Plan a cheat day or just let it happen?


Do you plan for special occasions to indulge in carbs? Does it help to restrict ahead of time? For example, just one slice of pizza or scoop of ice cream. Or, do you try to resist all and hope for the best? I realize this is purely individual and some people can indulge once in a while others won’t stop. I took a break on vacation but mostly tried to keep my carbs low. Now, I am planning my birthday meal and was just curious what the consensus was from long term folks on planning ahead versus just remaining keto until you have a slip up (or never slip up).

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #2

If you are not a sugar addict, you could probably get away with a slice or three of birthday cake and then be able to stop. But if you are a sugar addict, one dose of sugar is likely to lead to an ongoing binge, which you might deeply regret. I have witnessed sober alcoholics destroy their lives by starting to drink again with “just one” beer or glass of wine or whatever.

And frankly, if your only reason for going keto was to lose some weight, a carb binge, however extended, may not be all that serious to you. But in my case, my reason for starting to eat this way was to reverse my incipient diabetes (which I successfully did), so I am wary of deliberately planning to raise my insulin level. After all, I’m rather attached to my fingers and toes, and if the price of keeping them is to give up sugar, grains, and starches, well then so be it.

(Butter Withaspoon) #3

Rather than planning to eat carbs, you could expect to sometimes slip up. That way you won’t throw in the towel and eat all the sweet treats at the party.
Planning a celebration with lots of keto treats where you over indulge in volume… well that could be good…?

I guess we all have to learn our carb tolerance. One person’s ok treat could be someone else’s disaster. Remember: you haven’t failed, you just did some more interesting research on your own body.

(Stuart Young) #4

Heresy! lol

As we all know, one scoop of Ice Cream is not an issue. One scoop every day for 20, 30, 40 years etc is the issue.

I am a proper sugar addict. The carb trap, and whatever excuses I will give myself to justify my massive weight gain lol. However, I don’t believe the severity of sugar addiction is up there with other addictions. It’s tough to break don’t get me wrong, and the fact you have to eat brings it’s own added problems. However, as you insinuated in your question, this has to be an individual choice.

I have fell off Keto twice before, after flying starts. The first occasion I was in hospital as my wife was poorly. Been there 48 hours, slept badly in a chair. Hadn’t eaten. And nothing in the vending machines was Keto friendly. I did find it ironic everything in a hospital vending machine was carb loaded. In the end, being tired and cranky won out and I succumbed to a jam flapjack. Boom! 3 months later I was still stuffing sugar in my face.

Another time after a couple of months of strict Keto, I decided randomly to allow a carb day. Again, I was using food as a reward. Well the consequence of that was devastating too. I think that decision cost me 5 more months of sugar ingestion.

It became clear to me that I had to change my approach. I know 1 scoop of Ice cream isn’t a problem. If I could just have 1 scoop and then leave it…

I think I have found a solution that works for me. I need to be able to have that bad item once in a blue moon, and not allow it to derail me.

I have a carb allowance. It is very much planned. And it incorporates my ridiculous ‘food as a reward’ mentality.

I won’t go into the full details, but I essentially have strict Omad/Keto days, at 5 a week. And 2 days more relaxed Keto days in which my carb allowance is upped, and I eat 2 or even 3 meals. It is all still Keto friendly though.

The psychological reward I have allowed myself is linked to my Omad days. 10 days of Omad = 1 free food item of my choice. And I can save them up for special occasions like birthdays. So 20 Omad days means on a birthday night out, I can have that slice of birthday cake, and a glass of beer with my steak.

I find that because these are ‘allowed’ within my eating plan, then I don’t feel any of the guilt I had with previous relapses. And that mentally makes it much easier to have that piece of cake, then carry on fasting/keto’ing the next day.

For me, as a sugar addict, eating sugar is dicey and needs to be planned. If I don’t, then the inevitable will happen. For others it is very different I am sure, and you will need to work out what’s best for you.

Good luck :slight_smile:


Cheat MEAL, not cheat DAY! If I want to eat Pizza, Fries, Cake whatever than I eat it, I it must be balanced on the other end. Once I eat that then for the rest of the day you gotta go low fat so you’re not storing from all the carbs you ate. Many times that will be my meal for the day and I won’t eat again until the next day. All depends what I ate and how much.

The other day the wife wanted that poor excuse for Italian food at Olive Garden for lunch, so I only had coffee up until that point, had a fist full of breadsticks, pasta, a desert that must have been 2k cals just by itself and that was the end of eating for that day. You gotta balance it out. I eat more carbs than most keto’rs and I’ve become very metabolically flexible doing so. My body doesn’t over react when it gets a tons of carbs and I can go from that right back to keto or not eating at all with not transition pains. No headaches, no loss of energy, no nothing which I think helps me from going on a carb binge after. I’ll still get some cravings sometimes but nothing like years ago when I’d go on a ravenous binge and try to eat the cabinet doors off.

(UsedToBeT2D) #6

I don’t cheat. But occasionally I fail in my commitment to no longer poison my body.

(Edith) #7

I usually have planned “cheats.” It’s not a whole day but it will be for an occasion such as a holiday dinner or some other kind of celebration like an anniversary or wedding.

I think if the cheat is just for one meal (and it was a conscious decision) and then you resolve to get back to bacon and eggs the next morning, it makes it easier not to go off the rails.

(Rebecca ) #8

Hello, my name is Rebecca and I’m a “Sugar/Carbaholic”…
I realize that everyone is different…in many ways.
Foodwise, I can’t really tolerate veering off the straight and narrow. I tried it recently, during the “Lock Down” and it wasn’t pretty. All of the side affects that had disappeared, returned. Headaches, sleep disturbance, body aches, low energy and moodiness. The crazy thing is, I didn’t even have to add in that much in the way of carbohydrates/sugar…just a potato or wild rice or 70% chocolate instead of 85%, but it still affected me negatively.
I fully realize I am physically/emotionally addicted to sugar laden substances (I won’t call them foods!) So I avoid them. It’s just a truth I have learned about myself. Once these things have been removed from my life, I don’t crave or even think about them. My health and well-being are very important to me! When it comes to holidays or special occasions, I have learned to enjoy the moment and my loved one (s) instead of the foods.
Please understand, everyone has their own tolerance and I am in no way saying what you should do…this is just me.
Good luck to you!


I am only 8 months in and coming to terms with the idea of never having some of my favorite foods again. Mostly I am keto because my husband’s doctor referred him to a weight loss doctor. She follows the pretty standard keto but puts the focus on 4 cups of veggies per day, then the keto approved foods. When I finally got in to see her, she also added in a calorie restriction (in spite of her standard paperwork stating otherwise). I am definitely in it for weight loss, however, I have been pre-diabetic for more than 15 years, that I know of.
I think the planning nature of my personality makes me more prone to feel worse about a slip up. I felt pretty upset on our vacation on the days where I had not planned a meal but strayed anyway (fish and chips along the coast were just irresistible). On days we had planned long in advance, it felt like I could easily start over the next day, with no regrets and stay on track. This is where i am right now but maybe, after a few years, i can end up in a different place, in which fresh fish and chips no longer calls to me.

@lfod14 how long did it take you to be able to deviate from the smaller carb totals and not have a negative reaction?

@Stuart_Young I think I agree with you right now. That level of planning is what I think will keep me on the right path. At least, I hope it will. I guess I will find out as I try it.


That is the issue for me too. I don’t want to feel like i “failed”. I think a well thought out decision might help me right now to stay on track. However, I hope to reach your level of commitment to my health. I admire your resolve.


Took a while of both eating “normal” carb meals at a somewhat regular interval and just eating more carbs in general. Probably about 6mo-1yr from when I started doing that until I figured out my body wasn’t flipping out over them anymore. Now even if I do push it bad I may have some cravings a day or two later but I won’t have the crashes and carb hangovers anymore.

I started with eating carbs around workouts since I’d burn them during, then usually every couple days just eating a good, but non keto meal a couple times a week. Always giving time to let everything to “settle” after.


I had a somewhat planned cheat meal today. It’s our wedding anniversary so we chose lunchtime to celebrate at one of our neighborhood restaurants. I tried to get the least carby dish on the menu that I would still enjoy. But each dish was still questionable. For example, the spinach salad (Split with DH) had a little fruit on top, but not a big deal because I would normally have a little fruit with my yogurt at home. The dressing, however, was sweet. Thankfully it wasn’t heavily dressed. He ordered crab cakes and I had a bite. Still no big deal. The main entree was a chicken jambalaya, but I’m assuming the tomato broth probably had sugar. I survived and enjoyed the time spent in celebrating our anniversary. But truthfully I enjoy eat my own cooking. So I guess for me cheat meals mean I just do the best I can.

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #13

First I need to say that I ate pretty standard SAD for 70+ years, with a 2-year hiatus 10 years previously, did no metabolic damage eating so and maintained my weight within the ‘normal’ range for my age, height, etc. I had no particular food addictions or cravings, although I had numerous ‘fav foods’ and enjoyed beer - I was a home brewer most of my adult life. I came to keto on the conviction that it was a better way to eat to maintain my health as long as possible. That said…

When I started keto I dropped cold-turkey all my previous carb-loaded fav foods, including beer. I felt no deprivation nor cravings for any of it. Didn’t miss it. Still don’t 3 1/2 years later. So I really do not understand so-called ‘cheat meals’ or ‘cheat days’, etc. Before anyone accuses me of being a food Nazi or an insensitive lout, note that I said I don’t understand not that I don’t accept we’re all different and have to deal with different issues. Just be aware that some of us don’t crave carbs and don’t think of carbs as a ‘reward’. This is just as normal as having carb cravings and the mentality that carbs are something rewarding. I really don’t care what anyone else eats or doesn’t eat nor why they do and don’t. Just as long as they grant me the same. That’s why I don’t like veg/vegans very much. They have a religion; I have a diet.

In the end, carbs serve no useful purpose. Accepting that fact might help resolving some issues.

(Todd Allen) #14

In 4+ years since going keto I’ve never “cheated” because my dietary rules are ones I can live with every day. I don’t have a calorie or strict carb limit but rather I don’t eat foods that aren’t good for me such as nothing made with vegetable oils, pulses, grains, refined starches or added sugars. When I feel like indulging myself there are plenty of options that fit within my self set limitations. I have no need or desire to “cheat” myself. Eating keto, many forms of fasting and exercise are tools for achieving my body composition goals. My goals are realistic so I have sufficient flexibility to sustain my choices and I have no interest in meeting someone else’s rules of purity.

(Neil) #15

Happy anniversary! :slight_smile: Restaurant food can definitely be tricky but it sounds like you went in with a plan and managed it well. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good!


Awww…thanks Neil! Yeah, I’m moving passed it, but it did leave me wanting to snack this afternoon. I made DH some keto chocolate chip cookies today and I had 1/2 to sample, but I wanted more.

(Jane) #17

That’s what I find annoying and why I limit my higher carb meals to a minimum. Doesn’t trigger cravings for me, but hunger. And one of the best benefits of keto for me is lack of hunger. Love it!


This is so true. The end result from that meal was it stimulated hunger. Hoping tomorrow is back to normal.

Next week is going to be another situation for me as we will be visiting family out of town. It’s been really easy for me to get into keto because of being isolated during the pandemic. I do my own cooking, very few times eating restaurant/takeout foods. But I can’t always control the situation so I need to find ways to cope so I can KCKO.


I started a few threads about falling off horses and wagons. I think the topics are related.

Then I read Todd’s post (above) and realised we have been given some of the deepest wisdom, that I at least have read on this forum.

The Todd Allen approach synthesises years of information inputs on the physiological and psychological aspects of mindfully improving one’s physical and mental health.

Many thanks to the primary author (@Pbash) for rekindling the ‘eating carbs’ = ‘cheating’ instinct many newbies feel. It’s a normal response to their newly planned and motivated change for self improvement. It can instigate FOSS - Fear Of Self Sabotage… best to head it off at the pasta before getting caught in an avalanche (eating). Fear ambushes from many guises. I would contend that fear with its cousin anxiety are controlled by nutritional ketosis. But that is another topic. The cheating revisit has brought us to many wise, updated and considered inputs from a number of experienced practitioners.

There are a lot of threads on ‘cheating’ the WOE. And who doesn’t want to cheat woe. Except our WOE is an acronym for way of eating. The number of posts and threads about cheating indicate a contender for the top consideration in the pursuit of health through food. The WOC = Way Of Cheating :wink:, may be as frequent an approach to LCHF. I understand it as the sometimes detrimental instinctive human approach to seeking efficiencies, comfort, and convenience in life. Or avoiding hardship, the way we say it is hormesis.

Oldies credentials. Am I an oldie? Started pursuing nutritional ketosis on December 24, 2014 after I watched my dad die over the duration of a year, following 5 years of decline, from the final stages of Alzheimer’s. I didn’t want to die like that if I could help it. I was obese, had symptoms of diabetes and a head full of highly conflicted human nutrition science. Sometimes I imagine where my health and self would be now, if I had continued SAD eating interspersed with low fat, calorie counting, starvation dieting that I had been repeating since I was 10 years old, when I was teased for being fat. Low Carb Healthy Fats (LCHF) eating saved me a lot of health issues woe. That is my first point in the psychology of ‘cheating’. If I was to think of food as a reward for a special event or for ‘being good’ (like my Labrador puppy), I flip that momentary thinking to reflecting on life experienced history. That helps me with impulse control.

It has been almost 6 years of LCHF and nutritional ketosis. One thing that has recently changed regarding the circular debates (and occasional arguments) about carbohydrate types and volume in a diet, is technology. These days cheat meals can be considered experiments in individual responses to a variety of food resources. If one wears a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), a much better birthday present than a cheat meal (but you can do both), one can see their individual response to food tests, plus can see the ramifications, such as the return of cravings, or the number of days it takes to stop thinking about birthday cake subsequent to the test and related to the results of the test (intensity and duration ) of blood glucose variation from a steady baseline.

So, with these technological changes, and shuffling a few letters around, these days the Way Of Cheating has become a Way Of Teaching.


(Allie) #20

Neither. If I fancy a treat I’ll have one, but it’s rare and never seen as a cheat as when it happens it’s a deliberate choice I have made.