I know I’ve said this before, and everyone jumped down my throat… but I don’t believe in the concept of “cheating.””Cheat days,” “cheat meals,” and the like? I don’t believe in ’em.
It’s ok to throw tomatoes at me. I’ll just make tomato bisque out of ’em, anyway.
I think it’s appropriate to talk about “cheating” during a week where we’re committed to taking extra steps to eat healthier, cleaner and closer to the source because, honestly, so many of us are struggling with the vast amount of sacrifices we’ve had to make in order to do better.
No, I don’t believe in cheating. Cheating is a concept inherited from the “dieting” mentality… something else that I don’t agree with.
Allow me to explain.
People who take on temporary diets to lose a few pounds, only to revert right back to the habits that caused them to pack on the pounds in the first place… they “cheat” their diets every now and again. They “cheat” and eat the way they used to, because they’ve realized that they took on a diet that was far too restrictive for their natural liking – in a cold turkey kind of way, at that – and regress… without really learning anything from the situation altogether.
I can’t support that for a ton of reasons.
Firstly, it implies – like I mentioned – that you took on something too restrictive and too soon. Why? Are you trying to fit in a dress before the weekend, or are you trying to change things up so that you never have a problem getting in that dress again? Why did you go cold turkey? Don’t we know a gazillion people who’ve tried to cut things (namely smoking) cold turkey, only to regress because it was too much to bear?
Secondly, it implies that we don’t recognize that the habits/food items we used to “cheat” are the ones that got us in this mess in the first place! If I have committed to clean eating, decide to have a “cheat day” when I come home from work and have a TV dinner… y’know, because I’m sooooo tired and need to relax after a long day? C’mon, man! That ain’t gon’ cut it! The TV dinner might not even be that terrible – it’s not the food that’s the problem! It’s the habit. Coming home and not having anything healthy prepped for you to take? Coming home and having the TV dinner in the house in the first place? That’s the kind of stuff that results in you hitting up a fast food joint.
Embrace the fact that you are changing your life. You are not yo-yo dieting. You are not overindulging. You are not leaving yourself open to the risk of unpreparedness. You are definitely not going to gain the weight back.
You certainly aren’t “cheating.”
So… if I’m not cheating, what happens when I slip up?
First of all, it’s not a horrible thing. It’s not a “cheat” – because that implies that “it’s ok because I don’t do it often” – it’s a learning opportunity. Take a long, hard look at what you slipped up on. Take a look at why you felt that you “needed” it so badly. Analyze how you felt directly before and after you ate it. Did it help you feel better? Are you going to be hungry ten minutes from now? Was it empty calories?
Now, think about the future. Is this a good habit to maintain? Do you need to take some extra precautions to prevent this kind of trouble? Did you slip up because cold turkey just isn’t working for you? If you’re mad that you had that TV dinner when you know you’re supposed to be cooking, what extra precautions do you need to take to prevent it from happening again? You need to step your freezer game up, or have lighter dishes on hand. You need to have better snacks nearby to eat while you cook (yes, I do this too.) Embrace a salad instead. You know you’re supposed to do X, instead you do Y… so do what you have to do to make sure that you never forget that X.
I’m not talking about those situations where you just can’t get out of an eating mishap. I was hit with the example of a temperamental boss buying you a little birthday cake – can you really.. really turn down a slice? This isn’t cheating. This is acknowledging that life happens. While you may feel like you need punishment in the form of a supercardio session, this isn’t you indulging for no reason other than “I just wanted it.” Be reasonable in your assessment – if you feel like you’re giving yourself a pass for bad behavior, admit that. It’s a part of learning the lesson that comes with “cheating.”
In short, you don’t “cheat” a lifestyle. There is nothing ok about going against what you know you’re supposed to be doing, and making it “ok” because it’s “only for one day.” That doesn’t cut it. It’s half’ing it.
I hate this cliché (I hate all clichés) but really, this is a lifestyle change. For crying out loud don’t “cheat” it, because you’re only “cheating” yourself. So give yourself the time and patience it takes – the time and patience you deserve – to become accustomed to things you might’ve never tried.. never done.. never imagined. It’s so worth it.