I have been reading a lot of articles, and a lot of blogs about weight loss. Many of the blogs are written by people like me who are working to become healthier and to lose weight. There is a wide variety of ways that people are losing the weight. Some are using diet plans, other are exercising more of their own portion control, still others are simply counting calories. A few are following more restrictive diets that eliminate one or more items or types of food like sugar, gluten or pop from their routine.
One phrase that I see coming up again and again in their writings is the phrase “cheat days”. Often I will read about people who give themselves a cheat day, or a cheat meal. The more that I see that word the less I like it.
Many of the blogs I read are written by others following weight watchers, and sometimes I will see them writing about cheat days. Here is what bothers me about the word. To me, cheating means that the person is doing something suspicious, sneaky or underhanded. Cheating is a way to evade the “rules”, and still attain the prize. In sports we think of things like corked bats, performance enhancing drugs, spit balls, illegal parts on racecars and so on. In life we think of people cutting corners on their taxes, or intentionally trying to get something for nothing. These are examples of people trying to win by being outside the rules. They hope they can get away with something to that they can obtain something they didn’t earn.
What are we saying, then if we have cheat days on our diets? We are saying that we want to have the benefits of losing weight, but by skirting the rules. We are saying that we want to have weight loss, but we don’t want to earn it. And, whose “rules” are we breaking? In the end, who are we even cheating? The answer is that we are breaking our own rules, and cheating ourselves.
I think this sets up, or continues an attitude that we can get something for nothing, that we can eat what we want and still lose weight. But if we think that, we are only fooling ourselves.
I think that if we are all in this to truly make lifestyle changes, and to do so in a healthy and sustainable way, then we need to eliminate the word “cheat” from our vernacular. We need to be honest with ourselves – completely and totally honest. The weight loss formula is really quite simple – eat fewer calories than you burn. Do that, and you will lose weight. Fail at that, and you will stay the same or gain. It is a matter of chemistry and physics, and no amount of rationalization or lying to ourselves will alter the objective results.
Am I saying that a person who is trying to lose weight should never again eat something that is high calorie and fun? Heavens no! For one thing, I don’ think that’s sustainable. When I committed to losing weight and living a more healthy life, I also made up my mind that I would be doing it as naturally as possible. That meant that for me there wouldn’t be obvious things like surgery or supplements, and it also meant that I wasn’t going to specifically eliminate anything from my diet just for the sake of dieting. To help me stay on track, I use Weight Watchers online. The goal in all of this has been to change how I think about food, and to do so in a way that would be sustainable for the long term.