Monday, September 17, 2012

Do You Know the Difference Between a Diet "Cheat" and a Life "Choice"?

I hear it all the time,
"I cheated on my diet"

You cheated?

What does that mean?

Does that mean you ate a food that was high in calories? That you used food for a role other than fuel?

Isn't that just a choice?

Sure I believe that all choices need to be informed, and to inform a dietary choice, if weight's a consideration, quantity and calories may well matter, but the simple fact that you decided that food was a pleasure in your life? Well if you can't make that choice from time to time I'd argue you're cheating on living a realistic life, and that cheat's probably more likely to lead your diet to fail than any other.

Bookmark and Share


  1. This is why I don't like the concept of "clean" eating and "clean" foods (which presupposes the existence of "dirty" foods). Turns food decisions into moral ones.

    I much prefer the notion of "all things in moderation."

  2. Anonymous9:53 am

    I completly agree but keep in mind that everything in moderation still works out to be a lot... so perhaps another catch phrase is needed?

    Another thought on this subject starts with a question: "does anyone ever eat half of a doughnut?, or just one chip?" Perhaps the catch phrase should be: "I eat healthy foods in moderation and snacks and treats rarely"?

  3. Arlene Cox PhD11:11 am

    I agree absolutely it is a choice. It is why I had to learn to "stop lying" about my decisions. Once I learned to notice my choices I could start to learn what drove them and make healthier choices.

  4. Anonymous1:04 pm

    What about those of us who struggle to exercise moderation? If I take one biscuit tin in the medical students mess at hospital, I know in ten minutes I will want another hit of it and so on, since its unnaturally macronutrient denseness makes me crave them more. The faculty ought to stop being so budget and provide a fruit bowl, rather than cheap nutritional junk.

    1. Anonymous1:38 pm

      This reinforces the "healthy environments" case vs personal choice.
      If, instead of a tin of biscuits, a bowl of fruit was offered, it would make the healthy choice, the easy choice....
      In addition to school and other "settings based approaches" workplace health has a long way to go.

  5. Anonymous2:10 pm

    It's funny, I think 'cheating' is counterproductive. If you 'choose' to eat xyz while trying to lose weight (for example), you can fit it in with the rest of your choices so you continue to lose weight (or you can decide that the loss slowing or stopping is worth it). You can decide to make it worth it.

    If you 'cheat', some people seem to feel that the button goes back to reset the day afterwards. You can have a 'cheat' day once a week, eat what's banned rather than what you really want, and then not be able to understand why the weight loss isn't going the way you want it to. If you cheat, everything goes out the window, and because you're already feeling deprived you eat more and are less satisfied than if it was a choice.

    I don't think it's a willpower thing, I think it's a framing thing. Kind of like how I feel stuffed after pizza and a handful of peas on a plate, because that looks like dinner. But just pizza looks like a snack so I eat twice as much.

    Of course this is all probably totally different for different people- I make no claims as to universality etc.

  6. Anonymous5:38 pm

    Love this: "I'd argue you're cheating on living a realistic life, and that cheat's probably more likely to lead your diet to fail than any other."

    Have the same philosophy as Mary Weaver in above comment, regarding the unhelpfulness of turning food decisions into moral ones.

  7. One of the shortest and most profound thoughts about dieting that I have ever read. Definitely made me stop and think.