Cheaters never lose, at least when it comes to weight control.
They don’t lose the weight of shame or win in weight loss long term because when you cheat, you’re only cheating yourself.
Let me unpack this truth with some examples:
- Fame turns to shame for a champion athlete who is caught cheating;
- We won’t get wiser by cheating on a test;
- Someone won’t strengthen their marriage by cheating on their spouse.
So why do so many people buy into diets that suggest “cheat meals” as a successful strategy to beat food cravings and lose weight?
The claim of many diets – especially those built around starvation, deprivation or shame — is that it’s a way of life. They will include a plan and some recipes to show you that eating without food “X” is possible and enjoyable. They show testimonials from people who have successfully lost weight on the plan. All in all, sounds pretty promising until they say: “Oh and by the way, because the cravings will be intense, you should give yourself a treat and cheat every once in a while.”
That’s it, BINGO, sold!
The major problem with these diets is that they don’t address the more important issue, which is the cravings and feelings of shame felt by the dieters. In fact, research shows that dieting can actually increase cravings. This is what sends many into the roller coaster of dieting and weight gain; the diet they are really on is the shame diet. And they are binging and purging shame in a vicious cycle that no diet will ever adequately address.
“Shame” and “cheating” are like siblings and neither one will make you feel good, so I encourage you to banish the words cheat and shame from your vocabulary. Cheat is to avoid or escape something undesirable. Why would you want to eat a “cheat” food that will make you feel shame if your goal is to improve your health?
Some diets will suggest that you not cheat. Others will tell you that you can, or even that you must if you want to succeed. What’s the truth?
The truth is that any diet that tells you what to do without knowing why you’re craving something is wrong. If you do an inventory of what you eat and your cravings in a journal, you’ll quickly learn what’s right for you, especially if you are honest with yourself. Some people can eat a scoop of ice cream without downing the entire carton and some people simply can’t.
If you can successfully eat an occasional off-plan meal without problems, then it isn’t really cheating…it’s simply enjoying food. And if you can’t successfully eat these foods, then it isn’t cheating either: it’s just lying to yourself.
What should you eat? For most people it’s whole foods, minimally processed, nutrient-dense, portion-controlled for weight management, highly-varied servings of protein, healthy fat and plenty of multicoloured vegetables.
When you focus on what your can eat rather than obsessing about what you shouldn’t, you will gain health and lose the weight of shame that you’ve been carrying. And by the way, your meals will be so delicious you won’t have cravings to cheat on your progress.