5 Simple Tips for Cheat Day

I’m coming into week 4 of slow carb eating, and I have to admit the cheat-day lead-up each week is quite an exciting time for me. Not only for the food, but also because it means the weekend is near, and all those great weekend activities are on their way again, with the welcome rest break from the working week.

Of course, packing lots of fun into a weekend can mean that ideas of a successful slow carb cheat day can actually be a bit more difficult to achieve than expected. Recently, I’ve found that a couple of my cheat days have coincided with catching up with friends, being away from home for long periods, which has meant a little more care has been needed, to actually make sure I get to eat all of the ‘bad’ food! I really believe in a successful cheat day, to make the rest of the week work it’s magic. Read on for these 5 simple tips to make sure you get the most out of your cheat day each week.

Remember to download the printable Cheat Sheet for Cheat Day Success.

Tip 1. Have a plan, but don’t overplan your food.

So many things work best with a plan. And yet so many fun things are fun because they are not planned. So that leaves us stuck – our fun cheat day needs to be a success, but planning it makes it feel a little less fun. Solution: don’t get too regimented about it all, but have some general goals. Examples: eat a whole personal pizza, indulge in 2x varieties of favourite candies, cook one meal with the ingredients in the ‘cheat cupboard’.

Tip 2. Keep an eye on the clock

In my last 2 cheat days, I’ve found it difficult to eat enough in the middle of the day. If you take a look at Tim Ferriss’ example in The Four Hour Body, you’ll note that he kicks off at lunchtime, and then has a fairly sustained effort over the afternoon and evening. I’ve found it harder to find the food during the day, and end up at dinnertime realizing that I’m hungry!

Tip 3. Don’t feel hungry.

This is a surefire sign that you’re not doing cheat day right. It’s ok to have cravings for foods, but that’s different to hunger. If you are genuinely hungry, at any point during cheat day (from lunchtime onwards), then you’re denying yourself something. Loosen up! Cheat day is where you need to go off the rails. As a reformed withholder of food pleasures, I realize now that there’s a great mental gain in just eating the whole damn Snickers bar, and on slow carb, your body needs this as it’s reset. A nibble on 90% dark chocolate maketh-not a cheat day!

Tip 4. Enjoy your day’s activities

The main thing is to not destroy your day by focussing too much on food. That’s the point of having your loose plan, and having an awareness of time. These two things mean your day shouldn’t get derailed due to food requirements. The rest of the week probably has some challenges in this regard, so cheat day is the day to be not thinking in minutes or cups of beans.

Tip 5. Cover your butt so you can relax

For anybody having trouble with the mental aspects of cheat day, I would guess it’s due to the gains made during the week, and the perception that cheat day will ruin any benefits of your hard work. This is especially true on your first cheat day. My advice here: Treat the first 2/3 weeks as an experiment. Have absolute belief that the regime will work, but your fallback is that if, for a universe-exploding, magnetic-poles reversing reason, you are the 1 person that the slow carb diet doesn’t work well for, that the likelihood is you won’t have gained weight over this time, and you’re are no further behind than where you started, but with useful interesting information. The reality is, however, that it does work, and that cheat day is just as vital to it’s success as those 24 meals of canned beans and chicken you ate all week long. The benefits are both mental and physical, and cheat day isn’t something we all do because of mental weakness.

Bonus Tip for the very concerned.

If you’re still having trouble with the whole concept, then consider a ‘protection plan’ or ‘insurance activity’ list. Basically, a list of notes to yourself, about how you can minimize any backwards-progress done by cheat day. This would include: PAGG, GLUT4 exercises (like air squats and wall presses), grapefruit juice, coffee, yerba mate, cinnamon, licorice tea (stimulates digestion), lemon water before meals, a workout in the afternoon if you’re keen. All of these help your body use more food for muscles, minimize any food storage as fat, and still allow you to be totally relaxed about what’s going in your mouth.

Have a read-through of the list again, the day before your next cheat day, and think about writing yourself a bit of a game-plan, so you don’t have to actively think about what you’re doing on the day. I find it really easy to refer back to instructions I created in the past, because its mindless – I’m just following along (executing vs planning for those business-types amongst us).

Hope this helps! And all the best with your slow carb four hour body. Leave a comment if you have some more tips for a successful cheat day!

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30 Responses to 5 Simple Tips for Cheat Day

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  • nancy says:

    Just finished the book and started on the slow fat diet last week. I have found your website really helpful – particularly the photos of sample meals. I have a few questions that I can’t seem to get answered. Wondering if you can help. What about Almond Breeze Original instead of cream in coffee? Whey Isolate Protein (lactose free) to supplement my protein? Salmon? Cottage Cheese? (this is mentioned a few times but not definitively) I looked for Ghee but could only find Coconut Oil mixed with Ghee. What about Coconut Oil? I know it is saturated. How about Stevia?
    thanks for any thoughts on the above.

    • Luke says:

      Hi Nancy,

      Thanks for your comments and questions.

      We’re really glad the meal photos helped you out – they do a lot of explaining, very quickly! We hope you have some friends to share them with too.

      I would suggest that 1 teaspoon of Almond Breeze vs 1 teaspoon of cream would be fine. Either way, the idea is that its a very small amount, and that you’re working on reducing it to nothing over a few weeks.

      Whey protein isolate to supplement protein I think would be fine, though with a warning – most are a/ flavored with artificial flavors and b/ most have artificial sweeteners and/or sugar/glucose/fructose in them so they taste good. A lot are aimed at gym-goers who want to bulk. Not what the slow carb is about really. So have a look for an all natural, unflavored whey protein, and check it’s nutritional breakdown and its ingredients list to be safe. They do exist, but you might have to look a little harder.

      Just this evening a friend mentioned coconut oil as being a great cooking oil, but I’m not sure about using it on the slow carb diet. I know Tim suggests macadamia oil – so maybe try to find that? We’ve been using plain old regular butter for our eggs, and some chicken dishes, and not only enjoy the flavor but haven’t seen any downsides.

      Stevia is a great option if you have a sweet tooth that is hard to cure. Again, like the milk in coffee, eventually it’s best to phase it out, but it’s a good stop-gap. We will say here: less is more! Start very small, and taste as you go. Stevia can be overpowering with just a small amount, so test it out a bit to get a feel for what you like.

      All the very best in your 4 Hour Body journey!

      Cheers,
      Luke

      • Diana says:

        Hi Luke, I am having trouble with cheat day. Am I wrong to just eat the things I don’t get to eat –like pizza, rice, fruit dessert, gin etc., without having a HUGE calorie spike. I definitely have a higher calorie day–but it’s nothing like what Tim ate in his book. Will I be losing out if I simply double my calories that day?

        Thanks,
        Diana

        • Luke says:

          Hi Diana,

          Good question, it’s something lots of people wonder about. Tim’s example was only one example – and he was trying to prove a point that weekend. I don’t expect every weekend is a 6000 calorie monster like the one documented. If you’re doubling your calories, you’re doing great! It’s mainly about you having a mental break from the beans, etc.. and also you body getting in more carbohydrates than usual. In this way, the slow carb diet is a modified cyclical ketogenic diet, though the carb levels are perhaps a little high for the the body to become adapted to burning fat for fuel. These diets rely on lower carb days during the week, and then a ‘carb loading’ on a weekend day.

          All the best!
          Luke

          • Diana says:

            Thanks Luke! That helps me a lot, and the good news for me is today is cheat day. I have been craving chicken wings and beer, today I get to have them!

          • Luke says:

            Hey Diana,
            You’re welcome!
            Hope you enjoyed your wings and beer ;)

  • Jason says:

    Hi, I’ve been doing the 4 hour body diet for 4 weeks now and I’ve lost 12 pounds. I’m excited about that because it appears to be all fat. I usually lose a lot of muscle when I go on diets.

    Here’s my question for you…I feel great during the week, but immediately after my cheat day the next day, I have diarrhea for about 2 – 5 times. After that, I’m fine. It has happened only the day after my cheat day…but 4 cheat days in a row. I don’t have any diarrhea during the week. It seems the less I cheat on my cheat day, the less severe the GI pain and diarrhea. I’ve been following the diet very strictly for the past month, and I only cheat on the cheat days. I’m wondering if you guys have had this experience, or if maybe it is just me.

    thanks,
    Jason

    • Luke says:

      Hey Jason,

      Thanks for leaving your comment.
      I expect it’s not the most enjoyable thing to be happening and it would start to make you not enjoy your cheat days nearly as much as you should be.
      Whilst we have experienced stomach cramps, and some discomfort, things haven’t got as serious as what you’re experiencing. Personally, I actually find the opposite, and nothing moves until Monday morning, which I don’t enjoy.

      I have a couple of suggestions, but of course if you’re concerned about your health, always consult a professional:
      1/ It could be the fast change in the amount of oils, and sugars you’re consuming, both of which affect digestion in a big way (esp. sugars)
      2/ It could be revealing some kind of food intolerance you weren’t aware of before, and because you no longer eat that food during the week, the effect is much more noticeable when you do eat it on your cheat day. Common intolerances include: dairy, wheat, gluten (wheat, barley, rye, oats, etc), peanuts, fructose (fruit sugar, and in many north american products), and the list goes on. See if you can narrow down the food that’s giving you this reaction.

      All the best with it – sounds like you’re doing it well, and I hope reaping the rewards, other than the upset stomach once a week. I hope you can put your finger on the cause and then enjoy your cheat days more!

      Luke

      • Jason says:

        Thanks for the insight Luke! I’ll experiment with what I eat on my cheat days to see if I have any food intolerances.

        • Luke says:

          You’re welcome Jason. All the best with it – I hope you have good success in narrowing it down to something in particular, or at least knowing what kinds of foods set you off. Luke

    • Luke says:

      Jason in case you’re following comments, Denise just left a thoughtful one here: http://www.fourhourbodycouple.com/2011/01/24/5-simple-tips-for-cheat-day-on-the-move/#comment-839

  • Andrea says:

    Love it. I’ve only had one cheat day so far and you’re right – it was hard to remember to eat…but mainly it just felt wrong! I started Saturday night by going out and having a ridicules number of cocktails, then ate awesomely terrible tater tot nachos for breakfast. The question is, does that work? Can cheat day start at night? I’d rather go balls to the wall one might a week and get to cheat during my hangover then eat like crap and top it off with a rowdy night. Thoughts? Email me or check out my pbworks page.

    • Andrea says:

      I didn’t hear back from you guys, so I don’t know if my cheat day tactic is kosher or not… This week (my 2nd cheat day,) I changed it up by starting Saturday morning instead of Saturday night. I actually lost a pound after my cheat day…which is weird. But I’m sure it’s dehydration from the booze.

      Anyhow – I’d love some feedback from you guys. I’m keeping track of everything here:

      yayhowfun.pbworks.com
      Photo Food Journal: http://www.flickr.com/photos/the4hourbody/

      • Kat says:

        Hi Andrea! Sorry we haven’t replied! We didn’t mean to ignore you.

        I’ve had a read through your blog! I love the way you write. Its really great. Keep up all that updating because there’s so many people who want to hear everyone’s success or lack thereof. I have a few questions and some ideas that could help! At least, I hope they do.

        You might want to try to not eat so many nuts. I gotta admit when I read that they were “okay” I was like, HALLELUJAH! a normal food! But, actually, I believe that a few women had the same issue: when they were using them in their every-day lives they gained weight. The nuts aren’t meant to be eaten as much during the week as they load in a ton of fat.

        How much are you eating in the morning, and how quickly? This was a clincher for me. Before, I was eating just “breakfast” when ever I was done in the shower: took my time, but its actually much more effective to be sure to get your 30 grams of protein as quick as half an hour after you’ve got up. Otherwise the rest of your day could be more difficult, resulting in bigger meals later, and your body might start allocating more food energy to fat storage. My body seems to be stuck on that mode at the moment. ;)

        This week, maybe try not eating nuts and see if that changes something. I’m going to send Luke in your direction and see if he can give you some advice as well, as he’s my guru. ;)

        Have a great week, and good luck! Please keep in touch!

        • Andrea says:

          KAT!!!! Thank you…a real answer! Everyone I’ve spoken with has basically just said, “just keep at it…great job…” Blah blah blah. I didn’t want a cheerleader, I wanted some real info – and you gave it to me! I will cut out nuts…and throw away the giant bag of pistachios I just bought. Oops.

          As far as breakfast, I eat it immediately and always have at least 2 egg whites – usually with one yolk – and some sort of chicken/turkey, with beans. I’ve been thinking about drinking muscle milk instead, with just like 2 eggs. Thoughts?? I’ve been wondering about Muscle for after workouts too…I’d LOVE some advice on whether or not that’s kosher on 4HB!??!!?!

          Ugh, I’m so frustrated. It’s ridiculous that something so small (literally…nuts are small,) can sabotage progress. If you check out my pbworks page this week, you’ll see that I may be abandoning 4HB this week and instead drinking protein shakes and/or Slim Fast because I feel like a heffer and need to be at the pool this weekend while we’re visiting Phoenix for spring training. Draining some liquid meals for a few days will definitely reel in the extra tummy I’m sporting. Maybe a bad attitude, but a necessary evil at the moment.

      • Luke says:

        Hey Andrea, stoked to hear you lost a pound! I think you’re probably right about the dehydration.. and of course its an easy fix, which is nice. Most people start seeing their weight loss resume by Tuesday at the latest (for a Saturday cheat day), and then it continues on until Saturday again. There’s other benefits to the cheat day too, that aren’t so obvious, like improved Thyroid function, metabolism and some sanity! All the best and thanks for the pics/journal – keep at it!

    • Luke says:

      Hey Andrea,

      Thanks for asking about cheat days – I’m not sure exactly if starting one night and continuing the next morning will work.. just because I haven’t seen it written about anywhere. With that long break in the middle (sleeping), I guess you could argue that’s like starting cheat day by eating a big lunch, and then having a break, then having a big dinner later on.

      If someone started their cheat day with a big lunch at 12.30pm, and you start your night at 7pm, then you’re 6.5 hours behind. That means if someone is finishing their cheat day at 1am, then you’re finishing at 7.30am.. I’m not sure if you’d be done with the burrito breakfast by that point? If not, then the amount of time your day is spread across is longer than a regular cheat day, so there may be a little more time to recover from it. I saw a comment about extending cheat day to 24 hours, and though it was mentioned that you could, it definitely came with a heads-up that it’s not as effective, as that length of cycle starts to mean lots more food is getting stored vs burnt.

      • Andrea says:

        Thanks for answer – I actually don’t really eat anything bad until the next day…I just start my cocktailing the night before. I’m realistic about my lifestyle and going out at least 1 night a week isn’t something I’m going to cut out, especially if I’m good the rest of the week. I didn’t realize 24 hours was bad though…I’ll definitely cut it back to like 16 hours…is that the right amount of time?

  • Theo says:

    Hello everyone,

    Actually Tim has mentioned in his blog that the cheat day should not be divided by sleep since this could lead to fat gain.

  • Denise says:

    Jason,
    It’s also possible that tons of fat on cheat day is taxing your gall bladder which can cause GI pain and loose stools. You’d know it by a really bad smelling stool. If that’s your case, you might want to learn about gall bladder health as I can’t begin to advise on that.
    d

  • Sophie says:

    Hi Luke,
    I am on my 3rd day of the slow carb and it all seems to be going very well. I just wanted to ask about the cheat day. I am so nervous about it as psychologically how is it going back to the slow carb diet afterwards? I am worried that I will get the taste back of all the foods that I love and have got me to needing to lose some pounds! Therefore is it really hard to get the flow back afterwards. I will do the PAGG and excercises to reduce the impact but as I say the psychological impact maybe really hard. Have other people had this issue?
    Any ideas would be much appreciated.
    Thanks
    Sophie

    • Luke says:

      Hi Sophie,

      Thanks for your comment. Other people have definitely had the same concerns, and I did too. My first cheat day I ate chocolate bars and things that I hadn’t had for years, literally. It was quite an event! Then I realized, that nothing terribly bad happened, and that if I was on a plan that had this built into it, to achieve success, then I didn’t need to fear food cravings, or worry about having a taste for sweets, because there is a time and place for them, and that’s ok. It is so much better than feeling like those things should never be eaten. Sweets, treats, fruits and white carbs taste great, and so having them once a week is a great balance between health and reaching goals, and enjoying foods that you like to eat. If you have a craving on Wednesday for something, write it on your cheat list, and then come back to it on Saturday.

      If you can get a few weeks under your belt, I’m sure you’ll start feeling a little more relaxed about the rhythm of the slow carb diet, and come to love the weekly food, and the cheat day food equally.

      All the best!
      Luke

  • Robert says:

    I’m into my 5th week with SC diet and I’m pretty strict with it. I’ve lost about 10 lbs. 7 of those were in the first week. My goal is 5 more lbs but they are pretty stubborn. I have also, in the last week started in the gym. The only place I’m fudging is on the beans. I am eating a lot of protein, meat, vegetables, etc., but having a hard time putting away those beans. So I’m wondering if that is what is stalling the continued weight loss. Is there any substitute for beans? Thanks.

  • Kate says:

    Hi everyone
    I’m a month into my 4HB (actually, 32 days!) but it feels like so much longer! I have totally changed the way I eat and as a result have really changed the way I look. I don’t have any scales at home and have been too cheap to go and buy some (I also have fear of scales!) but I can really see the change in my body after such a short time and all of my clothes fit better: skinny jeans are now loose, shirts are not popping open, short dresses have been pulled out from the back of the cupboard. Life is great!
    But… I am really not enjoying cheat day, or, as I call, it Eat-What-You-Want-Day. I am very good at following rules and actually get a huge amount of satisfaction of sourcing the right supplements, stocking up on beans and greens, “ticking off” the boxes on my daily “cheat sheet” so when Eat-What-You-Want-Day comes around I get really anxious! Two Saturdays ago I did “okay”. I had a croissant and café latte with friends for for brunch. Delicious. Then for a late lunch I had a tofu stir-fry with a Chinese sauce served with white rice and nearly gave myself a panic attack! I was too STRESSED by eating it to enjoy it! Dinner was out again with friends. We went to a fancy burger place where I, once again, felt really stressed about the bread and cheese on my burger. Oh, I had a side of mac’n’cheese which was so good I didn’t have time to feel bad (note that I do not live in USA so burgers and mac’n’cheese are a gourmet novelty!)!! But last Saturday I was so overwhelmed by the whole thing I cheated on cheat day but just not doing it!
    I’m off to Cuba for Christmas and suspect it will be hard to follow my 4HB. I’m sure I will find enough beans feel it would be the height of rudeness to tell a family that lacks food that I want more meat and no rice for dinner.
    When I return I shall read my printout of my “5 Simple Rules For Cheat Day” (I told you I was a stickler for rules) each Saturday morning while enjoying my café latte and Portuguese tart!
    Thank you and good luck 4HB lovers!

    • Luke says:

      Hi Kate,

      Thanks for your comment! I hope your Christmas was a great one – sounds like you do some interesting travelling! In general, cheat day is about relaxing, and learning that no food is ‘bad’ when it’s confined to not being a daily routine. The freedom it offers is to give you a sense that anything is fair game, just at the appropriate time. There’s also some physiological benefits to cheat days, and in particular for women, you want to up your fat intake. You could do a big cheat meal, rather than a cheat day, if you’re more comfortable with that, but remember that approaching a goal slowly has been shown the most effective way for maintaining your goal weight/physique in the long term. So if cheat days set you back a little, but make it easier to stick at it in the long view, then they’re a good addition to the 6 slow carb days. If you’re so stressed that they’re tough to do, then perhaps take a moment to think about seeing food as a functional fuel during the week, and food as an enjoyable pleasure on the cheat day. This might help you have a different angle on things – they’re for different purposes.
      All the best!
      Luke

  • Lisa Huang says:

    i’ve been on a very healthy diet for a while now, and I had one cheat day last month. I lost a couple pounds after that, but the day after the binge i ate mainly protein because I was paranoid I would gain weight. I dont know if I should continue to do that, or if I should go back my normal healthy eating habits after a binge. What are your tips? Also, is it better to binge on only carbs? or are desserts or foods with high fat also okay?

    • Luke says:

      Hi Lisa,

      As is mentioned in the book, for women it’s fairly imperative to have at least a big cheat day every week. It is preferable that it’s more than one meal though.
      It sounds like you’re very worried about weight gain, and very concerned about any changes in that direction, which I totally understand. It’s important to realize that you will gain weight on the scales after a cheat day, in fact this should happen, and if you don’t, then perhaps things aren’t set up exactly right. If you’re eating slow carb during the week, then having more than the usual amount of carbs, you’re likely to gain 1-5lbs of water weight overnight, but it will come off after 3 or 4 days.
      As far as eating habits, getting back to healthy eating the next day is the best step to take. Eating only protein isn’t a sustainable option, so try to get back into the regular habit of complete meals the following day.
      I suggest enjoying whatever foods you would like to eat on cheat days – it’s more about enjoying different foods, than overloading (or bingeing). So any food is fair game as far as I’m concerned.

      I sincerely think you would benefit from watching a few free videos on my other website – http://www.completebodyfatcontrol.com – they will help you understand what’s happening with your body when you eat the healthy foods, vs when you eat other foods, and how this all works for fat loss.

      All the best,
      Luke

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