Sunday, September 15, 2013

F#%k the dietary "cheat." Or why eating has nothing to do with "cheating."

Here's most of what the Free says about the word "cheat":


v. cheat·ed, cheat·ing, cheats
1. To deceive by trickery; swindle: cheated customers by overcharging them for purchases.
2. To deprive by trickery; defraud: cheated them of their land.
3. To mislead; fool: illusions that cheat the eye....

1. To act dishonestly; practice fraud.
2. To violate rules deliberately, as in a game: was accused of cheating at cards.
3. Informal To be sexually unfaithful: cheat on a spouse.

1. An act of cheating; a fraud or swindle.
2. One who cheats; a swindler."

Do you see a repeating theme?

Dishonesty. Doing something wrong. Something you are going to feel guilty about.

Yet, in paleo/CrossFit-land -- but also all over your television -- you hear constantly about dietary "cheats," as if there's some set of ironclad rules somewhere that you ought to feel guilty about breaking.

I've hit on points related to this topic once or twice before, but some things I have read lately about "emotional eating" raise the subject again. So I thought it was worth another quick look.

I'll start with a "confession" of sorts: I don't *really* understand emotional eating. Food is fuel to me, first and foremost. Do I sometimes indulge in delicious things that aren't the best for me? Sure, but not out of some sort of desire for emotional comfort; I occasionally eat less-than-optimal food because it .... (wait for it) .... tastes good.

I also won't pretend that I have some grand strategy for completely getting those of you who *are* emotional eaters out of your rut in that regard, but I *do* have one small suggestion.

It's about dietary "cheats."

You really need to stop thinking of the consumption of any food item -- yes, even gluten -- as a moral wrong. You are not dishonest, a deceiver, a "swindler," or otherwise a bad person in any way if you eat food that isn't good for you.

And I think the whole drama of the emotional-eating roller coaster would be greatly lessened if you stopped beating the living crap out of yourself for supposedly doing something "wrong": you know, for "cheating."

Now, on the other hand, do you need to figure out a way to eat that makes you happy? (Note, I said "happy," not healthy).

Yeah, you do, and, for me, happy *is* pretty damn healthy. It feels good to feel good. But that decision, and the path by which you get there is your personal choice, not a moral right or wrong. Personally, I think the path to happiness for me involves smart exercise, eating clean primal food almost all the time, *and* occasionally enjoying something that's not quite so primal. And when I do that not-so-primal meal, I enjoy the hell out of it. I also occasionally think, in retrospect, that it wasn't such a great idea, and I adjust my behavior thereafter. You know... I *learn* from it. But I never ever feel "guilty" about food, and I certainly don't feel like I did something "wrong."

Getting to that state of mind where you can just treat food as food -- some healthy, some not-so-healthy -- begins by not turning the decision whether to eat something into a morality-filled choice. You have never "cheated" when you have eaten something. You just ate something. You are still the same person you were before you dug in, whether what you ate was a grassfed steak, a plate full of vegetables or a double-fudge brownie with CoffeeCoffeeBuzzBuzzBuzz on top.

I like to think that if you remove the "cheating" lingo, there's no moral wrong implied. Remove the implication of a moral wrong and there's no reason for guilt. Remove the guilt and there's no reason for the drama. And if the drama's gone, you have to think the emotion/food connection is going to start to loosen up a little. At that point, you might just consider food as just food.

Then you can figure out how to eat it in a way that makes you really happy.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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