Saturday, June 6, 2015

Cheating on a diet and bad foods

"I cheated on my diet today." Or, "I gave in and had bad foods today." These are phrases I hate. They're phrases that I think are harmful and the wrong look at how we eat and how we view food.

The point is not to be "on a diet" per se, but to change how we approach food and how we look at food since, at least those of us who are obese, have food issues or an unhealthy relationship with food.

So, many of us "go on a diet" to get thinner. Many people think that once they get thin, they can go off their diet. For the most part that is a recipe for gaining all the weight back again because you will go right back to the habits that made you fat in the first place!

An alternative is to change how we eat - permanently. For myself, I've gotten the "how to lose weight" down pat. The "permanent" part is where I still struggle, but I don't think it's in my method of losing weight or how I view food, it's that I revert to old behaviors as soon as I get depressed, which for me, is seasonal. I need to work on THAT part (and I am) so that I don't revert back to old habits.

But, back to these phrases - why do I think they are harmful? Because thinking of "cheating on a diet" shows that you don't understand that this is a lifelong process. There is no way in hell that anyone can go their entire life without ever having a piece of cake, or cookies. There will be weddings and parties and there will be times you simply WANT that cinnamon roll.

Today that was me. I was at IKEA yesterday, so I bought cinnamon rolls for the family. I had no plan on eating any, but for breakfast this morning we had blueberries and strawberries fresh from the field. I really wanted a cinnamon roll, so I cut one in half and ate it. And savored it. And enjoyed it. I didn't deprive myself of the experience. I didn't try to substitute a cinnamon Quest bar instead. No, I ate a true half cinnamon roll - 170 calories of pure carb and fat heaven.

Did I cheat? No. I just need to account for it in my plan. Means that today my carb count will be a bit higher and I might want to choose my meals differently today - or not. I just know that making that choice means that the scale will not drop as much this week because of that choice. I recognize that and move on.

I don't feel deprived. I know this journey will be long (and forever) and if it takes me 5 years to lose the weight versus 7 months - oh well - it's all good as I'm NOT IN THIS FOR A RACE, but to change my relationship with food!!!! Goal is to make good decisions most of the time and to be able to live with the plan I'm on.

I've been on this plan now for just shy of 3 weeks and that half cinnamon roll is the first off plan thing I've wanted or eaten. I would say that's pretty good and if I keep that up, I'll be in good shape! AND I won't feel like I have to "give everything good food up for life".

And then there is the idea of bad foods. Food is food. Some give us more nutritional value than others, but they all provide energy and viewing a few as bad also shows that we don't have a healthy relationship with food. Yes, I should avoid eating too many of certain foods - and for me that involves sugars, but I don't view those foods as bad, just not the best choice for me.

My foods yesterday were: half and half in my coffee, a Quest protein bar, and then a homemade taco salad of spring greens, seasoned lean ground beef, shredded cheese, avocado, bell peppers, and homemade salsa with a sprinkling of crushed blue corn tortilla chips.

My foods today will be: half and half in my coffee, strawberries and blueberries with a big dollop of whipped cream, a half cinnamon roll, a quest protein bar, and a slightly smaller taco salad that is similar to the night before.

If I look at those meals, I could say, "well, half and half has a lot of fat and some carbs because it's a dairy product. A protein bar isn't "real food", and I ate a few tortilla chips. Those were bad, right? To me - no. I had a very completely, healthy day that works for me and I made good choices on Friday, and slightly less good choices on Saturday.

If my day would have looked like this: A cinnamon roll, Kraft Macaroni and cheese, and cheese pizza for supper with a cookie for dessert, that would be a bad choice day for me as I got very little nutritionally -especially for me this would be bad because it would be carb heavy and A DAY of eating like this would throw me into craving mode. I wouldn't want to make these choices often, but if I did... I did. I would move on to better choices the next day.

So... if you want to do this as a lifelong change of food relationships - stop the mentality of all or nothing (which cheating is part of) and start thinking of it's one day at a time, one meal at a time, for the rest of your life. THAT is probably the only way it will be a lifelong weight loss success.

Oh, and one other thing - if you cannot stick to your plan and find yourself straying away from it too much, the plan isn't working for you and you should change it before you completely give up. "Diets" don't need to be boring and horrible. Your diet should be something you can maintain forever and ever (as you will need to, for the most part).


  1. Melissa, thank you so much for this post, and it comes at a perfect time for me! After decades of the restrictive mindset about eating, I'm trying to change. Using an intelligent, pre-thought-out framework to control moderation of less than ideal foods. Learning what you said above is something I am working on very hard at now. I still believe that sugar, processed foods, and grains are not healthy. For anyone. I'm trying to break the mindset/habit of calling them EVIL, though. Because if I eat evil, then I AM evil. Right? If I choose to eat something less than stellarly healthy, then it's an informed choice I made. Big difference. :)

  2. I absolutely hate hearing the term "cheat" day. If you really think eating something is cheating, then that means that either the person is eating something that they really think they shouldn't eat or their "diet" is too restrictive. There are foods that I just don't eat any more (or eat very, very rarely). But, I feel open to the possibility of eating anything. About a year ago I had a cinnamon roll at Panera. It was good. I enjoyed it and I haven't had another one in the last year. I didn't feel it was cheating when I had it. I recorded it on MFP and WW and went on. I don't eat a lot of highly processed foods, but I think it is important to feel that I can eat them if I want to. What is important for me is that I've changed my eating habits enough that I don't often think it is worth it to have those kinds of foods.