How to Get Back on Track After Eating That Calorie Bomb

by Coach Stevo
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How to Get Back on Track After Eating That Calorie Bomb

It’s late. You’ve just had a hell of a day juggling your job, kids, expectations and never really being able to step away from your inbox because you have a smartphone. You finally make it home after a 90-minute commute that’s really only 25 minutes without traffic, open your fridge to a plethora of healthy green food choices and think:

“Screw it.”

Then you order a pizza.

This scenario, or one like it, plays out every week with people trying their best to change their health and fitness habits. No matter how motivated we are in the morning, we can get driven to the edge by life and lose touch with why we’re on this crazy journey in the first place. Or sometimes it’s frustration with what we perceive as a lack of results. But no matter what kind of ledge you’re on, there are ways to get back onto the path you started. Here are just a few that have worked for my clients.

Enjoy that pizza. No really. The choice was made. Now it’s time to move forward. So throw out those leftovers and get back on track as soon as possible. A few slices will not ruin your lifetime of health and fitness, but the longer you nurse that case of the “screw its,” the longer you delay success. So enjoy the indulgence! And use this as an opportunity to learn how you can bounce back even faster.

Make a fallback plan. Almost every Thursday, my clients write their fallback plan for the weekend. While you’re in a good mood, before you come across the “screw its,” sit down and think about what the minimum-minimum is—what’s the ONE THING you need to do to feel like you’re still on track? Is it eating vegetables? Drinking water between adult beverages? Doing 10 push-ups?

Be realistic. Any healthy choice is still moving forward. Now write down your fallback plan, or take a picture of it on your phone so you’ll remember it just before the “screw its” happen.

Ask yourself, “What have I done well? What have I learned?” Most of us get fixed on outcomes. Weight. Sizes. Results. But evidence from 40 years of motivation research has shown that focus on the process rather than the outcome leads to better results. So when you’re feeling discouraged, take an honest self-assessment. What have you learned? What’s gotten easier? And what are you doing well that will help you for a lifetime?

Remind yourself that no weight-loss journey is linear. There’s always plateaus. Always, always. Even for you. Yes, you. You will have plateaus. If I sound redundant it’s because no one thinks this applies to them. But the people who successfully lose weight and keep it off are the ones who keep going. Like Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going!”

Tell someone what you’re thinking. Eighty percent of my job is showing up and listening, which you don’t really need training to do. Seek out a friend or a forum and let people know what you’re thinking. Most of the time just saying stuff out loud to people you know are sharing your struggle is enough to see things in a different light.

Remember that the average American gains a pound a year. So even maintaining your weight means you’re above average!


  • Ralph W.

    Once I have achieved my goals I take one day a week like Sunday, and treat myself. That might mean not counting calories for the day. Sometimes, I’ll have an extra cookie or two. Maybe some ice cream, too. Whatever.

    One of the biggest mistakes many people make is they go completely off their diet too soon after they have reached the goal weight. The point is that we sometimes try to undo many, many years of poor eating and exercise habits in just a few months. It has to become a way of life, again.

    • Tyler Mueller

      I disagree with diets. I think instead of calling it a diet we should call it a healthy lifestyle. The problem with the word diet is that individuals will only follow along with this for like a month, and then fall back off to where they were before the “diet” started. With the healthy lifestyle you have room to make little cheats in your daily diets, and they shouldn’t have a long term affect because you will go back to your healthy lifestyle. A cookie or two won’t kill a person, but if they contiue to eat that extra two cookies every day it will eventually catch up to them. Thanks for the post!

    • Shari Becker

      I agree it is a healthy lifestyle. You can have a cookie or ice cream or 3 slices of pizza sometimes. You should see how many calories and fat you have left for the day!

  • Amanda

    Thank you for this. I love your phrase the screw it’s. That is definitely an attitude I want to avoid.

  • Jackie

    I am going to make homemade pizza and my favourite cookies for cheat day, yay!!!!

  • Manal

    This happens to me every now and then. What I would do is fast the next day. I either eat only one meal with 500 or 600 calories or I would divide these calories and have them in three meals. I know people say it’s bad to eat less than 1200 or whatever, but trust me it’s not evil. It works!

  • Rachel Deering


  • Rachel Deering

    I really like this. myfitnesspal dot com

  • Rachel Deering

    Really awesome.

  • The point is this to get you stronger back on track. I work on a heavy diet (going for 90 pounds) and once 2 months ago, my spirit broke and ate a cake. What I did was to calculate its calories, and the very next morning did the extra work out in addition to the regular training. You burn it and move on.
    For me though; I have a trick that works out. The trap is where many say
    “Screw it, common, only a spoon of that cake”. This is the beginning of the whole piece and perhaps of a new daily habit before collapsing any motivation and make you quit completely your diet. Yes, from just a spoon. Vice- versa my diet started with just a carrot bite. I was about to devour a bag of chips and said “screw it, have a carrot” and saw it can be done. So the thing works both ways. Just don’t take that small bite and if you do, no matter what; never say “now I broke the diet, let’s have the whole thing”. No. Think of this as your money. If you lose a penny you don’t throw all your money on the trash because now it happened, you work a little extra and replenish it, and don’t do it again.
    Sorry for the long speech

    • Videonut041

      If I over eat I check the calories and remove a little bit every day till its undone so far I’ve lost 1st 7lb

  • Fernando Aguilar

    I tend to be guilty of this. I usually exercise 2-3 days a week and on the weekends I get a little carry away with the calories. I wasn’t sure if it was normal but after reading this article I’m sort of relieved but I know I just have to keep track of my intake calories.

  • Read this article because I’m very guilty of this once I start cheating I can’t stop, thanks for the witty article and tips!

  • Marinabrowne

    I love this fitness pal I’ve lost 1.5 in just 5 weeks x

  • Tyler Mueller

    I feel as though many Americans struggle with this, and some reasons is because of the cheat day. A lot of people decide they’re not going to count any calories a certain day a week. This leads to long term problems for many individuals because they look at this as an award for them seleves and they will be more likely to cheat over and over again. I would suggest if this does happen to you to be sure you have healthy food options in the house so the next day you are able to get right back on track with your healthy eating instead of using another cheat day. If you are able to control yourself having this happen once a week isn’t bad you just have to make sure it doesn’t become a consistent pattern.

  • diamond778

    Social eating is difficult. At conferences and family gatherings tasty, calorie packing, undesirables are served. So I am honest and I brutally log it. Then in the coming week I do the caloric equivalent in exercise. Honesty does pay. By not deceiving myself I have a better idea where I am. I thought the article would have touched on the make-up exercise process but I am disappointed that it didn’t. Although prevention is better than cure, it is often important to have a plan when things go wrong.

  • Jeremy J

    I’ve managed to loose 127lbs in about 17 months. I tried the cheat day and it didn’t really work for me because I would crave more. I decided to ignore the workout calories during the week and give myself the extra on the weekend. I didn’t look at it as a diet because now I’m almost to my goal it’s almost impossible to looses anymore weight. I know I’m going to have to eat healthy the rest of my life if I want to stay how I am. I set goals and have rewards. If I over eat I workout extra hard at the gym. Honestly I feel terrible most times now when I cheat so I don’t bother much any more. Just about everything in this article has hit me at least once and I’ve learned to work through it. Just takes dedication.

  • Foodahz

    You take your big ass to the gym and do your penance like I do!

  • Augusto Cabrera

    This article… thanks! The burden of guilt sometimes is so big, that I don’t even enjoy a nice burger (and I have one like every two months).

  • Gwynne

    I try to eat every 3-4 hours. If I go on some crazy binge I just reset and eat something I’m supposed to at the next 3 hour mark.

    • JofJLTNCB6

      “…eat something I’m supposed to at the next 3 hour mark.”

      Something you’re supposed to??? You’re supposed to eat at a reasonable net calorie deficit over time and within reasonable macro ranges. There is no other “supposed to” for eating to lose weight.

  • Lola Katsumi

    I have binge eating problem. I start good and then emotional binge eat then feel so much same and disgust.

  • Policymaven

    Coach Stevo, your posts are hands down the best I read on MFP. Thanks for giving us perspective on our weight loss journey — knowing that it is exactly that, rather than a race to the finish line. Health to you!

  • Chris Thomas

    fine words indeed. The screw it’s are difficult to overcome but, I know when I look in the mirror I like what I see better. When I look at old pics of myself and see me wearing the big clothes I cringe. It’s not hard to lose weight. It’s VERY hard. But as Tom Hanks said in A League of Their Own, “it’s the hard that makes it great!”

    • Chris Thomas

      I also try to avoid calling what I’m doing a diet. I’ve seen too many people diet. Weight goes down. six months later it goes back up because they went off “the diet.” We should be making very simple choices for nutrition. Over time that becomes a lifestyle. That’s a lot different than a diet.