Dear Cassey: How do I stop cheat meals from turning into cheat weeks?

Hi Cassey!
I find myself having a rocky relationship with food. I put a lot of pressure on myself to eat right but always cave to cheat meals and it is downhill from there. How do you incorporate the foods you love into your healthy eating habits without taking it too far?
To paint a picture, I’ll eat well all week but one cheat meal turns into a cheat weekend and next thing you know I’m eating pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Sorry this was long, I’ve recently discovered you and have been doing your workouts every day this week!
Fit Foodie
pizza with basil cheese white background favorite food

Dear Fit Foodie,

YAY! Welcome to the POPster fam!

I know EXACTLY how it feels to have a cheat meal snowball into a cheat day…and then into a cheat weekend. At first it feels well-deserved and satisfying. Then, it’s like eh, what can it hurt? And then the guilt and the stomach ache sets in. Food. Hangover.

The cycle of working hard to eat perfectly, then giving in to cravings and overindulging and then feeling guilty and beating myself up used to be a normal way of life. It was exhausting and not a healthy way to look at food. What finally helped me break the cycle was when I shifted my mindset around food a little.

It’s amazing that you’re determined to stay on track with healthy eating, but I want you to stop labeling foods as good and bad. It seems like we’re all trained to look at it that way, but breaking that habit is the key to making your relationship with food more positive! That means that “indulging” will become a part of normal eating and you’ll be able to eat your favorite foods with no guilt.

Okay, so here are some things you can do to make this happen:

First, food shaming is a no go.  Instead, you should eat what SOUNDS good and what makes you FEEL good. Which leads me to my next point – mindfulness.

Try to be really mindful about how your body feels before, during, and after you eat. Pay attention to how your emotions affect your cravings, to how full you are during your meal, and how you feel afterward. If I want pizza I’m not going to feel guilty about it. But I know that it usually makes me feel bloated and tired, so I’m better off at least eating a salad with it or making my own. Being present and mindful about food will help you find the balance you’re looking for so you can feel your best.

Next, set yourself up for success, especially when you’re most likely to eat more “junk food” than you’d like to. For example, let’s talk about the weekends. For most of us, we’re out of fresh food by the time we hit the weekend. If you don’t have healthy foods in sight and easy to access, it’s going to sound A LOT more convenient to just order that pizza. So you could plan to have some extra fruits/veggies/lean meats around. OR you could even keep your pizza night and make it a DIY pizza with more fresh ingredients. Basically, if convenience or time is the issue, you can work around that and still eat your favorite foods!

The same goes for sticking to your goals while having a social life. Things are a little different currently, but USUALLY being social on the weekends means going out to eat. DON’T skip it just to avoid “unhealthy” foods! Order those apps with your girlfriends and have a good time! If you want to balance it out, you can totally order a salad on the side or drink water instead of wine or cocktails.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, don’t restrict any food unless your body physically can’t tolerate it. Trust me, it’s like telling a toddler he can’t have a cookie. He will suddenly OBSESS over that cookie until he gets it, and then he’ll want like 5. Our brains work the same way as adults! When we tell ourselves we “can’t” have something we truly crave, the craving usually gets stronger. And thennnn if you’re like me, you end up eating more when you finally give in than you would have in the first place. It’s a lot easier mentally to just eat what you love and focus on balance and mindfulness. No stress and no guilt.

Hopefully this helps! If navigating this cycle is still an issue, you have a TON of support within the POPster community too!

PS – If you have a burning question you want to ask me, I’m taking questions via text at 510-692-4556. Currently this only works for US and Canada. If you’re outside of those countries, you can leave a question below.

33 thoughts on “Dear Cassey: How do I stop cheat meals from turning into cheat weeks?”

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  1. Penelope says:

    Okay I do 2 hours every day workout at home and I feel exhausted some times. If I don’t work out, I feel guilty because I can’t burn so much calories…. Moreover I eat less than I should. So what must do!????

  2. Chris says:

    do you believe that delicious foods are more worthy than any other thing?

  3. Jaystar says:

    Dear Cassey,
    I love everything that you have been doing on your channel and website, and you have helped me eat clean and take better care of myself. But I was talking to my family today about it (I am 14), and my mom says that I’ll never look or feel the way I want to because I have a different body type. This made me really mad, because she has said before that I should not be working out and trying to get a healthier diet at my age. I don’t want to let this discourage me, but I would hate to not reach my goals after working really hard. Thanks for your time, I hope that you are doing well.
    [I didn’t know if I should leave a special name or something, if you want one it can be Discouraged].

    1. Ashley says:

      Hey Mae,

      I’m sorry your family is being discouraging about being healthier.

      There is one thing your mum might be right about – I used to be overweight, and I don’t look how I thought I would now that I’m a healthy weight and exercise a lot more. A lot of people don’t end up looking how they imagine! For example, I have hip dips – I thought it was always just how my fat was, but it’s how my bones are. But you know what’s better than having the “perfect” body or the one I dreamed of? Having more energy and feeling good! Even if you don’t *look* the way you want, understanding what foods and ways to move make you feel good doesn’t change because of your body type, and those goals might be better to focus on!

      Even *if* your mum was right and you don’t end up looking how you dream, it’s still worth looking after your body and taking care of it.

  4. Sweetie says:

    Hello Cassey,

    This is my story. It is soooooo hard for me to stick to a routine (I started the gym middle January this year, I was doing just ok, but the everything happen), to continue to exercise regularly, to eat healthy or at least the better I can. I started your challenges back in May, I can say I feel some changes, even though I skipped 3-4 days from all the challenges. Eating clean is hard when you live in a Mexican family. OMG! My mom always cooks a lot of food, and the fridge is always full. Saying this, I can’t eat as clean as I would like, quesadillas without real Mexican tortillas is not worth it for me, my mom’s cooking is amazing. But here I am trying again, to be stronger and leaner. I like your workouts a lot, however I can’t do all the videos in the calendar. I tried in May while I was doing the challenges, once or twice I did at least 3 videos and I couldn’t finish them all. The same this is going on with the June one. I feel exhausted. I just can’t with cardio, and all the videos xD. I want to but my body and my mind don’t allow me to do it. The frustration overcomes me. You know what I mean? I’ve been trying for years and quit every time. And the worst part is I really don’t feel that energy during the day after a workout or the happiness or the wellness. I need help to find my way and to appreciate all the AMAZING things this lifestyle has to offer.

    P.S. I’m thankful for all the things you do for us, all the effort you put into everything. I believe you are a wonderful and inspiring person.

    Thank you!!!!

  5. Cibere says:

    Dear Cassey!
    As I saw, you get lots of letters like this, but I find it important to thank you my past 8 months and share with you my story. (It might be long and have some grammatical or writing faults. Sorry, I hope you’ll understand it. )
    So, because of a bad decision, I needed to take a gap year.
    In September, I had to stay at home, while all of my friends started university. Everybody seemed to have a perfect time and I felt lost.
    I was alone most of my days and I gradually became captured in my head with really toxic thoughts. The only thing that I started to deal with was the way how I looked.
    I think you know how the story continues…
    I started dieting and doing more and more exercises. I challanged myself not to eat for days, while I started to work and I knew that I had to take hard exams at the end of the year to get into university. I lost my period, became extremely depressed, deconcentrated and I behaved terribly with my family, who just wanted to help me.
    Then,when I was searching for some new workouts, I found You. (Btw, that was the time of your 90 day journey, which was also really insiring)
    You seemed to be so sympathetic that I started to follow your calendar (and of course the POPFLEX). I also got to know,how much you struggled with body-image and dieting issues in the past. With your motivation, I slowly got into a new path where the only important thing was happiness, instead of look.
    Today, it’s about 8 months that I exercise with you daily. I also stopped counting calories and skipping meals. I’m slowly getting better. Thank you very very much.
    You spread so much love and help through your blog and videos that I am so so grateful to you!
    Thank you to be so kind and motivational during my hard period, and also thank you to be with me, when noone understood me.
    I hope one day, I can say thank you face to face and we can do a workout together!
    Until then, keep doing your blog, videos and outfits, because all you do is fantastic!
    Thank you everything, again!

  6. ghayah says:

    hi cassie can you please help me im hoping to get a flat stomach but gbe pronlem is i dont know the right thing to eat can you please help me also i need some workouts too

  7. Vandana Goel says:

    Hi Cassey,

    Thanks for your wonderful website. I really like doing your workouts. It is as if I have a company during my workouts 🙂

    I have a issue of eating a lot during night time. I can manage without eating breakfast but dinners are hard to resist. what can I do to skip dinner or have a light dinner. Any ideas for light dinner recipes ( vegetarian ) will be helpful.

  8. colarissa says:

    Dear Cassey, I’m struggeling with a problem for a while now. The past year I have lost 10 kg’s while doing your workouts and I am finally on a healthy weight, but I keep obsessing that I will go back to where I was. I am trying to keep up with your calendars, but 45 minutes each day is to much for me, I don’t look forward to doing it every day anymore, but I would be up for it about 4 times a week. Do you have any insights on how I can adapt your calandar in a save and healthy way for my body, but a little less?
    P.S. when I am soo sore it hurts walking should I keep on going or take a rest day?

    I love what you do and look up to you.

    Love, Larissa

  9. Ellisa says:

    A thing I heard that helped me stop labeling food as “good” and “bad” was that all foods are friends, and some friends you want to spend more time with. It’s helped me to stop obsessing but be more mindful about what I’m eating and what food would make my body feel better.

    1. Larissa says:

      That’s actually a really sweet way to look at it! I have a big problem with food guilt.

  10. Wess says:

    Hi cassey, could you please tell me which one is good to reduce belly fat- two hearty meals, or 4-5 small ones at regular intervals?

    1. Yoana says:

      What helped me get over the guilt and stress I felt around indulging was shifting my focus from food being a great source of pleasure to other activities like painting, reading, writing being the source of my joy. We eat so that we can live, we don’t live to eat.

  11. Michelle says:

    Hi Cassey! I personally have been doing your videos, plans, and challenges for awhile now, but just recently I have been having issues with exercising…. I personally have issues with excessive dairy, fried foods, or processed foods, and after I eat them I don’t really want to eat really clean for the ready of the day. I normally workout in the evenings, so on those days it is really hard to. I can’t workout in the morning because of my hyperglycemia. I don’t know how to workout on those days. I would love it if you had any tips!

  12. Leony says:

    Hi Cassey! I just wanna say one thing: I love you so much! You have a personality that makes everyone wanna be your friend! (ups, maybe I said two things)

  13. Eva says:

    Hey Cassey,
    This is my first time commenting on your blogs. I just wanted to say first that your workout videos have really helped me get in shape. I don’t like going to gyms, so at home workout routines like yours have been my go-to for at least 3 years now, so thank you very much for your content and positive energy! So here is my problem:
    I think I may have a carb obsession. I just LOVE bread, I always have and I can safely say it is my favorite food, even plain. I like to believe I maintain a healthy diet (I don’t drink coffee, sodas or alcohol, I try to only eat natural sugars and I eat my veggies every day), but I’m finding out that I just MUST have a carb in every meal (eg: oatmeal for breakfast, pasta for lunch, salad with pita bread for dinner). Do you have any tips on how I can change my mindset to eat a little less carbs and not crave them so much?
    Thanks a lot in advance!

    1. Cassey says:

      Hi Eva! I answered your question on my Dear Cassey blog!

  14. Shantia says:

    Hi Cassey!!! I actually just have a suggestion. Since were able to sign in I think it would be really handy if we could bookmark some of your “dear cassey” articles! This question and response relates to me 100% so it would be nice to be able to just go in and read it again easily when I’m struggling with cheat meals/weeks!!

  15. Nicole says:

    Hi Mam Cassie! I recently found out that I am lactose intolerant when I was a baby. But didn’t show any symptoms as I grow up until now. Whenever I drink milk and eat sweets, I tend not to breathe afterwards. I don’t know how to lessen such things because I love having them in my everyday life. How am I supposed to at least lessen my intake with these foods especially I’m into sweet breads? Hope I can get answers because I’m really struggling. Thank you. Have a nice day! ❤

  16. Ioanna says:

    Hi Casey,
    I just wanted to say that your workouts have changed my life. I know that sounds like an over reaction but your workouts are really the first and only ones I have managed to motivate myself to do. They have been an opportunity for me to do more things with my sister’s, have alleviated significantly the pain in my knees I have had since I was twenty and they have helped me ease off on medicine to help me with my mood. They also have helped me to take better care of my hygiene and that has also helped me. Finally, I also was surprised to find out that alongside the physical and mental benefits to my life, as a result of the daily exercise, I have found that my daily routine has improved and I am far better disciplined with my art and writing.
    I wondered if you can help me a bit further. I have a very unhealthy relationship with food and , when I am feeling sad, I feel the need to eat until I puke (although I have managed to get that under control to a great extent the last six months). I was wondering if there is any exercise or other advice that can help me do better with my Binge eating periods? For example are there any foods that could stop my appetite faster and could have always at the house? Also, if you don’t mind me asking, are there any pastry recipes that you think are lower calories? In my culture (I am Greek) we have many foods that are pies and I don’t want to lose that as I try to better my diet and improve my eating habits.
    Thank you for your help and time!

  17. Glori Liu says:

    Dear Cassey,
    I can’t seem to lose weight! Are there any tips?
    I try to, but then it goes up again and I really want to know what I’m doing wrong. And also, what should I put in salads to make them still delicious but with more veggies?
    One more thing. I can’t seem to burn off all my stomach fat! I’ve had a lot of fat around my stomach and I truly want to know how to get rid of it. It’s the reason why I struggle with body image so much.

    1. Cy says:

      Cassey, thank you for this! I really needed this kind of reassurance about how I’m currently dealing with food. Less guilt, more mindfulness! I love you!

      1. Cy says:

        Omg hahaha I accidentally replied under your comment. I don’t know how to delete this sorryyyy

  18. Joy Cortez says:

    Hello Cassie, I recently read that knowing your hormone type and working out with high intensity in small intervals for 15 minutes is the way to go, especially for women like me at age 55. What is your opinion on this? Btw, I really love your personality. Very optimistic.

  19. Sam says:

    Dear Cassey,

    For the last few years now I have managed to lose a bit of weight and then it slowly creep back up in a few months, only for me to have to go through it all again. I’ve been battling the same weight circles over and over.

    I would love to get your advice on how to maintain a new low weight so that becomes the ‘norm’ for my body. Please help!

    Yo-yo weighter

  20. Vanessa Wikel says:

    As someone with disordered eating habits, allergies, health reasons for needing to restrict certain foods, I can say with 100 percent honesty that it really helps to NOT have any of your trigger foods in your household. SO for me for example: I taught myself how to bake healthy versions of brownies and cheesecake (protein cheesecake) that I could eat every day without it impacting my fitness or health goals. I cannot eat gluten, soy, or lactose and because diabetes runs in my family I restrict added sugar to only small amounts of maple syrup or raw honey. If I want to try something and it’s sweetened with coconut sugar instead and it wont’ spike my bloodsugar too badly to where I will feel it, I treat myself. I find that treating myself a few times a week, or having one day where eat 1 huge treat meal and then whatever I want that is healthy the rest of the day works for me. So for example: I’ll have a three layer slice of gluten free cake that’s like 1000 calories or so, top it with protein icecream, raw dark chocolate, sugar free syrup, nuts, nut butter, etc. and really enjoy it. It’ll be a solid 2k calories by the time I’m done indulging. Then I’ll proceed to eat like normal the rest of the day. So that total day is like 4k calories. I don’t gain fat or weight of any kind and it resets my body for the week ahead so I don’t feel restriction or cravings. Also I recommend knowing what your body requires in terms of nutrition and calories–I’m six foot, and active. I need 2000-2400 calories per day. If you have disordered eating and body dysmorphism you’re prone to be super afraid of certain foods and being very hard on yourself. So I personally find it easier to say ‘ok, well m-w I wasn’t as hungry and ate 2k. But Fri and Sat I ate maintenance so Sunday is ok if I splurge.” because when you do rational math…it just really is impossible to gain weight on one day a week where you eat twice your calories. I mean our bodies cannot process that much food and the thermogenic effect of food is real. So even on a 4k day I only really have a surplus of a mere 700 cals which is nothing if the next day you are satisfied and only eat 1600 calories, the following day, 1800. See my point? So don’t be too hard on yourself and enjoy everything in moderation. BUT if you know you will fall into unhealthy disordered eating do not bring trigger foods into your home. Go out, or order in those foods and ENJOY THEM. Otherwise don’t bother treating yourself because you’ll just feel horrible afterwards and restrict, restrict, restrict.. Or at least that’s what happens if I’m not ready to treat myself. Hopefully telling my way of coping with being a disordered foodie helped someone realize that you won’t derail your health and fitness goals by treating yourself weekliy. Actually we need it for our mental and emotional health. We are too hard on ourselves and even if you may never get over your personal issues with food, you can still find ways to strike a balance with yourself ;).

  21. Aly says:

    It’s funny how this is the exact same question I was having these past few weeks. I’ve lost weight since the quarantine started and feel awesome about it, but had an unhealthy relationship with food restriction to only eat “healthy foods” while working out a lot. I hadn’t eaten a bowl of cereal in over a month! I used to eat it almost daily. I don’t miss it tbh and love what I eat now instead, but I get cravings when my sister buys Lucky Charms… Sometimes when I ate a cookie I went for a 30 min walk afterwards or run 5 km to burn off the calories of a Bubble Tea I was planning to have later that day. That was really unhealthy now that I look back at it. Luckily my dad called me out on it. His dad was an Olympic athlete who trained them to eat healthy and work out at home – I actually learned about Pilates from him cause back then going to the gym wasn’t a huge thing unless you were a weight lifter and when I saw your videos I was so excited! He told me I shouldn’t feel bad for having “junk food” if I’m being mindful about it and how I shouldn’t work out to deserve food. One of your blogs that I read that resonated with me too was about how eating a craving then will stop you from being that toddler and having a ton later in guilt and also how food is medicine! And also if I’m hungry I should see whether a “banana” or some other food would satisfy me. I don’t feel bad for eating that bowl of Lucky Charms yesterday and it felt so good! I’m glad you and my dad point to these things to me. Thank you so much Cassey.

  22. hello fit foodie! Something that I find helpful is to portion out all of the foods, including the cheat meal 🙂 enjoy!

  23. linds33 says:

    I love eating healthy and finding better alternatives, but I am allergic to nuts. Most healthy recipes usually include nuts or peanuts which I can’t eat. Anyone have any ideas to help?

    1. Lucy says:

      Hi! I’m allergic to nuts too, and I so feel your frustration – it’s so disappointing to find a healthy recipe and read almond flour or cashew milk as the main ingredient!
      You can make subs in a lot of these recipes but obviously the nutrition will change which will affect macros if you count them. The main thing will be protein but there are of course lots of alternative protein sources.
      Here are some swaps I use: For almond flour I just sub wheat flour, or add a little buckwheat flour if it needs more absorbency. There’s really not a lot of need to cut wheat gluten from your diet unless it adversely affects you. If so, you could look into oat flour or rice flour as alternatives. For nut milks, you can sub dairy or oat milk. I’ve also found a really good fake peanut butter made from soya which is amazing, and good to add to oatmeal or smoothies for a protein hit! And you can also get butters made from seeds if you don’t react to them (I can’t tolerate some seeds unfortunately, so can’t tell you how that tastes).
      Where meal plans call for nuts as snacks, you could try subbing something like roasted chickpeas or seeds, which are really easy to make at home, if you can eat them safely of course!

      I hope that helps! I have a lot of experience making nut-free recipes so feel free to ask if you have a specific sub you’d like.

    2. Ruth says:

      Are you allergic to seeds too? Like pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds? I’ve seen various recipes where they have specifically mentioned that in case of nut allergies. Seeds are also often cheaper and you can even make seed-butter instead of nut-butter! ( I hope it can work!

    3. Carly says:

      Usually you can sub nut butters with tahini or sunflower seed butter and nuts with seeds or even dried fruits. I’ve substituted almond flour with cassava flour with varying degrees of success. You can sub nut milks for oat, flax or hemp milk. Ultimately it depends on the recipe as to what sub makes the most sense. There are other healthy ways to add in nutritious fats besides nuts such as avocados and coconut, and there are plenty of nutritious ways to add protein and fiber such as beans, lentils, and whole grains. Good luck!

      1. Linds33 says:

        thank you all for the great suggestions. I can’t wait to try them out!