Is it OK to cheat on your keto diet?
Should I be writing this? Should you even be thinking of having a Keto Cheat Day? The fact that you’ve arrived here tells me that you are planning on falling off the low carb wagon, or that you have already fallen off and hit the ground hard.
First, I think it’s time for a small confession: I do cheat on my keto diet. There, I’ve said it and the world hasn’t fallen apart. I have cheated and I haven’t doubled my body weight overnight, wrecked my chances of a healthy old age nor condemned myself to several very serious illnesses.
When I say cheat, I mean that once in a while I decide that I’m not going to eat low carb. That might be for a special meal, or even just for a slice of birthday cake. Sometimes life and people get in the way of your diet. Sometimes (like a birthday) you decide that accepting and enjoying that slice of cake is more important to you than sticking like a limpet to the side of your keto goals.
We all have social lives and hopefully a few friends too. From time to time you’ll feel like fitting in or letting your hair down. Occasionally you’ll just feel like something filled with carbs. A cake, a slice of pie or a meal of pasta or rice.
One big exception
However, sometimes cheating is going to have such a negative effect on you and your goals that it’s just not worth that cake or chocolate or what ever it is you’re craving. I know, it doesn’t seem fair but we both know it’s true and it needs to said.
If you have an ongoing health issue, if you’re type 1 or type 2 diabetic, epileptic or have some other illness you may have decided to make some health choices that require you to stay in ketosis all the time.
You will have done your research and already know that until your condition is under control or reversed, then a cheat day is the last thing you need in your life right now.
A cheat day will be over and done with in, well, a day. The effects of it are going to take several days to overcome, and you are not going to feel good. Emotionally you’re going to be disappointed in yourself and physically you are not going to be in as good a place as you were last week.
It can be put right, but it’s going to take a few days if you’re well adapted to fat-burning and up to a week if you’re not. When it’s your health on the line, you need to ask yourself if you want to do something that will set your health goals back, even if it is only temporary.
There will more than likely come a time when your health issue has improved to the point where you can consider the occasional cheat day, but for now you need to take the best care of yourself that you can.
I know it’s going to be difficult to follow from time to time, but if you have a health issue that bought you to the keto diet in the first place, then you owe it to yourself to stay with it until your condition is under control.
As already mentioned, it won’t be forever. Remind yourself that you’re worth the time and effort that it’s taking you to stay with your keto diet and in ketosis. Think about how ill your health problem has made you in the past, and know that you are doing an amazing thing by taking your health into your own hands and doing something about it.
Then take yourself out somewhere or treat yourself as a reward for your wise choice. Do something you enjoy, watch some TV, read a book, go for a run. Anything that you enjoy that isn’t going to bring you into contact with food.
The truth is when you wake up in the morning the feeling of wanting to inhale a few carbs will have gone, and you’ll be pleased that you didn’t give into temptation when it was almost dragging you out of the door to the nearest fast food place.
You’ll be pleased you stayed on the wagon.
So who can cheat?
If you are using the keto diet to lose weight or simply improve your health and increase your chances of living a long healthy life, the chances are that the occasional – and I do mean occasional – bit of cheating isn’t going to kill you.
Let’s be honest here, there are few cheats in life that you’re going to enjoy quite as much, and in the absence of an ongoing health issue, you can let this happen, deal with it and move on.
The keto diet is famous for making you feel clear-headed and good, and you’ll be wanting to get back into it as soon as you can.
Is there a good way to cheat?
Definitely! There is a good way to cheat and a bad way to cheat. Make certain that you only choose the first type and here’s why:
A good Cheat
A good cheat is a planned thing. You know in advance that you’re going to ditch the diet. It’s your mothers birthday, or a fun event with your work colleagues. Your best friend is throwing a party. There are events that are just too good to miss, and part of the fun will involve eating or drinking something that isn’t keto.
So you’ve decided, on this occasion, that you will eat a slice of cake or enjoy the buffet. You do need to plan in advance how big a cheat you’re going to give yourself. Is it just a piece of cake, or are you going to generally eat, drink and be merry for the entire event?
The trick here is to know what you are going to do in advance. That way, when you do eat the meal you won’t feel guilty. It’s what you planned to do, and you’re enjoying it.
Not feeling guilty means that you’re a lot less likely to think “I’ve blown it now, I may as well eat everything in sight”
Believe me, we’ve all been there.
Let yourself eat whatever you decided on, plus a little wriggle room won’t hurt either. A planned cheat like this is not going to cause harm, and there isn’t a need to be super strict with yourself all the time.
You should have a plan ready for the next morning too. Keep well within your macros, and keep yourself busy. The rise in your blood sugar the day before will probably have you feeling hungry in the morning. Do something to keep your mind off food, and remind yourself that the feeling of hunger is only a temporary thing.
You shouldn’t cut back on your food, there is no need to do this. Continue with your normal eating regime and you will get back into ketosis. If you regularly check your ketosis level, this might be the time to give testing a miss.
You know you’re not going to be in ketosis, so why make it hard on yourself. Wait a few days before you start the testing again. If you’ve been on the keto diet for a while, it might only take a day or two to get back on track.
The bad cheat
You’ve been doing the keto diet for a while and you’re reaching all your health and weight loss goals. Now you’ve been invited to a wedding.
Even though you’re doing well you decide that you’re not going to allow anything that isn’t keto to pass your lips for the entire event. You’re even thinking of packing a box with some plain roast chicken and a few eggs, just in case there isn’t anything suitable at the buffet table.
You arrive at the wedding and all goes well, who doesn’t love a wedding? Then later at the reception you’re having fun but you can’t help but notice that the buffet looks amazing. As time goes on you start to think that “amazing” isn’t a good enough word for it, that buffet is the best you’ve ever seen!
I don’t have to overdo this point, you already know where I’m going with this. Sooner or later, probably sooner, you are going to fall on that buffet table like a cheetah landing on a gazelle in the Serengeti National Park. A cheetah that hasn’t eaten in a week.
The results are not going to be good. This is the worst way to cheat and you are going to pay the price. Chances are that you are going to eat a lot of food, and it’s all going to make you feel terrible in the morning.
This type of cheat is so out of control that you probably ate way more than if you had been a bit more realistic, and decided to go easy on yourself for the duration of the event.
There are always going to be times when we just want to have fun with our friends, even if it’s not exactly the best for our health.
The answer is to plan and always know in advance what you’re going to do.
Get back on track straight after a cheat
At first glance, this seems so obvious that you may be wondering why anyone thought you’d need to be reminded.
However, not getting straight back to your keto diet is the biggest single reason why a cheat day sometimes turns into a cheat week or even several cheat months.
It’s a lot easier done that you’d think, and make sure you don’t fall into this trap. It happens because you had a bad cheat, and then you said a few negative things to yourself:
- I’m useless at keeping to a healthy diet
- I’m a failure
- I’ve ruined the diet now, I may as well stay off it
- I’m so hungry after that cheat, I need more food
Catch yourself saying these things, and get the thought out of your head as soon as you can. Leave your ego behind you and accept that you made a mistake.
Work out what went wrong, take the steps needed to get back on track, and move on.