Here Are My 5 Favorite Cheat Foods That Accelerate Fat Loss

Written by Joel Marion

Top 5 Cheat Foods

What if I told you that cheating on your diet with cheat foods could actually ramp up your fat burning, accelerate your fat loss, and even help you plow through frustrating weight-loss plateaus? Would you think I’m crazy?

If you do, that’s okay; I won’t take it personally. After all, as one famous song goes, “We’re never gonna survive unless we are a little crazy…” But as crazy as the idea may sound, in my experience with thousands of successful clients, I’ve found cheat days are an extremely effective strategy for shedding weight.

In fact, I credit this very strategy for my own radical body transformation, which resulted in me winning one of the world’s largest body transformation contests. But I didn’t stumble upon cheat days by accident, and I don’t use them with all my coaching clients because they’re some off-the-wall idea or simply because they worked for me. Nope.

You see, cheat days and cheat foods are supported by science, so before I unveil the top cheat foods to boost fat burning, let me take a moment to explain.

In the past, when you’ve dieted to lose weight, have you ever noticed that it becomes increasingly more difficult over time? Invariably, at some point—sometimes within just a couple months—you get stuck. That’s what we call a weight-loss plateau; it’s frustrating. Basically, getting stuck sucks.

Also, when dieting, have you noticed intense hunger and cravings? Food that’s normally pretty tasty is downright heavenly. And no matter how much you eat, you just can’t seem to satisfy your appetite.

The reason for all this comes back to a fat-burning hormone (produced by fat cells) called leptin, which is considered a “satiety,” “energy-sensing,” and “anti-starvation” hormone. Basically, leptin is keeping tabs on how much energy (calories) you’re consuming and how much you’re burning. And when there’s an imbalance (such as a reduced-calorie diet), leptin takes notice, leading to a whole bunch of changes to balance out the energy mismatch.

So, when you eat less and lose fat, leptin levels naturally decline. While this is a very meaningful and protective survival mechanism, it leads to a cascade of metabolic adjustments to help conserve energy expenditure and increase caloric intake. For example, metabolic rate drops, production of fat-burning hormones decreases, and hunger hormones skyrocket.

The result: Slowed, or completely stalled, fat loss and an appetite that’s out of control.

Enter the cheat day.

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My Favorite Cheat Foods

One way to temporarily boost leptin levels is to overeat, especially overeating high-carb foods. In the short-term, overeating—maybe an additional 1,000 calories or so—can offset some of those metabolic adjustments I mentioned above. In other words, a cheat day helps crank metabolism and fat burning back up, and it can help suppress hunger hormones and appetite.

Cheat days have other advantages too. For example, folks typically have more energy and feel better in the following days, and as a result, they exercise harder and burn more calories. What’s more, I find people are much, much more strict on their diets the rest of the week, and overall, folks find it’s just a lot easier and more enjoyable to stick with it for the long haul.

And most importantly, you should do it because it works for me, and let’s face it, who doesn’t want to be like me?

All kidding aside, when it comes to eating on cheat days, there really aren’t any restrictions on the types of foods that you can eat. Basically, it’s a day where you can take a break from diet rules, and you can feel free to enjoy the foods you crave without feeling guilty. Some of my favorite cheat foods include:

  1. Pizza (New York-style, naturally)
  2. Ice cream (chocolate chip cookie dough is usually my go-to)
  3. Grandma’s mac ‘n cheese (mmm…cheesy goodness)
  4. My mom’s famous chocolate chip cookies (can you tell I like chocolate?)
  5. French toast (stuffed, of course)

Of course, my cheat days aren’t made up exclusively of these “treat” foods, but a few sprinkled in here and there—making sure to bump up my carbs and calories overall—make for a very satisfying, leptin-boosting day. So, whether you crave cheeseburgers, French fries, pie, pasta dishes, pancakes, or desserts, feel free to treat yourself on your cheat day.

Do you incorporate a cheat day in your plan? How has that worked for you? What are your favorite cheat foods? Please feel free to share your questions, thoughts, and experiences below. We’d love to hear from you!

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More From Joel Marion

  • Hi Ivy,

    Thanks so much for sharing your feedback. That’s very interesting about your appetite being gone. Generally speaking, many people experience the opposite effect in the face of caloric restriction. In other words, one of the most common adaptations to consuming a reduced-calorie diet is increased hunger and appetite.

    It’s certainly plausible that adhering to a reduced-calorie diet long-term and losing a substantial amount of weight can lead to a significant reduction in metabolic rate, although there are many contributing factors worth discussing. It would be interesting to hear more details about your journey. I bet others could learn from your experiences.

    Nonetheless, that’s great to hear that you’ve found this tool to be an effective strategy in your journey. Thanks again, Ivy!

    • Ivy Hill

      Thank you for replying. I had my 3rd neck surgery and I also have a delayed swallow when it comes to solid food. So basically I eat Jell-O or Greek yogurt. I drink coffee All Day and All night until I go to bed. I found out that when I decided to do a 30 day liquid diet I shed 50 pounds. I didn’t plan on doing it but it just happened and I was shocked. How I know what to do. I have lost 68 pounds total and now I am stuck losing my last 40 pounds so I am about to do my all liquid diet and I will keep you posted.

      • Hi Ivy, it’s so nice to hear from you; thank you very much for taking the time to follow up with us. I hope that you are doing well and making a full recovery from your surgery. I hope that’s the last one for you as well.

        You know, Ivy, I think I could drink coffee all day too. It’s pretty darn tasty. (Plus, there’s no shortage of research extolling its health benefits.) But I think my problem is that I would be UP all night. 🙂 Do you have any trouble sleeping? After all, caffeine essentially “blocks” sleep.

        It sounds like you’ve lost quite a bit of weight, and while I get the sense it wasn’t necessarily intentional, it was a “good” thing, right? Having said that, I think we have to be careful interpreting the changing numbers on the scale. In other words, instead of just weight loss, I think we need to emphasize “quality weight loss”, which I’ve talked about in several articles, including this one.

        Basically, quality weight loss means losing fat (especially abdominal fat) while maintaining (or even building) lean muscle, which offers tremendous metabolic and functional benefits. Unfortunately, with most low-calorie diets, we see a significant reduction in lean muscle, and that can have some pretty serious consequences.

        Of course, one of the best ways to maintain lean muscle is to exercise, particularly weight/strength/resistance training. And another thing is to make sure we’re getting enough protein (at a minimum, 0.55 grams per pound of bodyweight per day).

        With that being said, for folks who need to lose a substantial amount of weight, a protein-sparing modified fast, PSMF, (which is often done as a liquid diet) is frequently implemented. It usually involves consuming 0.55 – 0.68 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day, and it’s usually limited to about 800 calories per day. PSMF also initiates a state of ketosis, which may offer additional appetite management and muscle-sparing benefits. I’m not suggesting that this is the best approach for you to take; however, it may be something for you to discuss with your doctor.

        Please keep us posted, Ivy; thank you!

  • Mike

    I hope you distinguish between healthy food and unhealthy food then you don’t even have to do this cheats period, if we eat healthy our bodies will naturally lose their weight and be nourished the way it should be, I feel under no circumstance I should or will promote eating or cheating on an unhealthy food, what I mean by unhealthy food is processed food, toxin loaded and contaminated food, genetically modified food, etc. if we keep eating natural food, right when our bodies tell us and signal us they need their of food, and putting the right amount this will lead us to reach all of our desired goals, but this takes lots of knowledge and investigation to what’s the food industry has hid and spoiled of our food supplies.

    • Cristina

      Hi Mike. Thank you so much for sharing your feedback and your perspective with the community. There are folks who would tend to agree with you, and I tend to lean in that direction. I personally do not have “cheat days”, per se, as I have a meal plan that allows me to maintain my healthy weight, however I do not deprive myself if there is something that I occasionally would like to have (i.e. special occasion, holiday, etc.).

      I do not consume processed foods, or unhealthy food options, not even when I am indulging, as these things are still healthy options, but perhaps a heavier portion or maybe a slice of grandma’s fresh baked apple pie.

      However with that being said, I do see the benefit of strategically planned cheat days with some of my coaching clients.

      Another article from our blog lends itself to this topic: Do I Really Need A cheat Day?

      Thank you for taking time to share your opinion with others. Please come again soon.