I can’t tell you all how many times I have heard this statement from people trying to lose weight: “I was doing so well and then I totally blew it and cheated!” And this one: “I really want to lose this weight but I just keep cheating!” And this one too: “I was doing well until I got to my ‘cheat day’ and then I lost control.” Do any of these statements sound familiar to you?
If so, then stop calling it “cheating!” Whenever we think about cheating on a diet it conjures up all kinds of awful images like hiding in the dark stuffing your face with cookies or going completely overboard at a friend’s birthday party. When we get all tangled up in these unhelpful thoughts and images they can really keep us struck and struggling. The language we use is indeed powerful. In fact, let’s take a look at the dictionary definition of “cheat:”
cheat /CHēt/ verb Act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage.
So, if you are saying that you cheated then you acted in a dishonest way in order to get the upper hand? Hmmm, that doesn’t sound right! If you are saying to people that you cheated then you aren’t being dishonest and there doesn’t really appear to be any advantage to be gained from your behaviors. This is why I prefer to use the word “treat” as opposed to “cheat.” This may just seem like squabbling over semantics but again the language we choose to use is very powerful. Let’s look at the dictionary definition of “treat:”
treat /trēt/ noun An event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure.
Okay, now this is sounding more like our experience! Instead of conjuring up images like the word cheat does, treat tends to bring more self-compassionate images to mind such as being kind to yourself after working really hard or enjoying one of life’s little pleasures. These little treats are not something you do every day, they aren’t the norm, like the definition states they’re out of the ordinary. So, enjoy it while it lasts and then get back on your plan.
When we get all tangled up in our thoughts like “I cheated” or “I failed” or “I blew it” or “I have to start all over” and we allow these thoughts to push us around and dictate what we do then we need to ask ourselves “Is this thought in any way useful or helpful? Does this thought help me take effective action towards my health goals? Does this thought help me to be who I want to be?”
If the answer to any of those questions is “no” then choose to let go of the word cheat and allow yourself a treat every once and a while, but only if you earn it and enjoy it!