Cheating on Keto is one of the biggest things people new to the way of eating are curious about. Some diets factor in cheat days, and some people believe in "YOLO" meals.
All photos in this post are of keto-friendly foods.
I believe Keto is a lifestyle that challenges and reshapes your relationship with food, but I also understand that that's easier said than done. Some keto-ers are stricter than others, but it's important to remember that Keto is not "one-size-fits-all."
As far as cheating goes, some people fall under the philosophy of, “Well, I wouldn’t cheat on my husband, so why would I cheat on my diet?” I get it. That’s very noble, but let’s be real here...your husband isn’t a craft donut baked fresh in your hometown (and if he is, I’m hoping that you’ve cashed in on a big-time television series about your life by now).
Two things that are very serious and difficult to combat are our curiosities and our traditions. In a perfect world, you will 100% stick to Keto for the rest of your life with zero indulgences, but the longer I’m on this journey, the more I realize that this just isn’t realistic for A LOT of people.
And because of how many people choose to indulge, they end up falling off the wagon completely or declaring that Keto is either too hard or just doesn’t work.
I’m not advocating for carb ups or giving you permission to cheat, but let’s just make one thing clear: indulging in a carby food is not a sin, it is not illegal, and it does not mean that you’ve failed.
Recently my perspective on Keto cheating has evolved. I still believe in the motivational words I wrote in Why You Shouldn't Cheat On Your Diet This Weekend, but I also want to provide a practical message for the folks who are trying to reach health goals and feel like eating strict Keto just isn’t sustainable.
The last thing I want you to get out of your Keto journey is resentment. Resentment is a powerful feeling that can cause you to shut down completely, and if not eating that craft donut baked fresh in your hometown is going to cause you to become bitter over your low carb journey as a whole, I guess you need to ask yourself if it's really worth abstaining in the first place.
Everyone has choices, even when temptation is high. So here are 5 ways you can cheat on Keto, and considerations for each:
Say you’re at work and it’s Cindy from Accounting’s birthday and everyone enjoyed cake and ice cream earlier and you held out and told everyone that you’re not hungry or your stomach hurts or you need to get back to your desk and now you’re back in the break room filling up your water bottle and you’re salivating because there’s a fat piece of cake sitting on the table with your name on it and...you gobble it up.
Instead: What if you make sure your desk is fully stocked with Keto friendly goodies like Quest Cookies or something from this month's Keto Krate? Might those substitutes be enough to help you avoid the temptation?
Screw It Cheating
This can happen, for example, after you step on the scale and don’t see any change after a week of strict tracking and intense exercise. You might think Keto isn’t working for you, and all this time you could’ve been eating Ben & Jerry’s instead of Halo Top because you weight the exact same as you did before. You might drive to the store to get a load of carbs to drown your sorrows in.
Instead: Consider the changes going on in your body that you can’t even see. Weight loss is not linear, and it can also take a good amount of time. Take measurements and photos to track changes over time. Also, try asking a roommate or partner where they notice changes. Sometimes you just need another set of eyes.
Late Night Booty Call Cheating
You’re bored...maybe browsing Netflix at home alone...you know what would make this night perfect...a pizza. But you don’t have any almond flour so you can’t make Fathead Pizza Pockets. As you’re scrolling through your social media feed you see an ad for Pizza delivery...a code for 50%? Oh snap! It lures you in, and maybe you plan to only eat the toppings...but when it gets there you’ve gotta have the whole thing, baby...and it’s gone before you know it.
Instead: Try to make sure your pantry is stocked with quick and easy goods so that you can whip up something fast when you’re feeling the urge. Consider that if you make something at home you won’t be spending money on food that will make you feel crummy, plus delivery fees, plus tips!?
Carefully Planned Cheating
If you MUST indulge, I would advocate for this method or the next one. I know I keep going back to the craft donuts baked fresh in your hometown. That’s because there’s an AMAZING donut shop in my hometown and every single time we’ve gone to visit my parents for the past several years, we’ve made a stop. It’s a tradition and something that we bond over.
I’m not saying you have to do this, but if you know that this is your one indulgence, one tradition that will make you feel sad, left out, stressed, or resentful, carefully planned cheating might work for you SOMETIMES. And it can look a lot better for you today than it did before you started your low carb lifestyle.
Maybe you commit to just having ONE donut, where you might (let’s just be honest) have eaten four or six before.
If you plan things out carefully, I don’t feel like it’s quite the same as going off track, especially if you commit to your carefully planned cheat being a very rare thing.
Going Over Macros Cheating
This is when you feel like indulging, but instead of eating foods you don’t eat anymore you simply eat more of Keto-friendly foods than you usually do. Maybe you’re feeling especially hungry, so you have an extra serving of Keto White Chicken Chili or your sweet tooth is really nagging you so you eat some extra Keto Lemon Bars.
You might go over your calories, you might go over your carbs for the day, but by eating foods that agree with your body and don’t spike your blood sugar, I’d argue that you’re better off in the long run.
You definitely don’t need cheat days or cheat meals to be successful on Keto, but again, this is a resource for people who feel like there is no other way.
Even though it might make it harder to stick to your Keto lifestyle, indulging every now and then does not mean you’ve failed.
Keep calm and Keto on!