What to Do When You Blow Your Calorie Budget

Kristina LaRue, RD, CSSD, LDN
by Kristina LaRue, RD, CSSD, LDN
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What to Do When You Blow Your Calorie Budget

Lasting change starts with small, sustainable habits, like sipping on water throughout the day, cooking more at home, and moving your body regularly. Still, you’re only human, and it’s natural slip-ups happen on the quest to improve dietary habits and lose weight. But on days you overeat, the worst thing you can do is throw in the towel and beat yourself up about it. Instead, remember consistency always beats perfection, and missteps are part of the process. Here’s what to do if you find yourself veering off track:

1

MAKE YOUR NEXT MEAL HEALTHY

One meal or day of overeating won’t have a big impact on progress, but a week or month of splurging can definitely set you back. Instead of tossing in the towel and telling yourself, “I’ll start over tomorrow,” begin eating nutrient-dense foods at your next meal or snack. The whole day or week isn’t a wash with a little indulgence — just get right back on track, and you will feel good you did.

2

STAY POSITIVE

If you slip up, refocus on the reason you’ve set these goals in the first place. Are you training for an upcoming marathon? Is it to look stunning as you walk down the aisle at your wedding? Do you want to be fit and healthy to chase your grandkids around? Remind yourself this journey will be full of peaks and valleys, but keeping a positive outlook is key.

3

ADD MORE FRUITS AND VEGGIES

One reason you might be sailing through your calorie budget — especially if it’s happening regularly: “You’re not eating enough filling foods like fruits and veggies,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN. Keep a food journal and take the time to reassess what foods you’re eating within your calorie allotment. If you’re light on produce, now is a great opportunity to recalibrate and make sure with every meal or snack you’re getting in a fruit or veggie, which are generally very low in calories and high in fiber that keeps you satiated and your blood sugar stable. This can go a long way toward keeping cravings at bay.

4

AVOID THE SPIRAL

“I’d really encourage people to be kind to themselves,” says Gorin. To that end, there’s no point in promising yourself it will ‘never happen again’ — because it probably will. “There’s always going to be ‘that day’ where you eat the extra slice of birthday cake or indulge because it’s a holiday,” she adds. But blowing your calorie budget doesn’t say anything about who you are as a person, nor should it dictate shame about yourself. “Don’t punish yourself or feel horrible, because that’s often when people really backtrack with progress and could end up with days in a row of overeating,” says Gorin.

5

ASSESS BARRIERS AND STRATEGIZE

Rather than beating yourself up about overeating, take it as a learning moment. Were those chocolate chip cookies in your pantry calling your name? Did you forget how to say no to the bottle of wine your friend wanted to split at dinner?

When you blow your calorie budget, assess if external pressures are to blame. If the cookies in your pantry are too tempting, don’t bring them inside the house. If you find yourself eating (or drinking) for social reasons, maybe it’s time to practice standing up for yourself and embracing the power of “no.”

6

TAKE STOCK OF YOUR EMOTIONS

Emotions are often linked to food, and it’s helpful to address how they’re impacting your choices. One way to do that is by keeping a food journal with an app like MyFitnessPal and writing down how you’re feeling in the notes section after each meal and snack. For instance, you might notice you tend to reach for sugary foods when you’re stressed. “Try to come up with non-eating ways to make yourself better when those feelings arise,” says Gorin. Take a quick break to stretch away from your computer or phone, go for a brisk walk, or phone a friend.

7

GET MOVING

Instead of sitting on the couch and letting a day of overeating spiral into one that’s also sedentary, make sure to prioritize movement. This doesn’t mean you need to feel pressure to burn off calories you consumed, but rather getting some extra endorphins from exercise helps boost your mood. In turn, you’ll feel better about getting back to your healthy habits at the next snack or meal. Whether it’s a short walk, some gentle yoga or a few bodyweight exercises, make sure to fit in some exercise you enjoy.

8

DON’T AMEND THE BUDGET

Even if you might have blown your calorie budget by lunch or have been mindlessly snacking all day, don’t skip your next meal or severely restrict calories the following day to make up for the splurge. Restriction backfires and can set you up for a cycle of blowing the budget. Skipping meals creates ravenous hunger and, at that point, everything in sight might look good.

Instead of amending your budget by cutting calories from another meal or day, chalk it up as a small splurge and continue with your healthy eating plan.

9

RETHINK HOW OFTEN YOU EAT

Consider how you’re proportioning your calorie budget: Are you eating often enough? “I recommend that most people eat every 3–5 hours,” says Gorin. For most people, that means you’ll be eating three meals and one or two snacks. Eating less often to save up calories means you likely end up so hungry you overeat. Also, if you’re thinking about food all the time and regularly feeling tired and cranky, these are signs you might not be eating enough to support your weight-loss goals.

10

PLAN FOR YOUR FAVORITES

Rather than waiting to go over your calorie budget because of that spontaneous ice cream cone, lunch with a friend or glass of wine at dinner, plan for these to happen and adjust accordingly. Create a space for them in your meal plan 2–3 times per week, advises Gorin. “It might be a choice between wine and the dessert at Friday night dinner, but you shouldn’t have to deprive yourself,” she says. Also, think about the type of food you’ve been gravitating toward when you blow your budget and see if you can find healthy alternatives that still feel satisfying. For example, if ice cream is your kryptonite, opt for a banana-based or dairy-free ice cream to get a few more nutrients and less calories. Or, if pizza is your thing, try a cauliflower crust or mini naan pizzas.

11

GET SUPPORT

Having others who support your goals makes lifestyle changes easier to make and sustain. In fact, research shows simply sharing your goals with friends and family makes them more likely to be achieved. You can ask your partner or a friend to be your accountability buddy or engage with the community on MyFitnessPal to get virtual support from like-minded people who can motivate you to stay on track. Similarly, working with a registered dietitian can help you “come up with a calorie budget that works for your weight-loss goals,” says Gorin. You don’t have to do this alone.

Originally published January 2018, updated with additional reporting.

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About the Author

Kristina LaRue, RD, CSSD, LDN
Kristina LaRue, RD, CSSD, LDN

Kristina is a board certified sports dietitian located in Orlando, Florida where she specializes in intuitive and mindful eating. She is the author of the food and nutrition blog, Love & Zest where she shares {mostly} healthy recipes with simple ingredients that are meant for real life. As a new mom, she knows that eating well and living an active lifestyle isn’t always easy… but it’s always worth it!! Kristina loves spending time outdoors with her family, sweaty workouts, and a good cup of coffee. Get in touch with her for one-on-one nutrition coaching (virtually or in person), or connect with her on PinterestInstagramFacebook  and YouTube.

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40 responses to “What to Do When You Blow Your Calorie Budget”

  1. Avatar Jo says:

    How do you stop being so depressed about your weight while you’re working so hard to change it? I’m finding it hard not to think about how much time I have left to do this to get results

    • Avatar Steph says:

      Start small. Instead of thinking ‘I have to loose 10kg’, change to ‘I can loose 500gr this week’

    • Avatar Kay says:

      Hi Jo I felt the same until I,got on the scales today and had to stand on ithem twice to make sure where correct and yes they are I feel great now, so don’t give up. I stayed the same weight for 4weeks and have lost this week. Kay

    • Avatar Laura says:

      Hi Jo, You should try the Clean 9 detox plan from Forever Living I lost 10lb in 9 days and felt fantastic after its a great way to kick start any weight loss plan detoxing the body can aid weight loss when you have hit a plateau if you’re interested email me @ porgalicious@hotmail.co.uk xx

      • Avatar Teresa Boatwright says:

        The Clean 9 is great. I’ve finished mine and feel great! I only lost 5lbs but I’ve lost 2lb a week since! It opens your eyes to eating properly and the Hairy Bikers diet recipe book is great.

    • Avatar Wissywig says:

      Jo, unfortunately you can’t speed up the results of weight loss, but if you’re looking for a way to stay motivated, I found that lifting weights REALLY helped. You get pretty quick results which you can see. I found that toning up with free weights helped me stay on track. That was 1 year and 33 lbs ago and I’m still on track.

      I hope this helps…

    • Avatar Diana says:

      That’s how I feel! It feels like a mountain to climb and I feel like every time I get higher up I go back to the bottom and then get heavier each time!

    • Avatar Ed Hagerty says:

      I guess you have to assess what you’re doing to lose weight is right or wrong. For myself I was referred first to a Diabetic Specialist and then a nutritionist and thank God I’m not doing the insanity of counting calories, I count how many grams of Carbohydrates I eat per day 60 for breakfast and 60 for dinner and I try to get in a 30 gram snack in the early afternoon, I also exercise by walking and not just 15 minutes a day, but initially 1.6 miles, then I doubled that and now I’m walking 5 miles or more a day. As far as losing weight, REMEMBER the first 10 pounds are the easiest pounds you’ll ever lose. I lost 11 pounds the first two weeks on my diet plan, then 6 pounds the second two weeks and I’m on goal to lose another 6 or so pounds the third two weeks. With my loss of weight my doctor has reduced my Insulin dose. Also a little tip, we all like chocolate, but try not to eat MILK CHOCOLATE, eat an 1/8th of a cup of Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips one at a time or eat an ounce of Dark Chocolate, 70% Cocoa Butter or higher, its bitter tasting, but better for you.

    • Avatar scotty223 says:

      I was recently diagnosed with type II insulin resistant diabetes. I have lost over 30 lbs in a month, and have quit smoking and adjusted my lifestyle to adapt to this new little complication in my life.

      I struggle with keeping my head up. Like you, I look at myself and just want the results, and don’t want to wait for them to get here.

      A great friend of mine, that is a parole officer and all around fitness guru told me that the key to staying on and making a change is to not obsess on where your going, but. Appreciate what you have done.

      I know I have another 100lbs to loose. And it’s heart breaking when I look at myself and realize I’m a piece of sh##, but if I let myself do that, and don’t recalibrate myself to what I have done I’ll just get depressed and quit.

      Instead, I have to remember that whether it’s one more step or 7 more miles, 1 calorie less or 1000, I’m improving and getting better, and for the first. Time in my life I’m becoming proud of myself, not just the changes, but also of who I

      • Avatar scotty223 says:

        Am. Sorry, post broke up into two pieces.

        My 14 day BGL is 107.
        I’m down 30+ lbs
        Quit smoking

        It’s all possible, but not overnight. Take the time to appreciate you for you, and appreciate what you have done.

        And get some support.

  2. Avatar Jim Butt says:

    I’m surprised there wasn’t a comment that tools like MyFitnessPal provide the best support for occasionally overeating. MFP helps you learn that that last meal is not your last and you still have a lifetime of meals to make it up. Did that meal slow your progress or disrupt your plans, no problem. Make it up next time and never get down, because there, hopefully, is always a next meal.

  3. Avatar Greg Dahlen says:

    I would like to advocate my diet: for about six years now, I’ve been living on milk. Every day I drink about two gallons of skim cow milk, and hardly eat or drink anything else. It has been great for my health, I do excellently on my yearly physical, I maintain a weight of 160 pounds at six feet, one inch. When you get lighter this way, you feel more like exercising.

  4. Avatar Lana889 says:

    Hello MyFitnessPal community, I wanted to ask for some advice regarding my current situation. I was successfully following my diet up until finishing high school, when I decided to let go a little bit starting college so as to not seem uptight when making new friends. Unfortunately, since I guess I was severely restricting myself during my diet ( I had to go see a doctor about it) I started overindulging to the point where I eat because of habit and not because I’m hungry. I already gained ten pounds, and I find it hard to get back on track like the first time I went on a diet. How do I train myself again so I don’t automatically think of getting dessert every time I finish a meal?

    • Avatar kestrel x says:

      Hello! I’m sorry you had to go to the doctor to sort out your health problms. It’s possible that your previous restriction dieting caused metabolical damage. I recommend you research repairing your metabolism or metabolic damage. When I was in high school, I also dieted to an unhealthy level. When I would come out of these diets, I would binge crazily & gain weight. Or if I fast for spiritual reasons (which I find very helpful for my spiritual practice), I find I overeat in the days following the fast. For this reason, I think many nutritionists recommend maintaining a healthy, balanced and well proportioned diet.

      Another simple trick that I find helpful is filling up on plant based foods, and eating plenty of healthy fats like avocados.
      -Kes

    • Avatar Greg Dahlen says:

      well, if I’m with friends and they ask if I want dessert and I really don’t want it I just say “No, thanks, it looks good but I’m trying to stay skinny.” Or “no thanks, I’m just not hungry.”

  5. Avatar Margit says:

    I find you can spiral out of control if you try to make up for it by undereating after you overeat. I try to have the mindset of starting over, like pretend it’s the first day of your diet, because when you started the diet, you didn’t start by trying to makeup for a lifetime of bad days, you just started it. So just start the diet again, like it was your first day. It will still be a little easier than when you really first started since you’re already used to it.

    • Avatar Christine says:

      Margit, this is such excellent advice and encouragement. Thank you. I really needed to read this message today even though I am just noticing that it was posted a year ago. I am new to myfitnesspal and so far, really like it a lot.

  6. Avatar Meechity says:

    That’s impressive.

  7. Avatar KARLO GARCIA says:

    Really great advice!

  8. Avatar KstewKrew says:

    Blow your calorie budget….. Really? Who cares about calories. Eat within your macros…. Fat, carb, protein allowance and you shouldn’t have a calorie problem. As a matter of fact… I have calories left over. Calorie counting… Waste of time.

    • Avatar Gruene Fee says:

      Not everything that works for you works for everyone. And I think it’s safe here to say, “blow your PLAN,” whatever that plan might be.
      Glad you found something that works for you. 🙂

      • Avatar Kstewkrew says:

        Wow. Hateful much. That’s right you don’t know my plan. It’s called counting your macros. You should try it sometime. Don’t slam something until YOU have tried it. Rude.

    • Avatar Jerome Barry says:

      Counting calories and counting macros are like 11. Whether read left to right or right to left the answer is still 3.

      • Avatar A Poe says:

        Exactly, they’re essentially the same thing considering that calories on nutritional labels is calculated by each macronutrient multiplied by the Atwater factors. So by counting macros you are already counting calories to begin with, just indirectly.

    • Avatar Joshua says:

      Calorie counting isn’t a waste of time if it’s effective. I’ve lost over 20lbs since late July, and am 1/3 of the way towards hitting my goal. It’s all been accomplished through extremely minimal exercise and limiting my caloric intake while not abolishing any foods from my diet altogether. There may or may not be more effective ways of losing weight, but I’ve done so at a rate I’m extremely satisfied with, so that can hardly be called a waste of time.

    • Avatar A Poe says:

      You realize calories are calculated from macronutrients? So by counting macros you are counting calories anyways, just not assigning the 4-4-9 Atwater values to carb / protein / fat. Clueless.

  9. Avatar Hensq says:

    Thank you for this! For the past month I have been overeating without any control to it, due to losing my beloved dog, but this article made me believe that I can get back on track.

  10. Avatar Jimmy NoChit says:

    I apply the lessons I learned when I quit smoking. I did not quit smoking forever, I only concentrated on beating one craving at a time. Each time I fought off a craving, they got weaker, and farther apart. Until next thing I knew, I hadn’t smoked in 10 years.

  11. Avatar Cerlina says:

    Thank you so much for this!!!! I use to have cheat days… but that went totally out of control… now I have cheat moments… that works much better for me… I don’t feel as bad… Thanks again this was a wonderful article!!!! 🙂

  12. Avatar Mr. William Davis says:

    The timing of this article was perfect. I’ve been on a pretty good and strict path, and have lost 37 pounds since May 2017. Very pleased with my progress. But lately, I feel hungry a lot more than I have. And while I eat well, I have started a cookie binge. Which isn’t something I typically do. But man those shortbread cookies hit the spot. And after I’ve eaten them, I realize I will need to work that much harder to undo what I just did. If anyone has any recommendations to help me curb my hunger, I am open to them. Thanks.

    • Avatar Nat B says:

      Hi William. If you feel you need cookies, make your own. Like that you can control what you want to put in them and can substitute processed sugars with natural ones. Everybody needs a little sweetness sometimes, so I prefer making my own, like that I can only eat the ones I make, I can control what’s in them and at least I can add healthy things in the mix. Good luck!

  13. Avatar Pauline Forget Kelly says:

    Well here I am, thoroughly upset and discouraged with my attempt at weight loss. It hasn’t been very long – about a month but my weight is actually increasing instead of decreasing. I am logging and charting my calorie intake but no I am not exercising other than my regular daily routine of house cleaning etc. I don’t know where to go from here. In my mind I know we are leaving to go south (Arizona) when Earl retires on February 2nd. It is then that I want to truly make an effort to increase my daily activities once we hit the warmer and brighter weather. But still I struggle with my calorie intake. I am now trying to use slimfast 2 times a day to see how this will work. Anyway – feeling down and discouraged.

    • Avatar T. Hingston says:

      Pauline this is what used to happen to me and I would give up. Instead of just calorie counting, try counting your macros. I found I was eating too many carbs and not enough protein for my body type. I dont know how old you are, but I am middle aged (54) and doing that along with some cardio almost every day (a 30-45 min walk will do as long as you get your heartrate up into the cardio zone, so power walk!) has helped enormously. I can now see the scales moving and that keeps me motivated. Also, lots of small meals often, gotta keep make that metabolism move.. Make sure your calorie deficit is at least 500.

  14. Avatar LovesAllFood says:

    I find that when I blow my budget, a cup of peppermint tea helps to stop the cycle of wanting the bad food. The peppermint helps me digest too, so I bounce back quickly. I tend to listen to most of my cravings as I have found that many of them are my body telling me of a deficiency within. I try to focus on eating that item in moderation to avoid completely blowing my budget . I enjoyed this article and comments, we are all motivated differently, thank you for all of your successes and approaches to fails. We learn more from failing 🙂

  15. Avatar Firehawk says:

    I’m a commercial driver, so I’m unable to make multiple small meals per day. Any suggestions on a suitable lunch to take with me to work?

    • Avatar Kerryn Wood says:

      why not one big lunch meal full of good fats and protein – meat and salad with avocado and a good oil dressing (coconut oil or olive oil and balsamic vinegar), immediately comes to mind 🙂

  16. Avatar Bjørn Deildok says:

    When I blow my budget, I still log the excess… for the next day or 2 coming days. Then the calories does not get into huge numbers and i get a little more time to burn off the excess, and/or have a slight cut in daily intake for a short period.

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