Monday, April 21, 2014

How to Cheat on a Diet and Not Feel Bad

I feel like this is a common issue: the guilt that comes after cheating on a diet, a healthy living plan, whatever you want to call it.

Before I get into that issue, though, I must say this: food should not have that much control over us. What we put into our bodies should in no way make us feel good or bad about ourselves in a guilt vs. non-guilt manner. Do not give it that power.

If you are like me, however, and are still trying to cut ties with the dominance that food has over you, read on.


Picture this scenario:

You have been eating well for several weeks. You have filled your shopping cart -- and your tummy -- with nothing but vegetables, lean meats, healthy fats, and a bit of fruit. Your clothes are fitting better, your endurance and recovery is improving, and you just feel goooooood.

Your friends invite you out to happy hour, and you don't want to look weird (and you think "I've been so good lately -- I deserve it," so you order a cocktail and share some appetizers: a cheese plate, some onion rings, a plate of nachos. Pretty soon you're a few cocktails in, and dinner rolls around. You're tired of eating salads and good-for-you food, so you say screw it and share a pizza with a friend. And then comes dessert. You figure since you've already messed up with the drinks, the apps, and the pizza, why not? You order a slice of cheesecake and devour it in just a few minutes.

You wake up the next morning: not only does your stomach hurt from the crap that you ingested (and your head is pounding from the cabernet), but you feel a huge sense of guilt. "Why did I eat like that? I had been doing so well!" The guilt is overwhelming.

We've all been there.


Personally, I have been there 1,000 (and one) times. And most of the times that I feel that insurmountable guilt, I just keep eating crappy. I think to myself, "Well, I already ate one Oreo and messed everything up. I might as well eat four more. What do I have to lose at this point?" And the vicious spiral continues -- and the guilt over one cheat meal turns into a crazy amount of guilt over one (or two or three) cheat months.

One reason that I stuck to my Whole30 for longer than 30 days was because I was nervous of what would happen when I stopped being so vigilant about my diet and nutrition: would I fall back into old traps? Would I gain back all of the weight that I lost? Would I go back to sleeping horribly every night and feeling bloated every day? How could I get back on track if I slipped?

And then I remembered one of the things that Melissa and Dallas stressed in It Starts With Food and on the Whole30 website:

Information from Whole30's website

How true is that? No one is making you eat that French fry. No one is forcing you to order the tiramisu. No one is pouring tequila down your throat (unless, of course, you're in Cancun on Spring Break -- I wouldn't doubt that someone would be pouring Jose straight from the bottle into your mouth).

The food that we put into our bodies is our choice and our choice alone.

So, let's get back to the topic at hand: how are we to cheat on a diet and not feel the crazy guilt afterwards?

It's easy:

Don't consider your "cheat" a cheat. Instead, view it as a "choice." When you think of "cheating" as a "choice," the guilt inherently goes away.

I am currently on Day 57 of my lifestyle choice. That means that 27 days ago, I finished my Whole30. In the last 27 days, I have had six days where I have "cheated." But, on each of those days, I made a cognizant choice to do so, and I gave my permission to eat non-compliant (according to Whole30) food. I did not necessarily "go overboard" and throw myself in a dumpster of Sour Patch Kids, but I consciously chose to indulge in the few items of food and drink that I did.

As a result of making intentional choices to stray from my usual nutritional plan, I felt no guilt. (I did, however, feel a whole lot of tummy issues. But guilt was nowhere in my system.)

So there you have it: the easiest way to not feel guilty after cheating on a diet is to not consider it cheating but choosing.

Thank you for listening to this week's PSA. :)

How have you avoided guilt after a splurge? How have you ended food's reign of control in your life?

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1 comment:

  1. I definitely struggle with post-indulging guilt. I usually just try and do better the next day and move on, but I am queen of "deserving" to eat certain foods...