Q&A with a Dietitian: Fasting After a Cheat Day?

How tempting it is to want to fast after a cheat day?

Picture this.

You’re on a diet, eating very low calories, working your bum off in the gym, and you are craving all your favorite foods. You pick a day (usually Saturday) to go all out; aka there are no rules, you eat whatever you’re craving and then some.

But the plan doesn’t go accordingly because…

The guilt creeps in, making it feel like you did something wrong and now have to make up for it. You really wanted that extra slice of pizza or burrito, but now you’re beyond full and your thoughts start racing. Even though you didn’t intend on stuffing yourself, you do and physically and mentally you feel like garbage.

You start questioning what you’re doing, if you just “ruined all your progress,” and even start to think it might just be easier to throw in the towel.

The good news?

This is a common thought process post cheat day because well, you’re human.

However, this mentality creates an unhealthy relationship with food and your body. The cycle begins again when you feel the need to make up for what you did by fasting a whole day after a cheat day, or maybe even a cheat meal. 

But is fasting really the solution, or is there another approach that relieves you from the mental torment on a diet?

Cheat Days

Cheat days, the notorious indulgence after days of deprivation. As previously discussed, it’s a common strategy in many diet plans, allowing individuals to go all out and satisfy their cravings.

Let’s weight out the pros and cons.

Pros of Cheat Days

Psychological relief from strict dieting

Again usually those who are incorporating cheat days NEED a day to eat more calories because they’re starving throughout the week.

Temporary satisfaction of cravings

A cheat day provides some relief that life won’t always be this way and you can eat the foods you crave, however, only when it’s specified in your calendar.

Potential metabolic boost

Some believe that a cheat day will help to ignite your metabolism as you’re refueling your body and muscles for the next 5-6 days on your diet.

Cons of Cheat Days

Overconsumption leads to guilt

The need to “fast” is because you overdid your cheat day, therefore, needing to “take away” or punish your body.

Disruption of consistent eating patterns

Usually individuals do well with a structured schedule. It helps us be more productive and can lead to consistency (in all aspects of life). Incorporating a cheat day throws off these patterns and makes it more difficult to “get back on track.”

Possible negative impact on long-term goals

To follow this pattern long term is very difficult and I do not recommend this strategy for weight loss or fat loss. Those who accomplish their goals and sustain their progress have built habits that allow them to incorporate foods they crave into their lives without feeling the need to binge on them. And oftentimes, when you find balance, you don’t crave food as much as you did before. You just start living a healthier lifestyle.

Impact on social life

Cheat days can be limiting and impractical. What if your social plans fall on a day before your designated cheat day? The rigid structure may lead to deprivation and overindulgence. Enter carb cycling or mindful eating as flexible and sustainable options.

Fasting and Social Media

Fasting, often portrayed on social media as the ultimate solution for weight loss. However, the emphasis is on eating less without considering the nutritional aspect. It’s time to question whether this approach is truly beneficial or if there’s a more sustainable alternative.

As discussed above, fasting SHOULD NOT be a way to punish or “take back” what you did the day before. This can lead to disordered eating patterns and that is why this is not sustainable long term.

Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, is different and deserves a whole blog post on its own! (Stay tuned)

Answering the Question: Do You Need to Fast After a Cheat Day?

No, you don’t.

After working with hundreds, if not thousands, of clients over the past 10 years, cheat days WILL NOT make a difference in your diet. Cheat days can actually have the opposite effect and ultimately, cause you to continue yo-yo dieting.

Instead of framing it as a cheat day, should consider incorporating foods you love into your diet. This approach allows for flexibility and eliminates the thought process that you have to “cheat” on your diet.

So What Do You Do If You Overdo It On Your Cheat Day?

First off, stop your spiraling thought process before it begins.

What do I mean by that?

If you start to feel the guilt or shame, stop this thought pattern and think about what you can learn from the previous day.

Ask yourself a few questions: What did I “overdo”? Was there something I could’ve done differently that would’ve make me feel better today? Is this the right strategy for my diet and my mental health?

Or did you step on the scale after a cheat day and see the number shoot up a few pounds?

This is usually what causes panic in those who have cheat days. If you are incorporating cheat days, you SHOULD EXPECT the scale to go up. You’re increasing your body’s glycogen stores (carbohydrates), therefore, causing temporary weight gain from water.

After you’ve sorted through your thoughts, have some grace for yourself. You’re human.

Take a deep breath and get back into your normal routine. Negatively dwelling on your actions will not help you advance, it will hold you back, and could even cause you to binge eat.

But the ultimate problem with cheat days, is that it is not sustainable.

It is possible to adhere to a calorie deficit for weight loss, but only if you’re incorporating healthy, NOT harmful strategies.

However, if you’re severely underrating, no strategies will work long term.

Warning Signs of An Extremely Low Calorie Diet

It is important to note that a drastic change in calories or eating less than 1200 calories for women or 1500 calories for men a day can negatively impact your weight loss efforts.

If you experience any extreme fatigue, excessive hunger, irritable mood, and insomnia (to name a few), this means you are eating too little for your needs.

With all that said, working towards improving your daily habits (diet, exercise, sleep, etc.) will have a greater benefit than going through the vicious cycle of losing weight quickly due to a very low calorie diet then to gain the weight back anyways.

Speaking of, there is a better way..

Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is a departure from diet culture mentality. It’s about enjoying foods in moderation, not driven solely by aesthetic goals, but by how they make you feel physically. This transformative approach may take time, but it liberates you from the guilt associated with cheat days all while seeing the results you desire!

Stay tuned for a mindful eating blog post!

Looking to stay up-to-date on all the new blog posts? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive weekly SOUND weight loss tips from a Registered Dietitian.

Click here to subscribe!

In conclusion, the concept of fasting after a cheat day is rooted in a punitive mindset towards food. Instead, consider the liberating alternatives, such as mindful eating. This approach empowers you to enjoy the foods you love without the baggage of guilt. Remember, finding balance takes time, but the freedom from restrictive diets is worth the journey.

Looking for breakfast options that will help keep you full until lunch time?

Get your FREE copy of my 5 high protein breakfast recipes, that are my personal favorites, below!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top