We have all been there. That post-indulgence, sick, guilty, “beat yourself up” feeling after you have “cheated” on your diet. The sticky, unshakable sense of remorse and regret that clings to you the moment the food hits your stomach. That little voice inside of you asking, “Why did I do that??” “What was I thinking?” “Man, I wish I hadn’t blown it.”
For some of us, that voice is harsher, less inquisitive, more unkind. Full-blown Inner Bully accusations like, “You are so stupid, lame, weak…” “You are never going to be able to eat properly,” or “You will always be fat, the wrong size, bigger than her.” Sometimes that inner chatter creates a spiral of self-loathing from which it is difficult to recover.
If you read the definition of cheating, it says, “to act dishonestly or unfairly to gain an advantage.” How does reaching for an extra cupcake, when you have sworn off sugar, get categorized as such? Consider that this is the same word used regarding transgressions against a spouse or your taxes! The reference to “cheating on a diet,” is common. But perhaps it needs reframing?
When we elect to eat the wrong things or make decisions not congruent with our food goals, it isn’t cheating, it is a choice.
You see, there are two big problems with associating the occasional poor food behavior as “cheating.”
1) The shame and blame game: You know it. Right after you designate your food choice as “cheating” a mushroom cloud of shame implodes all around you. You start to blame yourself. Some of us even spiral into questioning our own strength and character, “I suck,” “I knew I couldn’t do this,” “I will never be able to make this work.”
Maybe we need to realize that these thoughts, these barbs poking holes in our inner worth and confidence are much more damaging than the vanilla cupcake now residing in your stomach.
Can we start to retrain our response when we make a poor food choice? Can we de-emotionalize it and instead shift to processing why we made the choice we did? Can we make a plan for how to make a better choice, one more in line with our goals, the next time we are faced with the trigger?
2) Your adult pants. Pull them up. Assigning the word “cheating” to your poor food choices is a cop out. The word “cheating” has a connotation of powerlessness and weakness. You are not weak! You are mega strong, and the minute you start to ascribe your decisions around food as a “choice,” you become empowered. If you make a choice to eat off plan, then own it! The downside is you also have to own the consequences that go with that particular choice. But the upside is that you can CHOOSE differently next time when you are face to face with that vanilla cupcake.
You are not a cheater; you are a strong, competent, healthy eater who is more likely to make great eating choices when you repeat after me.
“When I eat off plan it is a choice, not cheating. I am a big adult person, and I am in charge of my food decisions.”
“There is no time for self-shaming and blaming myself when it comes to food. The emotional damage is much more difficult to recover from than the repercussions of the bad food choice.”
“I am a powerful being with adult pants. I get to make non-emotionally based decisions regarding how I nourish my body. If on occasion I make a choice to go off plan I will own it, and move on.”
“Every time I eat I have a new opportunity to make great decisions for my body. What I have chosen in the past doesn’t matter and in no way will influence my decision in the moment.”
FYI: The synonyms for cheating are to swindle, defraud, or scam. Seems a harsh sentence for a measly cupcake.
This week I want you to focus on that Inner Bully. The one who beats you up for choices you make regarding food. What is she or he telling you? When you hear that voice – Shut. It. Down. Turn down the volume on that negative chatter. Maybe, instead, you can start to practice some food choice empowerment be owning each and every food decision you make. Have a great week.
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