How To Recover From A Cheat Day

Wanna learn how to recover from a cheat day? 

The short and easy answer: start new, forget about the indulgence, and move on. 

If you just want to learn how to avoid or interrupt dieting by handling cheat days properly, you can close this page now. However, if you want to gain next-level thinking to help you break away from life-long dieting, endless cheat day stress, plus a toxic and unhealthy relationship with food, and start eating freely and confidently while losing weight for real, I’ve got pure gold for you here. 

I’m willing to teach you because I assume that your ultimate goal — instead of being a dieter, is real weight loss with food freedom. And I also assume that you are open to some guidance from an experienced coach specialized in helping chronic dieters achieve that easily.

Are “Cheat Days” Even Cheating?

Let me start by telling you this: 

99% of dieters don’t get this simple and essential principle, which makes losing weight way more difficult and emotionally exhausting than it should be:

  • It’s not the 20% of the time when you “cheat” that matters. It’s the other 80% that matters for your weight loss result. 

Dieters do exactly the opposite. They “cheat,”’ say, 20% of the time. Then they wage war against themselves for the remaining 80% — trying to “correct” that “mistake” and make things even. 

By doing that, the remaining 80% of time is filled with negative thoughts and emotions that lead to either self-deprivation or overeating. In the end, they lose the GOOD 80%, which is what makes weight loss go south. 

According to almost 2,000 women dieters I’ve personally spoken to over the phone, who also had an unhealthy relationship with food, the average time they spend thinking about food is 3 hours a day. 

About what? 

  • Regretting what they’ve eaten. 
  • Fretting about what they should and shouldn’t eat next. 
  • And researching the next “better” diet.

That’s a whopping 90 hours a month or 1,095 hours per year. These hours are during the GOOD and important 80% of time, which is supposed to be spent meaningfully. 

This exact thought pattern of focusing on what’s “wrong” and trying to “fix” it will lock you in the lifestyle of an anxious dieter for years! 

Now, I’m going to take this one step further: 

For most overweight and obese people, if you “cheat” 20% of the days in a year, but for 80% of the days you do well, you WILL see weight loss results accumulate. Then over time you’ll get in shape. 


20% of 365 days is 73 days. That’s a BIG window for pleasure! AND…you DON’T need to be restricted during the other 292 days. Just follow a genuinely healthy routine (see After Words below), and eat mostly whole food with balance to reach physical satiety. There’s no need to deprive yourself from chocolate, because things are flexible. 

So the key is MAINTAINING THE GOOD. It’s not condemning and trying to fix the “mistake.” Or worse, fasting after a cheat day, which isn’t going to help your metabolism, mind, or body. If you can adopt this thinking instead, your weight loss will be immediately A LOT easier and joyful. 

I’m not joking. The mindset is what enables my clients to think, eat, and live like a holistically healthy, lean person — instead of an anxious, tired dieter. This leads them to spontaneous, steady weight loss.  

You may have heard me say this somewhere else: 

A dieter and a holistically lean, healthy person are two different species by nature given their different everyday life experiences. The thoughts and emotions their brain goes through and the hormones their body experiences as a result of that are distinct. Also, the level of freedom or fears they experience towards food, and how they feel about themselves are very different. 

The path of one doesn’t lead to the outcome of the other. You have to choose your path carefully by seeing where it leads you to years later.

The 80-20 Boundary concept can lead you to the magical sweet spot where health and pleasure can happen together. That’s the first step for you to become a holistically healthy and naturally lean person. 

How To Recover From A Cheat Day

woman eating applesauce - how to recover from a cheat day

Now, let’s go back to the question because there’s more to it: 

“How do you recover from the 20% cheat days?” 

Having read this far, you should immediately see the flaws in this logic from the lens of an intuitive eater vs. a dieter. 

So rethink it —- and seriously, 20%? So what??

That’s just LIFE, isn’t it? 

Even the delicious foods, drinks, sweets, cupcakes, soda, popcorn, and chips are a part of life. How can you give life up? You shouldn’t. And the best thing you can do is to find a working balance among the different colors of life. 

That’s why I said at the beginning that there’s NOTHING to recover from. And you need to stop feeling guilty for savoring life now. 

Before I close on this topic: 

I’ve been using 80-20 for teaching purposes here because it’s the most commonly chosen boundary among my clients and it has worked really well. But for some of them, even 25-75 has worked very well until they set the standard higher to 80-20 after losing 20-30 pounds as they wanted and adopted a greener lifestyle. 

So, what matters here for you isn’t the number. The must-do is to find the sweet spot that brings practicality, satisfaction, self-control, and weight loss altogether.

Setting the routine here is fundamentally different from a cheat day because with this model, there is no dieting to begin with and you are satisfied all the time. 

And there’s no cheating. You just dynamically embrace flexibility and changes  — like a holistically healthy and fit person does — while having the big picture in mind. 

After Words

Healthy food platter

When introducing the 80-20 Boundary, I mentioned the 80% GOOD which is defined by eating genuinely healthy. The words “genuinely healthy” can be interpreted subjectively. But in general, here are its main components: 

  • Eating to satisfaction but not overeating. 
  • Eating various food groups with a proper balance and ratio in between (therefore, no need to avoid any food groups)
  • Eating 80%+ clean, whole foods. 
  • No need to fast. 

In my actual coaching, the 80-20 Boundary is introduced only after my clients have reconnected with their body’s core sense, instincts, and abilities, such as: 

  • The sense of satiety — to restore their real satiety level. This is the key to avoiding overeating when eating intuitively. 
  • Their natural taste buds  — reset to get rid of the trained preference for junk food and sugar. 
  • A satisfaction-based food routine which leads to intuitive balance and naturally eliminates cravings. 
  • Total independence from thoughts and cravings — so that they can stay in control easily. 
  • And a metabolically better functioning body which burns fat vs. retaining it. . 

You can read about how it’s done in weeks through my Lean Instinct Formula™. With these core abilities established, weight loss happens spontaneously as a side effect of satisfaction and wellness. And the 80-20 Boundary works in the back of their mind to help them keep it off intuitively. 

However, whether you’ve worked on the above or not, I still recommend using the Boundary idea to clear your mind. This will help you avoid lots of stress and negativities no matter what regimen you choose to follow. 

Leslie Chen is Creator of Lean Instinct Formula™, which helps people enjoy UNLIMITED food freedom while gaining a head-turning body — through re-writing their physical and emotional patterns towards eating, removing their inner weight loss blockers, jumping out of the western FAD labyrinth, and leveraging Asian wisdom that creates immediate organic results. Leslie is rated as one of the Top Weight Loss Coach in 2022 by Coach Foundation due to consistent results she brings to her clients.

Want to work with Leslie? Book a 1:1 Clarity Call.

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