How to Cheat Wisely

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In every area of life, except one, I am against cheating. But when it comes to food, I believe it's an inevitable--and even necessary--action. It may be my "black or white" way of thinking or maybe it's my perfectionism or OCD tendencies, but it's fairly easy for me to stay within the guidelines of my GAPS diet. In fact, it can become too easy...

When I start seeing some foods as bad or even evil, I know it's time to let loose a little bit. If you've read this post, then you know that "letting loose" could become a slippery slope to compulsive eating.

What some of us "health" types fail to recognize is another sneaky side of disordered eating: being TOO strict with what we consume.

Wait, what? Is it possible to eat too healthy?!

Yes, I believe so.

I could write a whole post about being "too healthy" and maybe that will happen one day in the near future. But today I just want to focus on the fact that cheating happens.

NO ONE IS PERFECT.

No one can follow a specific diet perfectly--whether it's for weight loss or a healthy real food diet. It's just not possible. And I wholeheartedly believe that is okay. But when we do decide to indulge, I believe it's important to pay attention to three things: What? Why? and How?

If we ask ourselves these questions before we indulge, then we can cheat in a way that is respectful to our physical and emotional well-being. When we ignore those questions, we may open ourselves up to binging, guilt, self-hate, purging, restriction, and disordered eating all over again.

I don't want that for me and I don't want that for you either.

Ask yourself these three questions next time you see an opportunity to "cheat" on your diet:

1. What?

What do you want to eat? Is it worth the cheat?

I'm not talking about calories here. I'm talking is it worth it to eat the chemicals or the sugar or the gluten or the dairy or the.....?

If you're considering eating a food that you are allergic to or that causes your body to suffer after eating it, then don't eat it! It's not worth it physically and you will probably end up beating yourself up emotionally about it later.

Maybe sugar or simple carbs are trigger foods for you that send you into a downward spiral of indulging in sweets... Is the temptation for a week worth it for a moment of sweet indulgence?

You need to listen to your body!

If what you want to indulge in is something that you genuinely enjoy eating, does not cause your body any devastating harm and is something that you can eat ONE of and then feel fulfilled, then go for it! You'll enjoy the indulgence when you have it and then get back to the good, nourishing food that your body needs.

2. Why?

This question is HUGE for me personally: Why do you want to indulge?

Do you feel deprived or left out? Or are you stressed? Or maybe things are awesome and you think you deserve it.

I don't necessarily feel that a "yes" answer to those questions automatically makes it a "no" for cheating, but I do believe that you need to know yourself and your emotional state. For some people, they can handle eating a piece of cake at a party to celebrate but if they eat a piece of cake because they're stressed out, they'll continue indulging to the point of binge eating.

There's no absolute right or wrong answer here; just be aware of the WHY behind your decisions.

3. How?

This question of "How?" also includes "Where?"

How and where do you plan on indulging? Your answer to this question may be key.

If you are at a restaurant with a group of friends and everyone is going to share dessert, then I would say the decision is up to you, based on the previous two questions. But if you're going through the drive thru window so you can binge eat alone in your car before you get home to your family, then I'm going to tell you this lovingly: DROP THE MILKSHAKE AND FRIES NOW.

Indulging is healthy; eating in secret is not. If you've already reached the point of not wanting others to know what or how much you are eating, you started sliding down the slippery slope a while ago.

But believe this when I say it: you are not a failure.

You may have slipped, but you can still get back up. You may have lost yourself, but you can find your way back.

Food is such a tricky thing. We need to eat it to live so it's a difficult addiction to recognize. If you have ever struggled with food, then I encourage you to find a healthy way of eating that makes you feel good and gives you confidence again. Learn to love and respect yourself.

If you really listen to your body and understand how you think and feel, I believe you will empower yourself to make wise choices, even when it comes to "cheating."

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If you're currently struggling with food, I'd love to hear from you! Or if you've overcome your struggle with food, I'd love to hear your story!