Can I Have a Cheat Meal Once a Week and Still Lose Weight?

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minute read | Last update: Nov 30th2022

This article is backed by studies and reviewed by a certified dietician.

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Whether it’s keto or any other type of diet, maintaining your eating regimen is hard! There will be weeks when you’re stressed out or too busy to cook. Perhaps it’s the holidays or you’re on vacation. Is it okay to indulge during these periods or must you strictly stay on your diet?

Will you gain weight if you have a cheat meal once per week?

One cheat meal per week is usually not going to derail your diet and prohibit weight loss. A cheat meal can temporarily increase your metabolism, which benefits your weight loss goals. Just don’t allow cheat meals to turn into cheat days.

In this article, we’ll talk further about balancing cheat meals with keto-friendly meals and how to avoid gaining weight while you indulge. There’s lots of great information to come, so make sure you keep reading!

Is One Cheat Meal a Week Going to Make You Lose Weight?

Many dieters long for their cheat meal, which is a chance to eat that food they’ve been thinking about nonstop for days or even weeks now. A cheat meal, in case you need the definition, is one meal in which anything goes.

In other words, you’re not counting calories, carbs, sugars, macros, any of it. You’re just eating what you want because you want to. You know that the meal has more calories/carbs/sugars than you usually allow for. The food may even be nutritionally void.

That can create anxiety in dieters, especially new dieters, about cheat meals causing them to lose all their weight loss progress. Maybe they’re concerned that they’ll even pack on a couple of pounds.

This shouldn’t happen if you have one cheat meal per week. We must include the caveat that all metabolisms are different and that your age, type of diet, health, and physical fitness all play a role in your ability to lose or gain weight.

That said, if anything, a cheat meal might even help you lose weight.

How so? According to Northwestern Medicine, eating a cheat meal can cause your metabolism to temporarily increase. The reason is that your body makes more of the hormone leptin, which manages energy. This boost in metabolism means your body will burn more calories after a cheat meal, not fewer!

We must stress that one cheat meal is just that, one meal. It’s not a whole cheat day. You get one meal once per week where you eat whatever you want and then it’s back to the status quo.

If you stick to your diet otherwise and you get in plenty of exercise as well, then you should be able to see the results you want on your diet even if you’re not on that diet 100 percent of the time.

The Benefits of Cheat Meals

You’re interested in indulging in a cheat meal from time to time, but you’re nervous too. You feel like it’d be opening Pandora’s box. Perhaps once you have a cheat meal, you think, you’ll begin backsliding into eating poorly.

The opposite, that you’ll eat healthier, is much likelier. Here are some benefits of cheat meals that might encourage you to incorporate them into your keto diet!

Erases Cravings

Cravings can occur for a variety of reasons. It could be that your diet is nutritionally void, or perhaps you’re very stressed out. Hormonal imbalances can also cause cravings.

If you modify your diet and incorporate exercise into your life, then most cravings should go away by themselves without you needing to nosh on salty, fatty, and/or sugary foods.

Sometimes though, a craving is not necessarily a sign of poor health. It’s just that you want to eat that food.

We mentioned before how a craving can allow food to take up real estate in your head. You can’t concentrate on work because you’re dreaming of a big, juicy cheeseburger or a huge slice of chocolate cake. At home, you have to make a concerted effort to avoid these foods.

If your craving is indeed caused by a desire to eat certain food and not because of a hormonal imbalance or nutrient deficiency, then once you satisfy your craving, guess what? It will be gone.

Now you can focus more on the facets of your life both personal and professional so you can feel truly present in your own life. That’s not to say that a food craving will never recur, as it could. But hey, there’s always next week for your cheat meal!

Provides a Break from Dieting

It turns out that the chief reason most people fail their diets isn’t due to a lack of willpower. Dieting is mentally and physically taxing, as rewarding as it can be for your waistline.

That information comes per a report in Science, which mentions that your stress sensitivity goes up when dieting. When you’re stressed, you don’t want to eat healthy foods. You’d much rather eat foods that are high in calories, sugar, and carbs, aka comfort foods.

When you know that your cheat meal is on the horizon, you don’t have to feel so hopeless about maintaining your diet. For an hour or several, you know that you’ll get a break from your diet. That small break can prevent dieting from becoming too stressful so you don’t make too many mistakes with what you eat.

Prevents Binge Eating

Speaking of dieting mistakes, binge eating is certainly one of them. To binge eat means you consume a large quantity of food, usually in one sitting. You then feel guilty about your dietary decisions and vow to do better, only to fall into the same trap the next time around.

Binge eating has many causes, and some of them are rooted in psychological health. If you feel like your binge eating is tied to dietary restrictions though, a cheat meal can help.

Some people find themselves wanting food more solely because they’re not allowed to have it. In psychology, this is called the forbidden fruit effect, which is named after the forbidden fruit that Adam and Eve ate in the bible despite being told not to.

The forbidden fruit effect is like what we described in the paragraph above. You might not usually care all that much about pastries, for example, but now that you can’t eat them because your diet forbids them, you want nothing but pastries.

What do you think happens when your diet now allows for pastries? Pastries become just like any other food, that’s what happens. They’re not forbidden, so now you’ll eat them (as part of your cheat meal, of course) only if you want them.

Not only will this reduce or even eliminate binge eating behaviors, but your cravings for certain foods should vanish as well!

How Many Cheat Meals Can You Have Per Week and Still Lose Weight?

You’ve begun implementing cheat meals into your keto diet and you are indeed reaping the above benefits. You wonder if there’s room in your diet for more cheat meals, like maybe two or three. If you do indeed increase your number of weekly cheat meals, will you lose weight or gain it?

The answer might seem obvious, that you’d gain weight, but that’s not always the case. Obi Obadike, a fitness expert, told that up to two cheat meals a week are allowed to stay in shape provided that the other 90 percent of your diet plan is flawless.

This is what Obadike refers to as the 90/10 rule. For 90 percent of your day, you’re eating according to your diet. The other 10 percent is spent on cheat meals (twice per week). That’s why we once again must be clear that we’re talking about cheat meals versus cheat days.

A cheat day is not going to allow you to stay in ketosis. Neither will a cheat meal, but you can at least be reasonably sure that you’re going to enter a fat-burning state within that same day. That wouldn’t be the case on a cheat day.

Plus, you now know that your metabolism revs up after a cheat meal, so between that and re-entering ketosis, you can continue burning fat, torching calories, and building a healthier, fitter you.


Cheat meals­–which are one meal where you eat whatever you want–do have room in most diets, and that includes keto too. You can have up to two cheat meals per week, although we wouldn’t recommend enjoying both meals on the same day.

Indulging in a cheat meal from time to time can temporarily raise your metabolism so you’ll burn through more of the calories you ate. Plus, you’re satisfying cravings, reducing dieting stress, and taking away the forbidden fruit effect on certain foods.

We hope you schedule a cheat meal into your keto diet!

About the author

The Authentic Keto Team is here to bring you health tips that help you with losing weight fast. We focus on a clean keto diet for beginners because we believe that is the easiest and most simple way to healthy eating. Our keto weight loss tips will not only bring you into ketosis fast but will also help you to improve your mental health, sleep problems, and wellness.

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