Should Fitness Leaders Encourage Cheating on Your Diet?
My Answer: A Big FAT No!
WARNING: This is a rare rant, but I believe it’s necessary and could be helpful. Here is the email I got in my inbox today that is sparking this topic.
Here, I have another one for ya! How about: “Cheat on Your Spouse (Without Getting Divorced)”. Or, what about “Cheat on Your Taxes (Without Getting Caught).” I wonder how that would work out for ya. All I know is that title would never fly if it were about any other subject other than diet.
Have you ever wondered why we treat dieting differently than anything else? Cheating is cheating. Instead of teaching people to cheat, let’s teach people how to eat right and maintain a healthy balance so they don’t HAVE to cheat (which I’m sure was their intensions, but still sends a bad message).
I personally believe if we can teach people how to improve the issues that CAUSE cheating, we wouldn’t need to cheat to begin with. I also believe people need to know the difference between cheating and treating.
Why We Cheat
Why do people cheat on anything?
- They feel like they are missing out
- They are deprived, they aren’t getting what they want, or feel like they need
- They are greedy
- They lack discipline
- They are looking for happiness
- And many other issues I’m sure a psychologist would tell us our real issue is
Strict dieting (and depriving) can absolutely cause some people to cheat and binge. It’s caused from extreme short-term discipline, or extreme (but typically short-lived) self control. Just because you have good discipline for a period of time doesn’t mean it won’t backfire on you. Ask your spouse to not have sex with you for a few months and see how that works out for ya. If you do that, you are putting them in a very bad and unhealthy place, so why would we do that to your own body?
While some issues are caused by extreme yo-yo discipline, other issues that cause cheating are from the opposite, a lack of discipline and self-control altogether. People who never really work on improving self control will continue to struggle until they really commit to making permanent changes. Instead, people will dabble in eating better for a period of time, but they never really stick with it long enough to learn a new long-term disciplined behavior. Self control is difficult in any area of our lives – it will not be easy, and it will take constant practice, but it is most definitely healthy.
Think of all the areas of our life that require constant discipline. If we have to constantly control our tongue, control our anger, control our desires, control our thoughts and control our spending, why would we think we would ever get to a place where we no longer have to control our eating? Self-control is required in all areas of our life if we want to live fruitful, healthy lives.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11
Cheating vs Treating
Now that we’ve talked about why we cheat, let’s talk about how we cheat. First, I think people misuse the word. Instead of looking at having a piece of cake as “cheating”, we should look at it as “treating” – BIG DIFFERENCE. The same way we make room in our budget to treat ourself to a new pair of shoes or a new purse, we need to learn to make room in our budget for a dinner out or a piece of pie. As long as we aren’t doing it all the time, it’s a healthy way to have treats. Unfortunately, many people are not treating, they are cheating. They are not making room for that treat. They aren’t shaving calories off somewhere else. They aren’t working it off now, and they have no plans to work it off later. They aren’t working to “buy” that treat the good old-fashioned hard-working way.
People are just taking what they want, when they want – whether they can afford it or not. Anywhere else, that would be called stealing. In the dieting world, it’s called cheating – but I’ve got news for ya. People are NOT getting away with it. They are imprisoned in body fat, tight pants, insecurities, depression and despair.
American Needs Stronger Leaders
WARNING: The following content is rated M for mature. Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense truths, unpleasant news, offensive and/or strong language. Caution is advised.
I am so tired of seeing headlines suggesting dieting is easy and fast. It’s not. While it doesn’t have to be awful (and when done right, can be much easier than you think), practicing discipline isn’t easy. It takes some level of effort – and results are rarely fast.
I’d like to encourage fitness leaders to choose their words carefully and, may I boldy say, challenge American to QUIT cheating. We need to encourage people to be accountable. We need to speak truth in love and, for once, actually tell people “it may be your fault”. It’s not a fun message to give, but at some point, people need to hear the truth – even if it isn’t as fun.
Could you imagine if Magazines used headlines like:
- 10 Ways to Practice Self-Control
- Learn How Balance Diet and Treats (not Cheats)
- Get the Foods You Need, So You Don’t Fall Off the Wagon
- Overweight? Then Move More or Eat Less
Of course those don’t sound near as fun as “have your cake and eat it too”. And “get off your fat butt and burn off that cake” would not only offend half of American, but it probably wouldn’t sell magazines. Sadly, America spends so much energy on being politically correct, and non-offensive, they don’t have the guts to use headlines that people really need to hear. Instead, they tell people what they want to hear, even if it’s not true, unhealthy, only partly true or even damaging. We live in a “feel-good” society that preaches “if it feels good, do it” and “you deserve it”.
Fitness leaders needs to help people get to the root of the problem and fix it, instead of encouraging followers to find ways around the problem, or mask it. Personally, in my opinion, we shouldn’t teach people how to cheat, or even appear to. That is just a bad message to me. While teaching practical eating tips so people can ENJOY life, and not be miserable on a diet, would ultimately teach people how to FEEL like they are cheating (which I am sure is what the magazine was doing) – I don’t think we should even use the word cheat in a positive sense. Why? Because the uneducated dieter could be led to believe that some people are getting amazing results by “cheating right” and doing whatever they want. NO! People get good results by eating right and practicing self control.
“…people always want to see what they can get away with first…”
People are already looking for every way to lose weight besides the right way. I see it way too much at the gym. People work really hard at the gym, only to blow it on poor choices because they basically want to see what they can get away with and still get the results they want. If you are dieting that way, I’ve got news for you – you can’t get away with it for long. Living like that is risky. It’s no different than stealing and hoping to get away with it. You have to be ready to get caught and face the consequences. The best thing you can do is just live right – and, in this case, eat right.
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. Proverbs 25:28
How do you jump back on the right track, after a totally blowing your diet on Holiday weekends like Thanksgiving? Here are the steps we take at the Pfiester’s, to get us back in the groove.
Purge the crap. No, I’m not promoting bulimia. I’m saying get rid of the junk in your house. For example, Steve bought a pint of ice cream Friday weekend. Sunday night he said “my diet starts tomorrow. Do you want to know how serious I am?” And he proceeded to take the ice cream out of the fridge and toss it in the trash. It’s hard to eat clean when you are surrounded by junkfood. So, like Steve, if there is food in your kitchen you know is something that will tempt you, get rid of it. If you feel guilty for throwing food away, get over it. Keeping it doesn’t help solve hunger – and giving it to your friends or family is like passing along a disease. Do you really want to make someone else fat? Just get rid of it. No one needs that stuff.
Stock up. Once you purge all the crap, it’s time to replenish and do some healthy grocery shopping. Many times we eat poorly because we don’t have anything healthy handy. If you want to eat healthy, you have to shop healthy.
Prepare. After a weekend of feasting, I cooked up all our healthy food for the week. Grilled zucchini and squash, grilled fish, new potatoes, slow cooked chicken, and a whole roasted turkey is what’s on this week’s menu. Now that we’re stocked up, there’s no reason to go off plan.
Shrink the tummy. The first few days of getting back on track is all about portions. I eat several small meals and snacks, without ever filling all the way up. I also do a lot of watery, low-calorie density foods like soup, fruits, vegetables and smoothies to keep me full while reducing calories. In a matter of days, my stomach flattens back out and the smaller portions are perfect portions.
Burn it off. After falling off the wagon, I not only get back to my routine but I do double duty. I do 2 cardios a day to help boost my turn around. It helps erase my mistakes and gets my head back in the game.
Count calories. Even though I know what to eat, I always go back to tracking calories (I use the Lose It app) after going off my regular routine. It helps me stay focused, as well as get results quickly. Without calorie counting, my bounce back is normally slower and I’m not as strict. Accountability is key – and nailing the diet is essential to success.
Stick with it. To prevent going off my diet too soon, I stick with a plan and set goals for how long I will stick to my routine. Consistency is key, so I don’t let myself cheat until I’ve either fulfilled the time, or hit my goal (which is normally a goal weight).
Diet Tip of the Week: Calorie Density
Subscribe to my blog to get more diet and fitness tips to help you stay on track during the holidays!
I’ve Fallen, and I Can’t Get Up
When I talk about fitness and dieting, I often refer to falling and getting back up again. Maybe it’s because I’m a clutz and relate to falling, or maybe it’s just because falling is a part of life.
We’re human and it’s inevitable that we will mess up – and there is no truer example than with diet and fitness. However, I don’t think it’s all about just preventing the failure, I think the most important action is what we do after we fail.
I think it’s healthy to allow ourselves to cheat occasionally. It’s almost like planning a controlled fall. Stunt men do it all the time. They learn how to fall without getting hurt. We all know eating certain foods aren’t healthy, but we “allow” ourselves to have them. But, if we don’t plan it carefully, and practice safety measures, we can find ourselves in big trouble quick.
While some people planned their Thanksgiving cheat meals out carefully, there are others that just threw out all the rules, and dove face first into every dish that came their way. Whether we convinced ourselves that “we deserved it” or acted like we really didn’t care, eventually our bad choices catch up to us. The feeling of disappointment and guilt might hit us as soon as we finish the last bite, or it might take days of repetitive bad behavior to finally get us to the point of being sick of how those bad choices make us look and feel. However long it takes us to reach that point, when we finally get to that point, it’s time for damage control.
It’s time for you (and the scale) to face the facts.
Some people are quick to jump back on the scale and boldy face reality. One thing I can guarantee is this: You WILL eventually deal with all this. You can deal with it now or later – the choice is yours.
3 Post Holiday Scenarios: Which One Will You Choose?
1. Stay Knocked Down. This is what most people do after a Holiday – especially when there is another excuse (like another Holiday) right around the corner. They decide it’s going to be impossible to fight, too hard to manage, not enough time, no fun, or not worth the effort. So, they just give up and pretend they can continue through the Holidays without repercussions. The problem with this is, if you do this often enough, it becomes a pattern. Weight continues to creep up on you – and before you know it, you are in way over your head, and you may be tempted to quit for good.
2. Get Back Up – slowly. This person waits for the ref to count all the way to 9 before they get back up again. They are procrastinator, slow learners and naturally lazy (like me – yes ME!). Sometimes it takes a friend (or dog!) to drag them back to the gym. But, most of the time, this person will try everything under the sun before doing what they know they need to do. They’ll cut everything out they don’t mind forfeiting and try making “their way” work by finagling diets and fitness around their lifestyle. Then they will complain when they fail. They will justify their actions, make a million excuses, and, finally, at the very last minute (when they just can’t take it any longer), they will stand back up and get back to what they know works.
3. Bounce Back Fast – The person who is fast to recover and quickly gets back on their feet, accepts what has to be done and doesn’t waste any valuable time. They get right back on their diet, and get right back in the gym – as fast as they possibly can. They may dread it, they may not want to do it, but they do it anyway because they’ve either learned the hard way or they hate feeling fat and unhealthy more than they hate the work it takes to stay fit. They could easily wallow in their sorrows and beat themselves up while their down, but they don’t. The get over it. They move on. They get back up on their own two feet – and fight it back out.
So, you ate like crap – get over it, it’s time to get back up!
Subscribe to my blog to get Bounce Back Tips tomorrow, and learn how to get your home and body back in shape FAST!
How can you expect to have a NEW body continuing your OLD ways?
As most of you know, I try to come up with motivational mantras, tips and photos to help keep my fitness followers on track. Yesterday, my post was not really that profound. It was simple but true: “Today could be a new beginning, but you can’t begin something without ending other things. If you want to start being healthy, you need to end some of your old bad habits. Say goodbye to skipping workouts and cheating on your diet – and say HELLO to a brand new fit you!”
My thought when writing this was that people don’t seem to have a problem starting new healthy habits. People start working out, eating healthier, etc but they do it IN ADDITION TO their bad habits – as if they can do enough right to erase their wrongs. But it really doesn’t work that way.
“Cheating comes from a type of ‘denial’. Saying to ourself: this won’t hurt, or this is only just a taste, or I haven’t eaten that much today, or I deserve this, or this is healthy.” – Julianne
Is cheating OK? That depends. It depends how you define cheating. For me, cheating means occasionally eating 200-500 calories more than I budgeted. If I cheat often, that’s not cheating. That’s a bad habit.
However, for others, cheating means going crazy and totally splurging, or cheating a little every day. People often sabotage progress by cheating on their diet too much, too often, or too soon – justifying every bite.
My mom had some really good input on what cheating meant to her just yesterday, saying, “Cheating comes from a type of ‘denial’. Saying to ourself: this won’t hurt, or this is only just a taste, or I haven’t eaten that much today, or I deserve this, or this is healthy. The definition of cheating is: Act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage. The only advantage is ‘taste & enjoy temporarily’….the disadvantage is ‘fat and miserable'” – and that’s not temporary at all.
Unfortunately for many, cheating does hurt because most people don’t cheat responsibly. If you compare eating to spending money, maybe you can have a better grasp on what is really going on. Weight management is a numbers game, but most people don’t track their calories on their cheat days, or meals, like they’d balance their checkbook after shopping. The “out of sight, out of mind” mindset is an attempt to dodge reality – but the reality is, it affects you whether you know the extent of the damage or not.
Keep your Cheating in Check with these Tips:
1. Budget around 250 calories a day for fun stuff, including coffee, protein bars, fruit, cheese, nuts, sweets or salty snacks. Dieting shouldn’t be miserable – and if it is, it won’t last. Give yourself a little leeway. This allows even the strictest dieters to still have around 1,000 calories a day in food (300-350 calories per meal), which is plenty (if you are eating quality food) to keep you satisfied.
2. Find a healthy replacement for an unhealthy eating habit. Many people struggle to resist snacking or drinking at night. For others, it may be a coke or coffee habit. At first it will be difficult to stop some of your favorite treats, but if you stick to your plan, you can get rid of your bad habit in a matter of a couple of weeks. Instead of quitting cold turkey, try finding a new healthy habit to replace the bad one. For instance, replace you nightly downfalls for a late night walk, sipping on hot tea, drinking as much water as possible (almost making it a game), sticking to low-calorie healthy snacks that fit your budget and long candlelight baths. Keep troubleshooting until you find what works for you.
2. Cheat with a purpose. Instead of just going wild and spontaneously cheating, plan your cheat meal. Count the calories ahead of time and decide exactly how many calories you plan to eat. If you research your cheat meal ahead of time, you are less likely to go overboard and more likely to stay more accountable.
3. Avoid big cheat days until you reach your goal. Cheating can severely slow progress. A person can literally wipe out an entire weeks’s worth of dieting and exercise with one “off day”. Instead, plan small occasional mini-cheats, totaling no more than 500 extra calories, that will keep you happy along your journey.
4. Don’t rely on exercise to erase bad decisions. Let me say it a little louder: DOOON’T RELYYY ON EXERCIIIISE TO ERAAASE YOUR BAAAAAD DECISIONSSSS!! Many people don’t control their eating as they should and use exercise to erase their diet sins. Not only does it rarely work, it also is not fixing the problem. If you want to control your weight, you have to control your tongue. Continuing your old ways are not an option if you are wanting a new body. Quit fooling yourself. You can’t have “I can have my cake and eat it too” mentality. Some people may be lucky enough to live this way, but the majority cannot.
5. You need to know if you are ON a diet or IN maintenance – because there is no “OFF”. If you struggle with your weight, it is likely you will always have to manage calories. Of course, when I talk about “diets”, I’m not necessarily speaking of a specific diet, I’m speaking of self-control. I’m talking about counting calories, purposeful healthy eating, and/or staying accountable for what you eat. One of the biggest mistakes I see is people do is go “ON” a diet and, after they reach their goal, they go completely “OFF”. ORRRR, they go ON a diet during the week, and OFF their diet on weekends. Ask your husband if he’d be OK with you cheating on him on the weekends – I bet it wouldn’t fly with him either. Like marriage and finances, you’ll have to have limitations if you want to be successful – whether on a diet or in maintenance.
“You have to stop cheating if you and fitness want to last.”
If you’ve read my blog, articles or book, you’ve heard similar analogies about cheating on your marriage, work or finances. Today, I want to put a new twist on this subject in hopes of this really sinking in, to the point it changes the way you look at fitness and food.
The question I ask you today is not “are you going to quit cheating on your diet?”, it’s “do you want fitness to work for you?”
We’ve all wanted more than one thing at times. Several years ago, I wanted a new home. But, I also loved to shop. So the question Steve would ask me was not “do you want to keep shopping?” or “are you willing to quit spending?“, but it was “do you really want this new home?”
When it’s worded like that, it made me realize I didn’t have an option. If I wanted a new home, I HAD to quit spending in other areas – and I really, REALLY wanted this new home. I HAD to be more frugal. I HAD to make some sacrifices – but the small sacrifices I’d have to make paled in comparison to the reward. When I kept my eye on the goal, and not the sacrifice, staying disciplined was actually easy because it was so obviously worth it.
So, again, I ask you, “Do you want this to work?” If you do, you can’t eat what you want and get the body you want too. Because, if you aren’t willing to quit your cheating, I promise, you and fitness will not last long.
Back in the day, when Steve used to go off his diet he would say he was “taking the gloves off” – meaning, no more rules. In sports like boxing and hockey, taking the gloves off means they are about to throw down. No rules, no ref, anything goes.
Well, that’s how Steve and I used to cheat – we’d take the gloves off. However, over the years our eating has changed drastically. Although we totally still cheat on our diet here and there, even cheating is done in moderation.
Vacation or Diet Vacation?
I think too many people “take the gloves off” like we used to – especially when on vacation. They go on vacation and they don’t even try to eat healthy. On the contrary, people often cram as much crappy stuff in their body while on vacation “just because they are on vacation” – as if they’d never get the chance to cheat again.
Sure, you should be able to have some yummy meals and treats on vacation – I’m not suggesting you have to “diet”. What I’m saying is you should still practice self-control and balance. Whether it’s trying to still maintain healthy portions or mixing in healthy meals with cheat meals, eating just to eat shouldn’t be an option.
Our Dumb Rules (AKA: Lame Excuses)
We humans make some of the dumbest diet rules. We have certain occasions we “allow” ourselves to “take the gloves off”. We cheat when we celebrate. We cheat when we go out of town. We cheat when it’s a Holiday. We cheat on the weekends. We cheat when we’ve had a hard day. Honestly, sometimes we cheat our way through a whole week because of circumstances. And if that wasn’t bad enough, we continue to cheat after several days of cheating, because we’ve been so bad. Really? Is that an excuse? I’ll be bad today just because I was so bad yesterday? Yep, that’s how some of us think and act. How stupid is that?!
Going Over the Limit
We do the very same thing when with spending, especially on vacation. We buy things just to buy things. After blowing it one day, we often blow even more money (and debt) the next day – and many times it’s on stupid stuff. I mean, do you really think you’ll hang that ridiculous Mexican sombrero in your house? Probably not, but you sure will be paying for it, along with all the other junk “that you had to have”, for a lot longer than it took to buy ut. The same goes with diet. You may not be playing by they rules, but the rules still apply – and, believe me, you WILL pay.
7 Ways to Cheat Smart & Win the Fat Fight
You can splurge, taste, play and feel good to – IF you learn to cheat smart. Here are a few ways to enjoy great cuisine without losing your fight with fat.
1.) Only eat what you love. How many times have you eaten something just because it’s in front of you? How many times have you cleaned your plate and the meal wasn’t even that good? Save your cheat calories for only foods you absolutely love.
2.) Make good choices and healthy tradeoffs. Think about what you like the most. Do you want the appetizer more, or the dessert more? Instead of having every course offered, narrow down the choices to what’s most important to you.
3.) Divide your cheat meal up by cutting high-calorie foods in half. If you want to totally splurge on your favorite high calorie dish, don’t overeat too. You can enjoy that deep fried dish, or pasta swimming in alfredo, but save calories by not eating it all in one siting to avoid more calories stored as fat. The good news is you get to have your favorite meal twice!
4.) Choose one: over-eating or over-calorieing. I know, it’s not a word! What I mean is, if your idea of splurging is overeating, then eat healthy. If your idea is eating a high calorie cheat meal, then eat less of unhealthy meals.
5. Plan to cheat. One of the best things you can do is plan your cheat meals out. If you are jonesing for your favorite cheat meal for dinner, eat healthy during the day or do an extra cardio. Save calories on other snacks and meals to allow more room to cheat.
6. Eat for fuel. Remember, what you eat today is how you will feel tomorrow. So, if you’re planning to hit the beach and you want to look good in your bikini, or you want a ton of energy on vacation, you may want to eat how you want to feel – and plan your cheat meals around that. My sister learned this the hard way when we went to Busch Gardens after eating pancakes. Steve and I had a ton energy and she crashed after only 2 hours of being at the park. If you want to feel good, you may want to choose your biggest cheat day for the last day of your trip.
7. Cheating can be depressing. I don’t know about you, but I want to be happy on vacation. Cheating can really mess with your head. You can mentally feel fat and ugly, causing bad mood swings and emotions. If you want to feel confident and comfortable, limiting crappy meals can make you a much happier camper.
Subscribe fore more tips and motivation!
Photo of Bonnie Pfiester by Misty Lundeen
Eating poorly over the Holidays is not the end of the world. Neither is skipping your workout, but continuing to eat poorly and skip your workout for a long period of time is what can totally mess you up. That’s why the Holidays are dangerous. As soon as we START eating crappy we KEEP eating crappy. Ironically, the crappier we eat the more workouts we skip, and vice versa. How backwards is THAAT?!
We All Fall Down
We all skip our workouts and blow our diets – BUT what makes one person successful and another person appear to be a failure is how long it takes you to bounce back after falling off track. Will you jump right back into your routine today or will it take you WEEKS to recover, and get back to eating clean and working out on a regular basis? The key to success is NOT falling, it’s GETTING BACK UP – FAST!
The Art of Falling
You’ve probably heard of a “controlled fall”, well that totally applies to fitness too. If you are Read the rest of this entry