve dieted for so long, your hunger hormones increase and your satiety hormones decrease.

Thus making you constantly hungry and never full.

If this is the case, a week to two week break where you eat to maintenance calorie, will bring your hunger back to balance. (5)

I must say, for me personally, I don’t need to break. I can just start and get it done. But some people benefit with a break and get better results.

So maybe try for yourself and see what works.

I wrote an article about diet breaks. So if it’s something you’re thinking of, then please do have a read.

Final thought of what to do after a cheat meal

So please don’t panic. Nothing too major has happened.

Just get back on with your day and you’ll be fine.

There’s no need to do anything drastic otherwise you’ll end up back in a vicious cycle.

If your diet requires cheat meals, you need a new diet.

One cheat never ends with one cheat.

No matter our goal, good balanced nutrition is the way to go.

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