A point of Clarity: Cheating v. Failing.

So, a few days ago, a friend of mine on FB made a comment about a great celebration she was having and tagged me in the post saying it must be one of the “Cheat” days that drive me up the wall.  This made me realize that I need to clarify what I mean by “cheat days”.  All of this info is hidden in scraps and pieces of my writing over the last few years, but today… I lay it out.

Life happens.  And yes, my mantra is “Health is Not a Hobby, It’s a Lifestyle”, but truth of the matter is, when you are the only one you know living that lifestyle, or at least one of a very few… well.. its gonna make things hard.  You want to go eat at a restaurant every once in a while, you want to have a piece of cake to celebrate a friends birthday, you want …. (insert your vice here).  Whereas I certainly, can’t and WONT condone eating garbage because its easy or popular, sometimes, everyone fails at being perfect.  (even me, i know, you’re SHOCKED)

Cheat days are just plain stupid (and more importantly dietetically invalid).  If you need to better understand my feelings on this, please read nearly any of my posts last week.  But to clarify and simplify my definition of a cheat day:  A day you wholly let yourself off the hook.  A day where you forget your goals, forget yourself, and dive head-first into a vat of whipped cream.  To make matters even stupider, to do this habitually, with some kind of premeditated schedule; “I eat right all week, so on saturdays I treat myself”  <– this is dumb.

We build this wall in our lives, this “binary code of conduct”.  So, to keep us from feeling bad, we add in loopholes, “well, it doesn’t count cuz….”, or “its a weekend, it doesn’t count on the weekend”.  This logic is fairly damaging, both dietetically and certainly psychologically.  But like I said up above, you have to live in the world.  You have friends who eat german chocolate cake, you have friends who want to share their lives with you, but not your lifestyle.  This happens, so, how does it work?

Moderation in all things:
I read a blog once that was ranting about how advantageous cheat days are.  She went on to explain her definition of “cheat days”.  Basically she had set out healthy treats that she would allow herself, and on low will-power days, she’d allow herself to have one.

First off, thats not cheating.  The snacks she had set out as her special treats were COMPLETELY FINE.  And only letting yourself enjoy food on a “I’m gonna crack” day, is WHY YOU FEEL YOU WILL CRACK!  Its so much better to understand what the boogie man is in the world, where your breaking points are and truly truly be weary of that.  But fact of the matter is, two cookies aren’t that big a deal.  SIX IS!

If having a homemade cookie and a small glass of milk, or a piece of dark chocolate and a handful of raspberries, or hell, a piece of pizza, makes you enjoy your dietetic life, then don’t make those off-limits, just understand YOUR limits. Treats are fine, just don’t eat them everyday. Those shouldn’t be cheating, and if you allow yourself to label them as cheating in your head you are setting yourself up for catastrophic failure.  Remember, I said “LIFESTYLE”.  Eating well isn’t a weekend thing, or a 90 day thing, or a ’till i’m thin’ thing.  Its forever, build the diet and the lifestyle that will work for you, for the long haul.

But Kirk, some days, things happen and I lose my mind, it wasn’t “moderation” it was just plain FAILURE.  

AWESOME^  Now you get it, NOW you understand.  The term “cheating” is a way to mitigate your responsibility.  “I’m cheating, but I’ll still pass”.  This is a toxic mentality.  It is so much better to understand:  Perfection is the goal… FAILURE WILL HAPPEN.

Thanksgiving is my ABSOLUTE favorite day of the year… BAR NONE.  I love it, I look forward to it for 364 days.  I start planning Thanksgiving on Black Friday, it is my single happiest day.  Not because of the food, but because of a huge list of reasons that are more suited for a different blog.  But I celebrate those reasons, like everyone else… with food.

I don’t “cheat” on Thanksgiving.  I fail.  Life happens.  Celebrations happen.  Special occasions happen.  And for those brief and INFREQUENT moments, I fail… I fail to see the point of not celebrating.  I fail at being perfect.  It is so much better than cheating.  Cheating I’m giving myself a Pass.  Failing.  Nope.  I’m owning it.

My office should be renamed to the “Department of Homeland Security and Sheetcake”.  There is a birthday here all the time.  Someone is always bringing things in.  Sometimes I have a piece of cake, sometimes I don’t.  Neither of these is failure, neither of these is cheating.  Both are accounting my my behavior, monitoring my intake, understanding my limits, and exercising MODERATION, and choosing my battles.  Heavy workout weeks, I might be more inclined to a piece of cake than lazy week.  Its not cheating, its understanding a lifestyle.

So let me sum this up.  If you sit on a wednesday night, holding a chocolate chip cookie to your face breathing deeply, hoping for a contact sugar high, wishing it was saturday… then on saturday make yourself a PLATE of cookies and indulge, I promise you, I truly swear to you, this is the WRONG way to diet.  You will be chasing your tail.  Regardless of how good you are during the week, regardless of what your body type is.  This type of starvation/gluttony is psychologically, metabolically, and dietetically bad.  You will constantly be losing the same 5 lbs.  Your skin will never tighten up, your stomach and GI tract will never regulate to a new paradigm, you are literally keeping your body from re-regulating.

But if on a wednesday night, your friend just made some cookies, asks you if you’d like one… have  ONE cookie, hell Have TWO.  But know you did it.  Remember you did it.  Work a little harder the next day, eat a slightly smaller helping of dinner.  Build in slack into your daily calories, that would allow you to celebrate a friends birthday without “cheating”.  Health is not a hobby, its a lifestyle.  So build a lifestyle that you can live with.  Don’t “Cheat”.  And know one thing.  KNOW IT.  You will FAIL from time to time.  It happens.  So get back up, brush yourself off, and hit the gym as your penitence.

As always, I write this for you.  Have a question, have a request, let me know.


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