“Cheat days” is such a common phrase in the diet community. Why? Because we usually end up eating food we’ve told ourselves we shouldn’t eat in order to maintain our “diet”, therefore “cheating”.
By definition, any way in which you eat is your diet so choosing to go off plan, isn’t a cheat – it’s actually just part of your diet, your lifestyle. Perhaps not ideal nor terribly nutritious, but still your diet.
Yeah, yeah, lots of naysayers out there but thppppttt!
No food, not even overly processed, sugary food, is bad. That’s right, it’s not bad. How your body functions and reacts to different foods is unique to you. Do you think because some people are allergic to nuts then all nuts are bad? If it makes you feel better to think of either high carb or high fat foods as bad, in order to help your compulsions or maintain healthier habits – then by all means, call it a bad, low down, dirty, no good, cheating, scoundrel food.
I suspect after many years of yo-yoing and going off plan only to stay off plan indefinitely, that you might be willing to reconsider how you think about these “bad” foods and how the act of “cheating” isn’t what really derailed you. No, what derailed you was the sense of shame and guilt that you gave in to some forbidden temptation – and perhaps you liked it so much, you continued, or you figured, “since I’ve ruined today then what’s a week? A month? Forever?” All because of that incredibly negative connotation encompassing the words “cheat” and “bad”. An avalanche of negativity.
But the food itself isn’t going to change. You, on the other hand, can. Especially, how you think about foods that aren’t part of your plan.
Think about this: A real, sustainable diet – one that is right FOR YOU, won’t be incredibly difficult to maintain. You won’t be starving, you won’t feel like crap, you won’t feel deprived, you won’t feel guilty. Because the diet that’s right FOR YOU, comes naturally. Everything else hasn’t worked, because it wasn’t right FOR YOU. Trying to force yourself into various dietary situations because your friends, family, and/or doctor parroted the old food pyramid and moderate exercise trope over and over isn’t going to work when it’s not right FOR YOU. And maybe, JUST MAYBE, the same is true for the old cheat trope.
How do you figure out what’s “going to work”?
1 part instinct, 1 part research, 2 parts trial and error.
Figuring out what’s going to work for you is basically just trying a lot of different things, learning a bunch of different things, and making a conscious effort to note what makes you feel good and what makes you feel bad. Seems simple enough, but it’s a lifetime battle for many folks – people who are battling eating disorders like compulsive binge eating or those with an addiction to sugar (which is sadly MOST humans these days) can find it very challenging and confusing deciphering what actually nourishes their bodies vs what’s damaging it.
Those wires get crossed.
Untangling those wires can take a while and there’s no shame in that. Evolution takes time.
If this semi-rant doesn’t resonate with you, that’s okay. It’s okay to plan for “cheat” days, or refer to any deviation as a “cheat”. But please don’t let that word, that way of thinking, weigh you down. The so-called-cheat is, in reality, just a temporary shift in your completely natural and SUSTAINABLE way of eating.
All that said… if you’re one of the few who know for sure, beyond a reasonable doubt, that deviating from your way of eating will lead to complete and total derailment for months on end, then try not to deviate. I know, sounds simpler than it really is. Instead of leaning into a dietary shift that’s not the healthiest option for you, try to substitute that triggering vice with something equally satisfying but simultaneously suits your dietary needs. This may take some time to figure out while you try different foods/combinations/brands, but that is time very well spent and you WILL figure it out. Eventually, you’ll have a huge mental inventory of alternatives to satisfy that craving. In fact, that’s why sites like mine exist – to help you figure this stuff out. You’re not alone in this, not ever.
So. Now you know. The cheat is a lie. Ditch that negative vibe. Be kind to yourself, allow yourself to make some mistakes now and then. That’s how you learn, grow, evolve.
The best advice I’ve read in terms of “cheating” goes a lil something like this: If you want to eat the cookie, eat the cookie – don’t eat the whole jar!
1 day out of 365 will NOT ruin your week, month, or year long progress. Get back to your normal way of eating with the next snack or meal or day. You got this. OK? OK 👍