What to Do When You Cheat on Your Diet

Specialty doughnuts on a tray.
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We bet we know what you're feeling right now. You had been faithfully following your healthy diet for weeks (or months), and you were feeling good about yourself and the progress you were making. Your weight was getting closer to your goal, and then things went awry.

Maybe it snuck up on you. That little piece of chocolate turned into two or three bigger pieces every day. Perhaps it was more sudden, like binging during a birthday celebration or holiday feast. In either case, now you're feeling guilty (and maybe bloated and groggy, too), and you don't know what to do about it.

First off, there's no need to feel bad and beat yourself up over this.

Accept it, forgive yourself, and let us help you get back to your healthy diet.

Don't Skip Meals

It's tempting to skip meals because you want to cut back on the calories. The problem with skipping meals is that by not eating now, you're going to be hungrier later, and that increases the chances you'll overeat at your next meal which could lead to weight gain.

Keep Track and Reset Your Goals

People who keep track of calories in a food diary tend to be more successful with weight loss. Maybe you need to keep track of your sodium, fats, or carbohydrates.

Make a Plan

Plan your meals based on your daily calorie, carb, fat, or sodium count. Choose breakfast foods that are good for you, like a high-fiber cereal or oatmeal, berries or fruit, and milk. Make (or order) a green salad with lots of vegetables for lunch, but go easy on the dressing. Your dinner can include a low-fat protein source like baked fish or chicken breast with lots of green and colorful vegetables (broccoli, carrots, squash, or green beans, for example).

Take a Break From Processed Foods

Fast foods and processed convenience foods are usually high in calories from fats and carbohydrates, and low in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Opt for fresh (or frozen) fruits and vegetables, and choose fresh, lean poultry, fish, and meat instead of processed sausage, hot dogs, and lunch meats.

Skip the Sugary Drinks

Sweet drinks give you calories but no other nutritional benefit. Check your alcohol intake. Alcohol adds calories, plus sweet mixers can add even more. Drink plain or sparkling water which can replenish your body's need for fluids without adding calories.

Add a slice of lemon, lime, or cucumber to water for a touch of flavor. Low-fat milk and 100% fruit or vegetable juices are healthy beverages, too. Don't forget to keep track of the calories or sodium.

Get Active Again

Did you give up on your workouts? You may give your diet a little boost by hitting the gym (or the streets if you're a walker or a runner) again. Exercise aids weight loss by burning extra calories, and it can improve your mood, which may help you deal with cravings.

Allow Some Wiggle Room

Leave yourself a little wiggle room for a treat now and then. Diets are by nature restrictive; just the thought of saying no to ice cream or cookies can make you feel grouchy. Allocate 100 to 150 calories per day for treats or snacks. You'll have to watch your portion sizes because a typical candy bar has 250 calories or more. A serving of just 100 grams of regular potato chips may have over 500 calories.

8 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Romm A. HuffPost. How Skipping Meals Can Make You Gain Weight. January 26, 2017.

  2. Ingels JS, Misra R, Stewart J, Lucke-Wold B, Shawley-Brzoska S. The effect of adherence to dietary tracking on weight loss: Using HLM to model weight loss over time. J Diabetes Res. 2017;2017:6951495. doi:10.1155/2017/6951495

  3. Hall KD, Bemis T, Brychta R, et al. Calorie for calorie, dietary fat restriction results in more body fat loss than carbohydrate restriction in people with obesity. Cell Metab. 2015;22(3):427-36. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2015.07.021

  4. Poti JM, Braga B, Qin B. Ultra-processed food intake and obesity: What really matters for health-processing or nutrient content?. Curr Obes Rep. 2017;6(4):420-431. doi:10.1007/s13679-017-0285-4

  5. Traversy G, Chaput JP. Alcohol consumption and obesity: An update. Curr Obes Rep. 2015;4(1):122-30. doi:10.1007/s13679-014-0129-4

  6. Chan JSY, Liu G, Liang D, Deng K, Wu J, Yan JH. Special issue - Therapeutic benefits of physical activity for mood: A systematic review on the effects of exercise intensity, duration, and modality. J Psychol. 2019;153(1):102-125. doi:10.1080/00223980.2018.1470487

  7. U.S. Department of Agriculture. CANDY BAR. April 1, 2019.

  8. U.S. Department of Agriculture. White potato chips, regular cut. April 1, 2019.

Additional Reading

By Shereen Lehman, MS
Shereen Lehman, MS, is a former writer for Verywell Fit and Reuters Health. She's a healthcare journalist who writes about healthy eating and offers evidence-based advice for regular people.