Years ago, like 15 or so, I had some weight reduction success following the Body for Life plan. That plan allows for one Cheat Day each week; but, it banks on the dieter moving further and further from really bad cheating because eating healthfully the other six days makes them feel so good they don’t want to lose that good feeling. Although I stuck to having a single Cheat Day for awhile, I never really reached that point of wanting to stay on the straight and narrow because I felt so great. Being nutritionally good for its own sake has never been my strong suit. My diet flow chart looked like this:
Cheat Day → Cheat Weekend → Cheat Once a Day → What Diet?
This is clearly a sub-optimal result.
However, I realize that this is not everyone’s result or everyone’s experience. I said when I started this blog and I’ve said it several times since then: I’m not a dietitian. I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a doctor. I am an expert only in terms of my own experiences. While I’m certainly presumptuous, I’m not presumptuous enough to say that I can speak to every dieter, every emotional eater, every overweight or obese person, or even every sugar addict. I can speak only to my own experience as someone in every. single. one. of those categories.
I tried to quit smoking several times before I was actually successful at it. Each time I failed, it was because I allowed myself to believe the lie that I could have just one. “I’ll just have this one while I drink this beer.” “I can just have one with a cup of coffee.” Just “one in the car on the way to work” became one on the way home, too. Then it became another one at lunch, then another at home after work. The non-smoking flow chart looked like this:
Cheat Drive → Cheat Commute → Cheat Relaxation → A Pack of Marlboro Lights, Please
Bam! I was a smoker again.
It was not until I was honest with myself about my condition as a nicotine addict that I was able to successfully quit. No, I cannot have just one. I won’t stop there. It’s the same with my sugar addiction and the sumptuous Oreo Blizzard, I won’t stop there.
As I mentioned yesterday, I know people who can binge smoke twice a year or smoke two cigarettes a week. I am not one of those people. Similarly, I’m sure that there are people who can successfully manage a single Cheat Day or Cheat Meal a week. Clearly, I am not one of those people, either. If I were, I would not have regained more than two-thirds of the weight I lost.
The trick that let me successfully quit smoking and lose weight before wasn’t giving in to the cravings, it was by-passing or short circuiting them. If I wanted a cigarette with a beer or a cup of coffee, I just didn’t drink beer and I had my coffee in different locations and situations than I had when I smoked. I stopped working crossword puzzles sitting on my back porch because that was a time when I smoked a lot. I changed my routine so that those situations when I might normally have a cigarette no longer occurred. It’s harder with food; but, I believe that it is still manageable.
I pay for my gasoline at the pump, avoiding going into the convenient store where I would normally buy a snack. I change the route that I drive to work, avoiding driving by Dairy Queen and Popeye’s Chicken. I stick to the outside aisles at the grocery store, avoiding the siren call of the frozen food section. I am finding different food choices to mitigate the effects of cravings. I keep lots of whole foods and meals made from them on hand, avoiding hunger panic and the poor food choices it brings.
It’s been only a week; so, these things are not habit yet. I’m still working on them and I’m still struggling; however, I know that changing my habits worked before. And I know that it will work now.
If you are using a Cheat Day but still struggling with your weight or your health, I would challenge you to map your own diet progression. Does your flow chart look like the one the diet book recommends? (Cheat Day → Six Healthy Choice Days → Cheat Day → Six Healthy Choice Days → Better Health) Or does it look like mine above? If it looks like mine, perhaps it’s time to rethink your approach. Because if it looks like mine, it’s not a Cheat Day. It’s just cheating.