Weigh In: Cheat Days

Thank you SO MUCH for all your support on yesterday’s post. It’s sort of ironic how these types of behaviors have so much shame and guilt associated with them that it’s almost taboo to discuss. But I came out and opened up to you guys about it and so many of you could relate to exactly what I was talking about, so I think its so much more common than we think.

Though all the comments were incredible and supportive, there was one in particular that stood out to me from a loyal reader, Jennifer, that I thought you all would appreciate too.

I heard something once that resonated with me.  If you’re driving in your car and using a GPS and you make a wrong turn, it doesn’t tell you to just forget it and drive off the nearest cliff.  It figures out a new route and tells you to make a u-turn and get back on track.  So I try to remember to tell myself that just because I had a bad meal, or day, or week, that I can just make a u-turn, and I’ll be back on my way.”

LOVE that. I’d never heard it before yesterday and it really resonated with me too. What an incredible/hysterical analogy for a healthiness journey!

Moving along.

Yesterdays topic got me thinking about something I thought would be interesting to discuss on here today – cheat days. Many of you commented that you are able to stay on track by having a “cheat day” once a week for a full day or just one meal per week, and that having that day to look forward to helps keep you on track for most of the week.


That was the tactic that I used during almost all of my time losing weight – picking one day or one event to go all out on, and by all out, I mean all out. It’s kind of crazy how easy it is for me to revert back into my “old” ways – the scary part is that it used to be how I ate not one day a week, but seven. But that’s another story for another day.

Lately, I’ve been trying to scale back on having a cheat day or cheat meal because they make me eat really compulsively and unhealthily, to the point where I feel like I need to eat every last thing I could possibly want to gorge myself on before the day is done. After eating everything and anything I’ve ever wanted to, I spend the rest of the week making up for the cheat day/meal.


This cycle causes me be more strict than I want to be when it’s not my cheat day, so I’m looking forward to and relying on the “cheat day” even more than I wanted to from the beginning. I still eat enough, don’t worry, but I get very flustered when temptations arise and the I’m threatened with going “off plan.” Even if its something that should excite me- like going out for happy hour with friends or a sporadic date night out – it makes me feel anxious and dread it in a way because I’m scared of what my behavior will be like when I’m out without a plan.

I really want to be one of those people who can enjoy treats in moderation, and eat pizza if I feel like it, not just on my “cheat” day. Don’t get me wrong – I have a dessert every single day – like dark chocolate, italian ice, ice cream, etc – but its very planned and accounted for in my day.

What I’m learning about myself is that the cheat day which I had done in the past may not be the right thing for me anymore. Because of my tendencies to heavily overdo it, I just don’t know if that’s a healthy way for me to live. I still want/need to lose a few pounds, and I think having those crazy meals/days is the main thing standing in the way for me.

So I’m very curious about your experiences and would love it if you could weigh in. Pun intended.

Do you or did you used to have a cheat day/meal, or just try to have treats consistently in moderation throughout the week? When you “cheat” how far off track do you go? Are you like me and go balls to the wall or are you able to keep it under control? Any book recommendations on this topic?

41 Comments on Weigh In: Cheat Days

  1. Victoria (District Chocoholic)
    April 13, 2011 at 8:40 am (9 years ago)

    I think one of the big issues is thinking of it as a “cheat day” – I mean, what are you cheating on? Do you find your current healthier approach to life to be unbearable? If you really like it, it’s not cheating. Maybe instead think of it as a higher-calorie day that isn’t the norm, and have plans to get back on track the next day with a healthy breakfast, extra water, and a workout.

  2. Katie Photiadis
    April 13, 2011 at 8:41 am (9 years ago)

    Beth, I also have mixed feelings about “cheat days.” Like you, when I feel that I’m off plan, I tend to eat compulsively and try to eat everything I can because I only have the one day. For me, this tends to re-enforce my bad cycle of binge, diet, repeat. I think it makes more sense to be a little more flexible during the week and make sure that all your meals/ snacks are satisfying.

    Thats not to say that I never have days where I go completely off plan and just enjoy. But I’m not sure that I can have cheat days on a weekly basis…since my cheat day would likely become a series of multiple cheat days =)

  3. Amy
    April 13, 2011 at 8:49 am (9 years ago)

    The true irony of your post yesterday was that moments before I read it, I was commiserating with a friend that though I love several healthy living blogs, I feel they are creepy in that you would never see anyone say “Damn, I just ate 3/4 of a box of Wheat Thins and a half a brick of cheese.” Thanks for being REAL.

    As far as cheat days, I think I do best when I save my cheat for something truly decadent, homemade and unususal- like a homemade cinnamon bun or some outrageous pasta dish. I don’t feel the same guilt as when I eat, say, M&Ms- which are always available and easy to come by. Kinda like the whole “French Women Don’t Get Fat” theory– a book EVERY woman should read!

  4. Holly @ The Runny Egg
    April 13, 2011 at 9:07 am (9 years ago)

    Yes when I was on WW I would have a cheat meal after my weigh in on Monday nights. Then I would usually have a cheat day on Tuesday AND Wednesday. Then I had to be perfect the rest of the week to have a loss. It was frustrating because I would feel totally out of control on those days and then the rest of the week was so hard.

    Now I try to have treats when I want them (which thankfully isn’t all the time like I thought it would be).

    Have you read Intuitive Eating? It kind of helped me stop with the cheat days and let me allow myself to have treats now and then without going crazy.

  5. Theresa @ActiveEggplant
    April 13, 2011 at 9:13 am (9 years ago)

    I just can’t do cheat days – because (to me) that means I’m depriving myself the rest of the time. And if I feel like I’m depriving myself, I won’t stick with it – healthy eating will last a week or two, or a month or two, but then I end up going whole-hog in the other direction.

    Instead I let myself indulge a little bit every day – whether it’s an extra piece of pizza (which is a regular part of my diet), or a slice of cake, or seconds (or thirds) of those delicious mashed potatoes! This way I still get a little taste of the things my body (and mind) usually craves without the temptation to overdo it!

    The hardest part for me was the move from indulging all day every day to “here and there” each day. But the longer I do it, the more I see my body craving the healthier foods rather than french fries with ranch dressing!

  6. Leanne @ Leanne Lately
    April 13, 2011 at 9:14 am (9 years ago)

    I did it this morning. Gained 1 lb at my weigh-in and headed to Sheetz for food. I got a bacon egg and cheese bagel, Slim Jim, Reese’s Cup and a diet root beer. Thank god the root beer was diet… I took two bites of the sandwich and it was GROSS. Slim Jim changed their recipe for a “new taste” and I threw half of it away. The root beer and Big Cup are amazing. Today’s cheat was NOT worth it and it is definitely teaching me a lesson…

  7. thekitchenbitch
    April 13, 2011 at 9:23 am (9 years ago)

    Beer and dessert are my downfall. I can’t just have one or the either. It doesn’t help that I’m in baking class this quarter …. in the past two days I’ve already made three coffee cakes, a dozen muffins, a dozen cheddar cheese biscuits and half a dozen scones!

    • Alexis
      April 13, 2011 at 9:38 am (9 years ago)

      Wow! I admire your self-control! I couldn’t do it!

  8. Alexis
    April 13, 2011 at 9:37 am (9 years ago)

    I love this post, as I can totally relate. I overboard way too much, then try to be strict and then gorge on ‘bad stuff’ and so, the cycle continues. It is a daily struggle for me. Thank you for sharing!!

  9. Amy @ Second City Randomness
    April 13, 2011 at 9:40 am (9 years ago)

    I don’t really do “cheat days” because like you, I’m a balls to the wall kind of girl (that’s what she said). I think by doing that, my urges would build and explode into a giant mess. I’m much better to myself if I eat what I want when I want it… the cravings stay more manageable that way.

  10. Chase
    April 13, 2011 at 9:50 am (9 years ago)

    I don’t like cheat meals because for me, they turn into cheat weeks. I really try to balance the foods I like into my regular meals.

    And I’m just catching up but I also really appreciate your honesty yesterday’s post!!

  11. beyondbananas
    April 13, 2011 at 9:50 am (9 years ago)

    I guess I kind of do cheat days.. but I don’t go for “taboo” foods. I just eat more of the things I ususally eat. I may have and extra piece of dark chocolate… or and extra snack or two .. butit is something that is normally in my diet.

    Sadly.. I have a huge fear of eating something that I do not normally eat.. I often scout out menus before going to a new restaurant to see if there is something I am okay with eating. I am working to overcome this fear and induldge sometimes, but its hard!

  12. goodtastehealthyme
    April 13, 2011 at 9:56 am (9 years ago)

    I don’t have cheat days. I don’t look at it as “cheating.” It’s enjoying something I really want to eat. It’s eating 3 slices of pizza because I haven’t in a long time. But my next meal will be a tasty salad. It’s all about moderation for me. I know not everyone can work like this but it seems to work out well for me. 🙂

    • Beth
      April 13, 2011 at 9:57 am (9 years ago)

      See that is what I want to be able to do. I think it can be scary to try to trust myself to exercise moderation, but hopefully I’m getting close to the point where my body craves healthy stuff more than the junk if I just listen to it. =)

      • goodtastehealthyme
        April 13, 2011 at 10:04 am (9 years ago)

        I won’t lie, it took me a long time to get here! haha. 🙂

  13. Jennifer
    April 13, 2011 at 9:58 am (9 years ago)

    I’m so glad that resonated with you. I can’t remember where I heard it, but it was years ago, and I still remember it. Now following it…like I said, still a work in progress LOL!

    I think cheat days work well for some people, but it’s not an approach I feel ok with. And I don’t love the term because it sounds like you’re doing something wrong. If it’s planned for, and part of your regular eating plan, it’s not really cheating. I know…semantics!! 🙂

  14. Stephanie @ The Cookie Battle
    April 13, 2011 at 10:12 am (9 years ago)

    I used to do “cheat days” but they really just don’t work, because I only get a treat one day a week? I need treats every DAY! Plus I would do the same thing, just eat everything I possibly could and spend the other 6 days trying to make up for it. Now I just eat what I want when I want it and find myself not going overboard hardly ever (with the exception of the box of girl scout cookies in one sitting, but I know I’m not alone there)

  15. Nina
    April 13, 2011 at 10:14 am (9 years ago)

    In my opinion, I don’t believe that cheat days should be an option. One should not cheat a day for what took six other days to be on the right track. I’m not saying that you should never eat the things you used to love, but how about if maybe on that special occasion.. maybe then that’s the day you might want to treat yourself. PS.. i loved the GPS comment!!

  16. karenlovescardio
    April 13, 2011 at 10:35 am (9 years ago)

    Beth, I am loving these posts. It’s like you are inside of my head!!! I always allow myself a cheat meal on Saturday night, and sometimes on Friday as well, but one of them will be a fairly “healthy” cheat. But, I find the more I do this, the more strict I get during the week and I do tend to overindulge when the cheat meal finally arrives. I also freak if people want to do a random Tuesday night out or have drinks, etc, when I haven’t had it all planned out in my head. I definitely know I need to lighten up and enjoy life, and that I have the skills and strength to make the right choices and indulge when I want. YOU can too!! Stay strong. We all have to remember that life is too short to restrict ourselves all the time!

  17. Ashleigh
    April 13, 2011 at 11:13 am (9 years ago)

    I was thinking of implementing cheat days because I seem to be all over the place these days. I was thinking it could help keep me on track, but after reading some comments I am not so sure! I could def see myself getting into a routine like you where I then started to restrict myself a bit on non cheat days. What to do, what to do….

  18. Beth
    April 13, 2011 at 11:33 am (9 years ago)

    I think the cheat day mentality makes me binge WAY too much on those days. Instead, I try to remind myself that food will always be there. There are very few special food items that are now-or-never type of deals. With that mindset I can eat a surprise cupcake but not need the 5 that are just sititng there.

    Then again, I struggle with “free food” binging at the office. Its a problem.

  19. Can You Stay for Dinner
    April 13, 2011 at 11:40 am (9 years ago)

    So interesting to hear your take, Beth. I’ve never done a cheat day, and mostly because like you, it’s really really hard for me to go to oblivion and then just hop back on the wagon again, you know? I also don’t like that every other day feels like a sacrifice in some way. It’s like all other normal days would feel less special, almost as if I’m just getting through them. And when I really think about it, I think the only lure for me with cheat days is the idea of eating to the point of bingeing.

    Thanks for sharing and for bringing up such an interesting concept 🙂

  20. Donca @ Loser's Digest
    April 13, 2011 at 11:51 am (9 years ago)

    I don’t have cheat days per se. Having a whole day would just get out of control for me. I try to plan my treats into my day. On Friday evenings I sometimes allow myself an extra treat. also if I know i’m going out to dinner I try to look at the menu before hand so i don’t get overwhelmed at the restaurant. I think that cheating implies that you are doing something wrong. treats do have a place in a healthy lifestyle so I don’t consider it cheating.

    Thanks for sharing. these posts have been great

  21. Lisa
    April 13, 2011 at 12:01 pm (9 years ago)

    That’s a great quote! I agree-if you get lost, don’t drive off a cliff. Turn it around!

    I do not have a cheat day. I think it sets people up to feel like they are on a “diet” and are restricting things that make them happy. I’d rather eat whatever I want in moderation.

    For example, I ate 2 cookies last night and glass of wine. I was still within my calorie range for the day and didn’t feel deprived!

  22. Kandi
    April 13, 2011 at 12:17 pm (9 years ago)

    My weight loss journey and road to being healthier has centered more and more around one word “CONSCIOUS.” Or, as one of your commenters wrote “intuitive.”

    So whereas “cheat day” used to appeal to me, its doesn’t anymore. If I’m craving something sweet now, why wait until Saturday? My body is craving it now. Eating it Saturday is not listening to my body, it would be just eating mindlessly.

    I’m learning to trust myself and listen to myself and go with the flow.

  23. Andrea R.
    April 13, 2011 at 1:15 pm (9 years ago)

    Several years ago when I did WW successfully I had a cheat day- typically the weigh-in day. Our weigh-in was in the evenings so we’d have a hefty meal after.

    This time (I’m now 28 and losing baby weight) I haven’t really done cheat days- until 3 weeks ago. I usually just consume all my activity points plus 5 or 10 extra through the week and that gives me 1-2 pounds a week.

    However, I had a massive cheat day the week before my weigh in 2 weeks ago. It spiraled ALL weekend and I gained half a pound. Last week I “maintained” so Im still half a pound heavier than 2 weeks ago and still recovering from that emotional and physical spiral!

    Sounds like I’m a lot like you where I can’t have a whole DAY devoted to gluttony. However, if I budget right and enjoy treats (I, too, have dessert everyday) then I’m better off.

    Your last 2 posts have hit home! Thank you!

  24. Jennifer
    April 13, 2011 at 1:29 pm (9 years ago)

    I don’t really have a ‘cheat day’, but I do relax a little on the weekends. I stay OP all week, then on Friday and Saturday nights I use my extra weekly points. I know this is going to happen everyweek, so I guess it’s planned for and keeps me on track.

  25. Aly
    April 13, 2011 at 2:16 pm (9 years ago)

    I totally know what you mean by having compulsive cheat days. I have also gone back and forth between having a cheat day or meal after working the plan for a while. I have found depending on the week a cheat day can work, other than that I try to just limit my treats. Since I started training hard I have found that I can cheat a little more 🙂 a perk for triathlon training.

  26. definediana
    April 13, 2011 at 3:11 pm (9 years ago)

    Hmm, this is an interesting topic. I don’t do a cheat day persay, but on the weekends, I’m a bit more lax wtih my meals and choices. On those days I try to make sure I follow the good health guidelines. I try not to think of them as cheat days though because I am working on living this way for the rest of my life.

    On the week days I stay pretty well with in my daily points, but if I want a sweet or a glass of wine, I will work it into my day. I, luckily don’t have a lot of temptations on the weekdays so it keeps me in check.

  27. Rebecca
    April 13, 2011 at 5:18 pm (9 years ago)

    I don’t necessarily have “cheat” days but I definitely have days that are much higher in points than normal. And often on these days I use quite a few of my weeklies. When I was on ww a year ago and I hit a plateau I was given the advice to vary your points each day and that when you have a super high point day it helps keep your body guessing along with allowing you to satisfy your cravings 🙂

  28. snackgirlgoeshealthy
    April 13, 2011 at 6:25 pm (9 years ago)

    I def don’t have cheat days! I think it just causes you to mess up all your progress and then the next day BAM- deprivation vs an actual life style change!

  29. Elizabeth@GenuineEfforts
    April 13, 2011 at 6:40 pm (9 years ago)

    I have a dessert everyday which really helps me feel like I’m not losing out on something.

    What I do however is get a date in my mind and say that this day is my whatever day. Previously I have picked the Super Bowl, a few weeks ago it was a race day. I don’t go nuts but I usually go to a greasy-spoon type restaurant, but I try not to track and I try to eat without restraint.

  30. Lori (Finding Radiance)
    April 13, 2011 at 7:21 pm (9 years ago)

    I really, really dislike the term ‘cheat’. It implies a diet you will go off an on. I believe in working in the things you want. I would have a problem with allowing myself to have a day of whatever because I can surely pack away the food. I could easily undo any work I did the other 6 days.

    I don’t have treats every day, but knowing that I can have them *if I want* leads me to not want them so much after all.

  31. Amanda
    April 13, 2011 at 9:38 pm (9 years ago)

    Since I joined weight watchers in february I allow myself a cheat meal! I don’t use my poitns plus allowance points (I just don’t need to, I always feel plenty full with my 30 points) so on sunday I eat a healthy breakfast and lunch then splurge at dinner! I’ve always found that after my cheat meal I lose more weight. I don’t know if my body is just so happy with me for giving a little something extra that it’s rewarding me or what! In the past I did cheat days however, entire days of nothing but excessive eating, every meal, snack, drink, etc…and yeah then I always felt like crap the next day and usually ended up taking more than one day to get back on track. Needless to say my body didn’t reward me as nicely then!

  32. Nicole
    April 13, 2011 at 11:08 pm (9 years ago)

    Hey beautiful, I love you so much for your honesty! You’re so real in your writing, hiding absolutely nothing in your posts and it’s wonderful!

    I’ve realized, for me, that perfect moderation doesn’t exist. I make cookies, I eat one even when I’m full from dinner. I make banana bread, I binge on it randomly after work. So leaving foods like that out of my kitchen is more (and my hubby’s) thing, it keeps us on track and we don’t have fight temptation every time we open our fridge.

    And yes, if I eat one bite, or half a cookie at work, I’ll also eat more and more and more. So not even taking a nibble is important. And reminding myself that whole foods, fruits and plants, do so much better for the body than lame-o sugars and white carbs. Our bodies crave the whole stuff and thrive so much more on them!

    Have a happy week, take care!

  33. Lindsay
    April 14, 2011 at 10:18 am (9 years ago)

    I definitely have cheat meals. I eat really well Saturday afternoon through Friday afternoon, and then I have an indulgent meal for dinner on Friday and desert if I want it without counting calories, and then usually make pancakes for breakfast on Saturday. Sometimes I’ll have desert on Saturday if it fits into my calorie goal. This really works for me most of the time–my biggest downfall is if I’m PMSing! Then it’s hard not to eat whatever I want whenever I want.

  34. Monica
    April 14, 2011 at 10:47 am (9 years ago)

    First, I love the GPS analogy! That really strikes a cord with me.

    Second, I am looking forward to seeing the feedback on this question. I use to have cheat meals, but they never seemed to work for me because I couldn’t seem to make it to my one meal a week and would end up taking my cheat way too early in the week and didn’t accommodate for weekend plans that would ultimately impact my cheat. This is something I am still trying to make sense of is how to indulge in moderation.

  35. Erica
    April 18, 2011 at 10:40 am (9 years ago)

    Hey Beth-I just stumbled across your blog!! I love how you put the WW points with the meals you make. I am too doing the WW plan and love to try new foods. Keep up the good work (dont let one day trigger and determine how others will be)!

  36. Erica @ A Healthy Habit
    April 18, 2011 at 11:32 pm (9 years ago)

    Just caught up with this post and wanted to say that I instantly loved the GPS quote. I think that is really good to keep in mind.


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