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Cheating and ‘diet culture’

The notion of “cheating” when adopting healthier eating habits that serve us better creates a trap of self-sabotage that many of us fall into and then justify with some elaborate, sophisticated excuses. If we look at the definition of cheating, we see that we are not “cheating” at all when it comes to making unhealthy food choices.

Definitions.net tells us that cheating is a “deception for profit to yourself.” When we allow ourselves to think thoughts like, “I’ve been good all week, I deserve a treat,” we are being deceived, but it does not profit us at all. When you just type “cheating” into google it gives the definition as “acting dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage”.

If you have a day where you slip up, for example, say you have a piece of cake during a time when you are trying to make good food choices, I want you to ask yourself how this is acting unfairly. Did you gain an advantage by having the cake? You see, the terminology does not apply. When we “cheat” with food, we aren’t gaining an advantage, we aren’t the ones profiting. It’s actually quite the opposite; we are the ones suffering.

Robb Wolf, author of “Wired to Eat,” goes so far as to say we cannot “cheat” with food. We only “eat” food and there are consequences, good or bad, for whatever we choose to eat. This goes against a lot of the dietary advice out there, but it’s important to wrap our minds around the mindset that our health isn’t an 80/20 venture, we can’t “cheat” on our health, and that eating healthily is not bad thing. These days we are also inundated with this concept of “diet culture,” which has pushed many of us to believe that we should be able to eat whatever we want whenever we want it.

You see gaining real self-empowered health is about breaking the ties with the foods you love that don’t love you back. Choosing to not eat certain foods isn’t restrictive, it’s self-respect. It’s not “diet culture” to say no to certain foods. It’s not “diet culture” to want to feel great and have a basic awareness that some foods just aren’t good. Simply put, we can’t avoid the fact that some foods cause inflammation, mess with our gut, cause weight gain, acne, down shift our mood, mess with our blood sugar and make us just want to sleep.

In actuality, we want everything we put in our bodies to have good consequences. So, what if we slip up and let that little voice that pops into our mind demolish our best intentions? We can make up excuses, justify our actions, feel sorry for ourselves and give up on all the good choices we have already made or we can own up, step up, admit we could have done differently and realize we are one choice away from working toward our goal again.

To help with this process of shifting your mindset, practice capturing the sabotaging thoughts and replace them with thoughts like:

  • Nothing tastes as good as I’m feeling.
  • I could have that – but I choose not to, simply because I want to.
  • I choose to eat this food over that and I am excited about it!
  • Life is a joyous dance and I can’t dance weighed down by food choices that don’t serve my body and ultimately my mind.
  • I choose to let go of this food instead of depriving myself of health.
  • Hunger is just my fat-burning machine getting revved up.

Remember that it’s OK to say no to yourself and to not eat certain foods if they don’t serve you. Remember that “diet culture” is when actions are filled with shame and obsessions. “Diet culture” is about valuing thinness not health. Love and respect your body and life enough to nourish it well every day. The first step? Pick a positive thought to think about today and leave the cheating for solitaire.

Ashley Lucas has a doctorate in sports nutrition and chronic disease. She is also a registered dietitian nutritionist. She is the founder and owner of PHD Weight Loss and Nutrition, offering weight management and wellness services in the Four Corners. She can be reached at 764-4133.