Did you have a long day? Did your boss look at you funny? Did your kid’s teacher call you? Was there a crazy driver on your commute (besides you)? Did you say “no” to the donuts at work? Well, then… you deserve a treat! You are now justified to cheat on your diet, right? Right!
I think I have heard every excuse in the book. In fact, I think I wrote most of them myself! They are all magnificent reasons as to how we can make it okay to have what we want, when we want it. Does this sound familiar:
“Sometimes, I cheat and have a hot fudge brownie sundae.”
“Every once in a while I just need a little treat.”
Only one thing is a little askew here: Treats are for dogs. Are you a dog? Uh, no. And besides, when you reward your dog for good behavior, do you give him a porcupine to chew on? No, that wouldn’t be a treat. Using bad food as a treat for good behavior is pretty ironic.
When I first developed the nutrition plan for Kickboxers Ultimate Training (KUT), I worked in a “Cheat Day” as I used to prescribe as a personal trainer for bodybuilders. This was a scheduled day in the week where there were no nutrition rules — they could eat whatever they wanted. However, it really derailed many of my students. It gave them a carb hangover, it slowed their progress and made them crave more junk. So I changed it to a “Cheat Meal” which helped a little but some creative folks found ways to drag out their Sunday brunch all day, which resulted in the same negative results. Finally, I turned it into a “Zero Meal” which was a one-hour (timed) meal where there were zero rules, zero calorie counting and zero guilt. This worked much better.
What was the point of a Zero Meal? The benefits were mostly psychological in nature as it is really important to not feel trapped in a “diet”. And if you can put off a whole week’s worth of cravings to just one hour, you are definitely ahead of the game.
However, these days, I don’t really promote the idea of a Zero Meal anymore. Why? Because not everyone needs it or wants it. And for some reason, the Zero Meal was like a “treat” and thus turned all other meals into something that needed to be tolerated until next week.
Here’s the deal, if you want a hot fudge brownie sundae – have one. You don’t need to come up with a lame (albeit elaborate and justifiable) reason as to why you deserve it. You are a free human, able to choose whatever you would like to put in your mouth and on your hips. Except when you are not… and I’ll get to that in a minute.
Here’s some helpful strategies that can keep you on track if you going to “cheat”:
- Never cheat in the spur of the moment. Plan it in advance and put if off as long as you can. (On a side note, what really worked well with the Zero Meal, was choosing the same time every week that got used or not. i.e. Saturday night from 6 – 7pm. Period.)
- Choose only the best rendition of your treat. Don’t settle for some cheap facsimile of what you want. If you want chocolate, have the best
- Predetermine how much you will have. Again, this is not a spontaneous decision. Plan this beforehand. JJ Virgin has a “3 bite rule” which I love and use often.
- Enjoy every bite! Savor the look of it, the smell, the flavor, texture, even the temperature and notice the sensations in your mouth and in your stomach.
- Stop taking a bite when it no longer delivers that same heightened experience.
- Throw away the rest. (Beware Dumpster Divers: use the garbage disposal or toilet!)
- Let’s not call it “cheating”, shall we? Cheating is for cheaters and that descriptor is negative self-talk that is not empowering. You simply made a choice. Be a Chooser, not a Cheater.
Which brings me to those of you who don’t feel like you always get to choose what you put in your mouth. Sometimes you feel obsessed, even possessed, and you simply can’t help it. I hear you. Don’t worry, that’s survival hormone signals from your brain overriding every good intention and ounce of self-control you have. It’s completely natural when your signaling is a little out of whack. Your brain lives on sugar and will do everything to get it and then some.
How can you fix this? First, be kind and gentle with yourself. This issue does not make you a bad person. Secondly, get some help. The only way to straighten out your food signaling is with food, real food. Consistently. And by real food, I’m talking about no processed food – generally staying away from anything that has more than 2 ingredients on a label. Of course this is difficult when your brain has been hijacked, which is why support is a good idea.
If you need a hand figuring all this stuff out, please don’t hesitate to contact me for some free resources. I’ve been there. I get it and I want help you create a body and life you LOVE!