Many ask if it is possible to have a cheat day on keto. The short answer is that it is entirely up to each individual. However, if you do choose a cheat day, here is what to expect and how to get back on track.
Cheat Day on Keto
After following a keto lifestyle for almost two years, my mindset regarding a cheat day on keto has changed. In the beginning, I went 100 days of eating keto without cheating. I knew my body needed that time to detox since I was addicted to carbs, and I didn’t trust myself to cheat. I was also very results focused and wasn’t interested in doing anything that might slow down that process. Proving to myself that I was stronger than carbs by staying on track over weekend getaways and vacations were incredibly liberating.
Mindset Shift From Cheat Days on Keto to Off Plan
After some time, I did choose to enjoy a day off plan and survived. This caused a mindset shift from focusing on a temporary ketogenic diet to a lifestyle change. Now, I don’t call them cheat meals. Instead, I refer to them as an off plan day(s) as “cheat” sounds negative. A negative mindset can sabotage a lifestyle change almost faster than food choices. Choosing to be intentional in my thinking has been essential to my weight loss success.
A part of changing from a cheat day mentality to an “off plan day” was thinking about how my kids perceived my food choices. I didn’t want them to look back over their life and remember that their mom never ate their birthday cake or that I quit making traditional holiday meals with recipes that had been handed down through generations because of keto. I’d rather my kids know that I generally eat very healthy and choose low carb foods but that a day off plan here and there isn’t the end of the world. I want them to see a strong, healthy, and disciplined mom who isn’t controlled by her “diet” or lifestyle. I can enjoy a day or days off plan for birthdays, holidays, or a vacation in moderation without it derailing my progress.
Choosing Food Freedom & a Healthy Lifestyle Mindset
My ultimate goal of eating keto was food freedom. I don’t want to be controlled by foods or even the fear of a “cheat day.” I don’t want my kids to see me consumed with my keto lifestyle or what foods I can or cannot eat, which is also one of the main reasons why I don’t track keto macros with an app. I’ve been many sizes over the years and have had unhealthy relationships with both food and my body image. Therefore, choosing food freedom and a healthy lifestyle mindset over a diet and an all or nothing mentality is crucial for me.
It’s Your Journey
I am not one to make a blanket statement about the ketogenic diet that is true for everyone. Following the keto diet is based on a strict regime to stay in ketosis for ultimate fat burning and weight loss. In full disclosure, choosing a day off plan can cause you to stall or delay being fat adapted. I understand that some people eat a strict keto diet for medical purposes and going off plan isn’t an option due to their health. At the same time, food addictions are real and for some people, a cheat day may cause a downward spiral. I am in no way encouraging a cheat day on keto in either of these cases. For all of these reasons, I consider to cheat or not to cheat on keto an individual choice that should be thoughtfully considered by each.
What about you? Can you have a cheat day on Keto? Will going off plan cause you to quit or spiral downward? How quickly can you get back into ketosis? What are the benefits of a cheat day on keto? You’ll find the answer to these questions below as well as what to expect if you do choose a day off plan and how to get back into ketosis.
Can you have a cheat day on keto?
It’s up to you. Some say no way. Never! I choose a different approach. If you can handle it and it won’t cause you to quit, then it’s up to you. I do choose days off plan here and there. In the beginning, I knew I couldn’t because it would be too tempting, but now I can choose a day or even a week off plan and go right back to eating keto without blinking an eye. I am at my goal weight and have maintained it for some time. I would suggest keeping in mind how long you’ve been eating keto and how much weight you need to lose ultimately.
How do I quickly get back into ketosis?
Mainly do what you did in the beginning, but I’ve also included several tips further in the post for getting into ketosis a little quicker.
How long does it take to get back in keto?
Typically, it takes 24 hours to a week or even longer depending on how long you binged on carbs and how much you ate. How long you’ve been in ketosis before cheating and if your body is fat adapted are also contributing factors. In short, there is no exact answer.
Will Cheating on Keto Cause Me to Quit?
Sincerely, this question can only be answered by you. If you are determined enough even a temporary setback won’t impact your long term success. Keep your health goals at the forefront of your mind and don’t allow a cheat day or a day off plan to stop you from achieving what you ultimately desire. So much of the battle in weight loss or a healthy lifestyle change is in the mind. Also, be kind to yourself as positive self-talk can make a significant impact on long term success.
What Happens When You Cheat on Keto
- Disappointment & Feelings of Failure – It’s a new day and mindset is everything. Beating yourself up can sabotage your long term success. Realize up front that if this is to be a lifestyle, you may need to make room for off plan days now and then.
- How Do I Get Back on Track? – After almost two years of following a keto lifestyle and being a part of many keto Facebook groups, I often see the following, “Help! I cheated and ate a gazillion carbs. What do I do now to get back on track?” The short answer is that you do what you did in the beginning. It’s as simple as that.
- Expect Cravings & Increased Hunger – You’ll likely start cravings carbs again for a few days and experience increased feelings of hunger. You’ve beat them before, and you’ll overcome them still. Stay focused and realize you are stronger than you think.
- You’ll Be Shocked When You Weigh – Don’t be surprised if the scale is up 6 lbs (or more) after a weekend of carb binging. It is highly unlikely that you gained 6 pounds of actual fat. Instead, you are dealing with water weight. Get back to eating keto again and stay off the scale for a week or so. Those extra pounds will fall off.
- Bloating for Days – Your belly will feel bloated, and you may experience tummy troubles. Some even say they feel yucky overall and brain fog. Your body can’t use all the glucose from the carbs, so glycogen gets stored again, which causes your body to store water. It’s a double whammy.
- The Keto Flu Strikes Again – The good news is that the Keto Flu is typically short-lived and the duration and intensity can often be minimized by proper supplementation through balancing electrolytes.
- Slow Down Weight Loss Progress or Stall Being Fat Adapted – The next couple of days after a cheat day(s) on keto you’ll spend getting your body adjusted to eating low carb and expelling water weight. You’ll most likely lose a week of potential progress and could stall being fat adapted.
The Benefits of a Cheat Day on Keto
- Some people have broken a stall with a cheat meal.
- You might realize the food(s) that you’ve been craving nonstop aren’t as good as you remember.
- You might be satisfied with much less. For me, when it has been weeks or months between off plan days, I might only be able to take a bite or two of a nonketo dessert as my tastebuds are very sensitive to sugar. Everything tastes way too sweet and rich.
- What you thought you had no control over isn’t as powerful as you once thought.
The Downside of a Cheat Day on a Keto Diet
- The scale could show a pretty significant increase causing great discouragement.
- You may find yourself in a downward spiral of carb cravings and struggle to get back to eating keto.
- You may deal with negative self-talk for a cheat day that might be hard to overcome.
- Your body may struggle to process the carbs causing significant tummy troubles.
- You may find yourself in an unproductive cycle of frequent cheat days where you don’t have any real weight loss progress.
5 Tips for Getting Back on Track after a Cheat Day on Keto (or longer)
Never fear! Tomorrow is a new day, and all is not lost if you do choose a cheat day. Here are a couple of tips that might make your transition back to low carb eating more successful.
- Intermittent Fasting – If you are fat adapted start by Intermittent Fasting to help deplete your glycogen stores and starve those carb cravings. If you haven’t been eating keto for very long, Intermittent Fasting might be tricky as intense hunger could lead to binging.
- Avoid Dehydration & Balance Electrolytes – Drink lots of water and be mindful of electrolytes to help you feel the best that you can.
- Get Your Body Moving– Exercise can help your body deplete glycogen stores. Ramp it up even more by exercising in a fasted state.
- Be Prepared – Make a meal plan, grocery shop, and plan for situations that might be challenging as you get back on track. These simple free keto meal plans may be helpful for inspiration to get back on the keto wagon.
- Don’t Be Afraid of Fat – You may need to up your fat for a few days to stay satiated. Fat keeps you full on a keto diet, which in turn can help fight through cravings.
Other Helpful Keto Resources:
- Guide to Getting Started on Keto
- 10 Reasons Why Your Weight Loss Might Be Stalled on a Keto Diet
- The #1 Thing That Can Affect Weight Loss (It’s not what you think!)
- What Making My Bed Taught Me About Weight Loss
- Understanding Different Types of the Keto Diet
- Keto Diet Success Stories