You’re probably confused as hell by the title of this blog, but yes, you read that right–using strategic cheats will actually help you to cheat less.
Last night on the crash dieting webinar I hosted, one woman asked, “How can you stop yourself when the taste of sugar ‘sets you off’ so that you can’t stop eating it?” This came up when I talked about preemptive cheats, and the idea that using small, lesser cheats to take the edge off cravings and feelings of deprivation can help us not binge later. My answer might seem counterintuitive, but the answer is this:
If you are allowing yourself to get to the point of needing/wanting to binge on huge amounts of sugar, you are trying to eat too strictly and not building enough relief into your weekly plan.
Remember, feelings of deprivation are directly related to eventual overindulgence.
Something to think about: if you’re only answer to ‘how do I stop?’ is to just harness more willpower and white-knuckle your way through it, you’re being extremely short-sighted.
Coaches who say, “just be compliant” are unoriginal and lazy.
For 95% of people, “just comply” doesn’t work because willpower is exhaustible, and habits are powerful. Whenever we let our willpower guard down–say, at the end of a long work day–we are left with our habits because they are automatic and use zero energy. It’s not a coincidence that most people cite their worst eating happening late at night. We are mentally exhausted by then, so of course we’re going to default to our habits–glass of wine, ice cream in front of the TV, munching on anything and everything from 6pm to bedtime, etc.
And to top it off, when we inevitably *can’t* comply, we are often left feeling defeated, guilty and shameful, right? Mentally, this yo-yo cycle does a number on us. We go, “I can’t believe I can’t do this! Everyone else can, how come I have such a hard time? I’m weak and have no willpower!” Negative feelings have never motivated anyone long term and yet on some level, we think the more we beat ourselves up, the more motivated we will be to stay the course. Studies actually show the opposite–self-compassion helps us stay the course. And if “comply or die” the only tool you have in your tool box to get results, then you might as well throw the towel in now. Because habits are infinitely more powerful.
Fat loss is ultimately about habit change. And habit change starts with a mindset change.
So, something to consider if your mindset is currently: I need to follow this meal plan perfectly, or everything will be ruined!! Screw it all! Aka, the black-and-white dieting mindset. Instead of expecting perfection with your eating, could you expect and anticipate that you will NOT be perfect and instead, preempt your cravings and hunger with things that help take the edge off? Because sorry, the idea that you will never eat sugar again is absurd. So why not find a way to circumvent the huge binges by using small gimmes before you get to that point?
So to answer the question from last night–if you find yourself digging into sweets and treats and “not being able to stop yourself” consider the answer is not that you are weak and you just need to be stronger. Consider that you might not be giving yourself enough built-in relief in your weekly plan.
This is a hard mindset to take on, right? Because we want to eat perfectly. And we often feel like if we’re not, we aren’t going to get results. And yet nothing could be further from the truth. Because this:
Expecting “perfect” eating always leads to binging = No results
Imperfect eating (eating 90% clean all the time) leads to less binging over time = Results
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Because “good” gets results too :)
So yes, cheating with less-than-ideal foods more often will prevent you from cheating with the really bad crap later. Anticipate your cravings, know your trigger times, practice mindfulness. Throw yourself a bone and find a lifestyle eating and exercise plan that you can do forever.