If you’ve read to a small child recently, you may be familiar with a certain very hungry caterpillar who ate lots of healthy fruits and vegetables all week long. He was so good!
Then, the weekend arrives, and our caterpillar friend does what many of us do on the weekend. He went off the plan. In the child’s book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, he eats through one piece of chocolate cake, one ice cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon. And that night he has a stomachache!
The very hungry caterpillar had a cheat day. You know, that one day of the week when you cheat on your diet. You eat whatever you want and throw caution to the wind because you deserve it! You’ve worked so hard! You’ve been so good! You deserve….to cheat?
As a wellness coach, I hear a lot of stories of being “good” during the week and “bad” on the weekends, and plenty of justification for having a cheat day. I used to do the same thing, anticipating my day off from trying to be healthy all the time. But over time, I began to feel that when I stopped my healthy habits and went in reverse, the only one being cheated was me. Food became more central in my life than I wanted it to be. And, I began to believe that if I felt the need to cheat on myself, maybe I wasn’t managing my health in a very balanced way. So, I started to investigate why I felt the need to rebel.
Rebellion is human nature! We all rage against the machine at some point, and at times that machine is us. After all, everyone needs a break now and then, and rebellion can be a therapeutic release from the restrictions of polite society. But cheating is a little different from rebellion. While rebellion comes from a place of confident defiance, when we cheat, it is because we don’t think we can succeed on our own. If a student cheats on a test, it is because he is not prepared. When someone cheats in a relationship, it may be because they don’t think they can bring what needs to be brought. When we cheat on our nutrition, it is like telling ourselves, “I cannot do this on my own.”
Making the choice to choose to overindulge in food or eat something that is not healthful does not necessarily mean that you are cheating. It means you are human! You have the power and ability to make a healthy choice, and are simply choosing something else. That’s okay! When you are ready to get back into your healthy habits, you will. Consider it an open relationship; you’re allowed to see other habits.
You deserve better, and can give it to yourself by changing one little word. Turn “cheat” into “choice” and step into a positive place where it’s easy to see that your health is not a test, and you don’t need to cheat.