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Losing weight requires a lot of sacrifice. You exercise regularly, and you watch what you eat. At least once a week, though, you need to give yourself sometime to indulge. It’s called a “cheat day”.

Taking a break from constant calorie counting doesn’t just boost your mood and reset your mental commitment to the weight loss journey. Studies have shown that the body actually does need a break from continuous caloric restriction.

See, your body’s fat cells produce “leptin” — a hormone that helps regulate the body’s energy balance. When you restrict your caloric intake continuously for a very long time, your leptin levels start to drop.

The brain then interprets this as energy insufficiency and starts sounding the alarm bells. With hunger signals overwhelming your system, you will likely binge or overeat.

That being said, a cheat day isn’t license to just go out and overindulge. Doing so can derail all the hard work you’ve already put in and might eventually set your weight loss efforts back to square one. Read on to find out how you can stay on track and make the most of your cheat days without messing up your weight loss plan.

Schedule your cheat days.

Planning ahead is crucial if you want to make the most of your cheat days without derailing your weight loss efforts. Select a date, decide what cravings you’d like to address on that day, and stick with the plan!

Obviously, scheduling too many cheat days is literally cheating, and won’t be beneficial to your weight loss journey. You can also plan around special occasions like birthdays and weddings so you can enjoy the party and the food without guilt.

Avoid the yo-yo.

It’s true, you have to earn your cheat days. You don’t get to break your calorie count during the week and still indulge in a cheat day during the weekend!

That being said, it’s also not a good idea to starve yourself for a week just so you can indulge for a day. The deprivation will only worsen your hunger pangs and will most likely backfire on your weight loss efforts, as you’ll end up binging and overeating on your cheat day.

The rules of portion control are still in play.

You are allowed to eat anything you want, including calorie-dense food items that your regular diet prohibits you from consuming. However — and this is very important — you don’t get to overeat.

You still have to practice portion control, even on your cheat day. Indulging doesn’t mean pigging out! Go ahead and order your favorite cheese pizza with extra cheese, just don’t finish the whole pie on your own. A couple slices is enough to address your craving without completely messing up your weight loss efforts.

Remember: quality over quantity.

One way to really enjoy your cheat day is to make it special. Instead of wasting your one day of indulgence on bad chocolate and cheap junk food, why not make it an occasion? Grab a few pieces of that expensive Japanese chocolate you’ve been saving up instead of reaching for your usual candy bar, for example.

Visit your favorite steakhouse, or drop by that sushi place you’ve been hearing so much about. Don’t waste your free day on food you won’t even remember a couple days from now. Make every cheat day memorable and indulgent.

Savor it.

With each meal and each snack you consume on your cheat day, make sure that you really take your time. This is one day a week you get to enjoy the food you love, so the last thing you want is to barrel through each meal.

Appreciate every bite, give yourself time to really indulge in your food, and make it count.

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