Everyone who’s ever been on a diet knows that you have to give yourself a cheat day or two. What experts don’t always tell you, though, is that most diets should come with cheat days.
“Cheating” on your diet doesn’t have to be all about uncontrollable urges for late-night candy bars or spending an entire day stuffing your face. There’s a way to work them into your diet and work them in with moderation in mind. Snack on extra calories the right way and you won’t ding your diet.
In fact, there are a few ways to cheat that won’t only help you stay on track, but they may also help you lose more weight than you would have without them.
So you can go back to following all of your favorite Instagram foodie pages, put your weekly lunch with your co-workers back on your schedule, and plan to cheat — the right way.
Plan your cheat days around how hard you work out next week. Add 50 extra calories to each workout to earn the calories necessary for a margarita after work. Not only will you have already burned off the calories, but if you’ve been integrating some strength training into your conditioning, you’ll have built muscle that will help you burn even more.
Plan Your Cheat Meal
No matter how well your diet is going, plan to have at least one cheat meal a week. When you know you’re going to order the cheesecake at dinner with friends, you can cut calories earlier in the day to compensate.
Only Cheat With Foods You Love
Save your cheat day for something special, like a meal at that restaurant you’ve been following on Instagram. You’ll get in control of your cravings and you’ll be less likely to waste calories on empty snacking that makes you ask, “Why did I eat that?”
Pick Your Poison
Have an uncontrollable urge to eat even though it’s off schedule? Pick a cheat item instead of a cheat meal. Go with fried chicken instead of baked chicken in a salad, or have one happy hour drink instead of an evening’s worth. It will be much easier to get back on track so you won’t risk ruining your diet or find yourself feeling extremely disappointed.
Don’t Be Afraid To Give In
When your tank feels like it’s on empty and all you can think of is a snack, don’t be afraid to splurge. The occasional (keyword: occasional) high-calorie meal prompts your body to increase the hormone leptin, which tricks it into thinking it’s fuller than it is. Therefore, it keeps your metabolism going strong.
Fill Up First
Have a cheat day when you’re starving and you’re bound to overdo it. Fill up on diet-friendly food first. Then, indulge when you’ll be less likely to order seconds.
Never Lose Count
Cheat days are about freedom, but don’t throw all caution to the wind. Keep track of the calories you’re eating even when you’re on a break. Knowing the number — and the treadmill minutes it’s going to take to burn them off down the line — will help you cheat in moderation.
Work Out Before You Pig Out
It will keep your body from immediately storing your next meal as fat. That’s because a round of cardio (where you work out until you’re tired) burns your body’s energy stores. It will use the fat and calories from your next meal to fill those reserves up before storing them on your hips.
Choose The Right Cheat Meal
When you can, eat a cheat meal that’s high in carbohydrates and moderate in protein like steak and potatoes or a roll of sushi. It will make you feel full and stimulate your metabolism to burn faster as a result.
Follow Up With Tea
There are several types of tea that help speed up your metabolism to give you an extra boost to burn those calories.
Take It Slow
You’ve been waiting on your fast food cheat meal all week. But resist the urge to scarf it all down before you even pull away from the restaurant. Set the table, eat slowly, and sip a glass of water while you do. You’ll notice that you will feel full sooner and keep yourself from overeating.
Get Right Back On Track
Throw the leftovers away and have your next three diet snacks and meals on deck. Meal prep always helps with this. Keeping a cheat day from turning into a cheat week will keep your weight loss goals on track.
Remember The Meal Next Week
Didn’t get a chance to burn off your cheat meal beforehand? Write “400 calories of ice cream” in your food journal and remember it all week. Cut a few calories from the week’s meals here and there (or go a little longer during your workouts) and you’ll easily make up for what you may feel is backsliding.