The Real Truth About “Cheating” on your Diet

Of all the books I’ve read on diets, all the programs I’ve tried, all the myths I’ve heard, no subject is treated more lightly or more ignored than cheating or as some call it indulging. Whether we are talking about a well-researched book by an expert or some new hype we hear on the street, I haven’t seen any other subject regarding weight loss that is less mentioned. Is cheating good? Is it bad? Some casually mention it, others ignore it completely so it is always left unanswered. So here are my thoughts on the matter.

Nutritionists, trainers and doctors almost always neglect to mention this very real aspect about dieting for several reasons. Most are afraid that endorsing any type of indulgence might lead to the reader or program follower down a path that will end in quitting the program altogether. You write that you can indulge once in a while, we interpret it as permission to cheat all the time… game over. Therefore, even though it is not actually written that way, it is implied that strict adherance is expected. But what are the consequences of that? As it turns out, it leads to the same path as saying you can cheat: You end up quitting altogether as well.

The reason is simple. You will have cravings eventually. That cheeseburger begins to call you, but you stand strong and resist temptation. Then, 2 days later it calls you again. You refuse to back down. Now the cheeseburger is all you can think of. 3 days later you meet some friends and go to lunch. Then it happens. Everyone is eating what they want. You cave. You have the cheeseburger. But then, you can’t stop. You have the burger for lunch, figure that the day is ruined and have pizza for dinner. You wake up the next day and think:”Might as well have a big breakfast.” and end up downing a “Super-Duper-Mega-Slam”. By lunch time, you figure you have ruined your diet and give up. back to square one. Sound familiar?

One of the main questions I asked myself when starting this weight loss journey, was how to avoid this scenario. This is actually one of the main problems with diets that restrict certain food groups (low-carb, no fruit, no(insert food group here) diets). The minute you decide to go on these diets, you set yourself up. Especially if the restricted group is something you love to eat. We all know how it works: We crave what we can’t have.(In food and life in general) So the propensity to fall is always there. And I’m not even going into the health aspects of consuming an un-balanced diet. So the first rule on cheating is: To avoid cheating and keep your sanity, eat a balanced diet. You are less likely to crave something if you don’t feel it is restricted. The mantra shoudn’t be : “I can’t have that” It should be: “I don’t want to have that right now“.

Of course, there will come a time when that cheeseburger will call you. What to do? Eat it. Get over it. Continue you program. End of story. One cheeseburger wont sabotage your diet. Thinking that because you ate it, you should continue cheating because you already ruined your diet will do it though. There is no way around this folks. It will happen. We are only human so let it go. Here is my way of dealing with this problem and so far it has been golden. It might help you.

I have seriously decreased my cravings for high calorie and unhealthy foods by just saying to myself I can have them. That’s right. In my “program” I can have any food I want. The catch is that I can have them at certain times. For me, those times are special occasions. My wedding anniversary, my daughter’s birthday, mother’s day, those are some of the days where I have eaten stuff not exactly conducive to weight loss yet I have not gained a single pound since I started this journey. I have my cake, steak, ribs or whatever and then I keep going. Most of the time I’m not stressing over what I can’t have because I know I will have it eventually. Recently, it was my anniversary (4 years) and I knew we were going to Outback Steakhouse to celebrate so the two weeks prior to it I followed my diet with no problems or cravings because I knew I would eat a nice steak then. That day I had clam chowder, a steak and shared a dessert with my wife. The next day, back to my usual eating habits. Simple.

Which brings me to the second rule of cheating: Just because you cheated once doesn’t mean you ruined your diet or your progress.The most important thing to keep in mind when you do cheat is to NOT quit. Thinking you can continue cheating because you cheated once is the death blow to the goals you have set. Accept the fact that it will happen and get on with it. Also, having the occasional indulgence plays right into one of the crucial steps of successful weight loss: Slow weight- loss is permanent weight-loss. So you lost just one pound instead of two because you went to that BBQ. So what? It is better to adjust your body to how you are going to live the rest of your life(eating healthy with the occasional indulgence) during you weigh loss than losing a bunch of weight quickly with some extreme, over the top diet and than having make massive adjustments to keep that weight off.

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