My newest client this week was having a really productive session. She was working hard, breaking through mental barriers about what she could physically do and doing great. Then she looked at me incredulously and asked, “Do you ever cheat?” I was taken aback. I have found people share all kinds of personal info during a good sweaty workout, and not wanting to make any assumptions, I asked her to clarify what exactly she meant by cheat.
“I mean, eat cookies, cake, ice cream, chips, things like that…You know, cheat on your diet.” Totally relieved she wasn’t confiding about her married life, I answered “Oh, of course I eat cookies, cake and ice cream sometimes. In fact, I ate so much vanilla ice cream with each child, my husband exclaimed how astonished he was each one was born without a cone.” “It was just about the only thing I could tolerate without gagging from morning sickness,” I confided. We chuckled. Then I got serious.
The thing is, I don’t consider it cheating. I don’t even like the term “cheat food.” If you live life on and off of a diet all the time then you have to make these kinds of black and white, good and bad distinctions and call eating high calorie nutrient-poor foods “cheating.” The goal though is to make a healthy lifestyle, where you can incorporate all kinds of foods without having to feel like a bad person. You simply work the food into your calorie allowance…and it can be done even if you don’t like to count calories.
For instance, I try to fill my days with a combination of proteins and carbs at each meal to keep my blood sugar stable throughout the day so I don’t crave sugary, salty high calorie foods. When I want to eat a high calorie food like a piece of cake, I go ahead and enjoy some; a reasonable portion and I eat lower calorie more nutrient dense foods the other days. For instance, a kale salad and tuna for lunch, instead of pizza on that day…and I do a little more exercise. I try to keep it in balance.
That said, I’m not trying to look like a swimsuit model. If I had to do that for my career, I would need to be a little more stringent in my diet and probably need to cultivate the ability to live with more deprivation. For me and most of my current clients, we just need to live life in balance is all. No cheating.