Which came first? The cheat or the pre-cheat?

This post is dedicated to my husband, who, as a captive audience on our long bike rides, has shared some interesting conversations on the whole healthy living subject.  One day recently, in response to my latest dieting lament, he coined the phrase “pre-cheat.”

There is “cheating.”  And then there is “pre-cheating.”  What’s the difference?  Cheating is… well… cheating.  For me, I guess that means going off my diet plan.  Sometimes it is planned; sometimes it is not.  Sometimes it is just a little splurge or slip; sometimes it is a big binge.  Sometimes it lasts minutes; sometimes it last a very long time.  Whatever you call it, and whether you do it or not, I suspect you know what I mean.

But I also do something else that, when I described it to my husband, he labeled “pre-cheat.”  The cheating that comes in anticipation of something else.  For me, there are two key scenarios when this happens.

Karen’s pre-cheat scenario one: dreading anticipating the upcoming social event.   Maybe this happens to you.  A social event is coming up and you know that the food served will be off your plan.  Maybe all of it; maybe some of it.  Regardless, you know it will be hard to eat healthy, even if you want to do so.  And you know that temptation will rear its ugly head.  For me, this often leads to feelings of resentment in anticipation of the event.  Resentment that I have to go.  Resentment that I will be be tempted.  Resentment that I may not be able to trust myself.  Resentment that my careful planning is going to be disrupted and resentment that my inner control freak is going to have to give up control.  Resentment.  So as I anticipate the likely cheating that will happen come the event, I head for the pantry.  Or the refrigerator.  And I eat.  I pre-cheat.  Maybe it is a clear emotional-eating response.  Resentment is a pretty strong emotion.  As are all the other thing I might be feeling, like lack of control and lack of self trust.  And I think another driver behind the pre-cheating is the notion that “I am going to go off my plan soon so why bother trying to stick to it now.”  I know this is totally illogical thinking.  The rational approach would be to buckle down and be extra dedicated and plan for a little potential splurge.  But some days I am just not logical.  Especially when it comes to food.  And any perceived lack of control.

Karen’s pre-cheat scenario two: the diet starts tomorrow.  Or next week.  Any time in the future.  Have you done this too?  Consciously eaten food before the diet starts?  Shovel it all in now, get it out of your system, the last Oreo, the last ice cream cone, the last whatever.  All of it.  Enjoy it while you can.  I have restarted some version of a diet more times than I can remember and most of those restarts were preceded by a pre-cheating binge.  And, yes, I will admit that not too long ago I rededicated my eating and the day before my umpteenth restart, I went out and bought bagels.  I ate two.  And I also took a field trip to the newly discovered self-serve frozen yogurt shop.  And had a candy bar.  All things that I knew I would not be doing or eating in the coming months.  I gave into some old binge mentality that told me to get them while I could.

Here is the oddity for me about pre-cheating:  it comes on the heels of regular cheating.  If I am eating well consistently, I do well all around.  I may worry and resent an upcoming social situation, but the anticipation doesn’t send me on a three day eating bender.  And when I am eating well there is no need to restart so no last hurrah of eating.  For me, cheating begets cheating.  And ending cheating often begets cheating.  But constantly “not cheating” leads to more “not cheating.”  Either way, the momentum seems to build for me.  In a good way or in a bad way.

So where does this put me today?  For now, I am back on track with my eating.  And hopefully I have learned something valuable in my attempt to define “pre-cheat.”  I think the realization of the action and what causes it for me should help me put an end to the act and thereby help me banish the term from my personal dictionary.  Today I ate well.  Yesterday I ate well.  Tomorrow I will eat well.  And this weekend when I am going to dinner at a friend’s house, knowing that there will almost assuredly be food temptation, I am choosing to feel challenged rather than resentful.  I will not pre-cheat.  And as much as I can with the food served, I will not “cheat” cheat that night either.  And I will not post-cheat.  Another whole topic that I am sooo not going to cover.  I am pretty sure you can guess how that would be defined.



Filed under cheating/overeating

56 responses to “Which came first? The cheat or the pre-cheat?

  1. Ewa

    This is a good post.
    I see my cheating as an avalanche. Often it takes only a smallest snowball to start it. It is the same with inactivity. Skipping one workout often leads to days of laziness.
    I know I really need to be watchful, that’s all.

  2. I am not immune to cheating and I have had my struggles there despite my so-called fitness lifestyle. Cheating however, can take on a new perspective when one views it, not as cheating, but as temporarily giving up. Imagine that perspective; that one puts behind them 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 4 days worth of success, then stands up and screams, “That’s it, I’m done with all this success, now it’s time fail.” That, THAT is all cheating really is.

    • Karen

      I thought you were going a different direction with this! I was just sharing with someone about today’s post that I suspected many of my blog friends who are living the healthy lifestyle already would not define anything as cheating.

  3. Well, I guess you know what is coming from me. I really don’t pre-cheat. I plan for upcoming events & everyone I know, knows how I eat so I either bring my own, they have something I can eat & I stick to that even if I have to eat protein before I go & just have veggies there.. or maybe I plan to have a treat there too.

    As for diets, I am not on one & have not been for many many years. My life is a lifestyle & there is not starting tomorrow. It is every day heading into healthy eating or my plan for that day.

    I know this sounds, I don’t know, holier than thou, but I really don’t mean it that way Karen.

    I think if you can get to the point of getting off the diet thought process & into the lifestyle mode, that may help.. and also, not care what others thing if you bring your own food or eta only what YOU WANT at a get together. I am at the point that I just do what is best for me.

    I know, easier said than done! 😉

    • Karen

      I so had you and Cammy in my head when I was writing this! You are two women who inspire me when I think about your approaches to healthy eating and how you have both incorporated treats and not cheats, so to speak. (Oooh, lots of bad rhyming there.)

      You never sound holier than thou. And I always appreciate your comments and feedback. You are so constructive and supportive. And I am particularly appreciative because you are at a place in your own life where you have it all together but are still out here helping the rest of us. Thanks Jody!

  4. “Pre-Cheat” ~ haha!

    The spirit is willing but the body is cheat, er, I mean weak.

  5. Totally understand.

    I’m a trying to get with Jody’s plan. It does not seem to be something that I have totally committed to. Hmmm. That’s probly my problem.

    May we all have betterness. 🙂

  6. Genie@dietof51

    I never thought of these behaviors as a “pre-cheat”, but you are so right. Or your husband is. And, it’s very hard for me to give that kind of credit to a man!

    Very interesting approach. Must process this. Thanks!

  7. I don’t pre-cheat too often. Prior the #2 scenario would be most likely to happen with me.

  8. No really. It’s beginning to become scary hoe similar we are. I do the EXACT same thing. I have often thought, “Does allowing myself to have one cheat meal a week actually keep me from cheating the rest of the week?” Sometimes, but most of the time…not so much. Thanks for making me feel normal! Also, thanks for reminding me that today is a new day!! I, too, doing well today 🙂

    • Karen

      How is this for a freaky coincidence in our sameness – I have begun to wonder the exact opposite!? Maybe I would not cheat if I “allowed” and planned for it now and then.

  9. sunnydaze

    I have both pre and post cheated. Not a good feeling…

  10. Excellent topic, Karen!
    I don’t think I’ve ever done the pre-cheat thing. If anything, I’m *more* focused on nutrition and plan-following if I have an event coming up.

    In years past, though, the post-cheat would derail me every time. The event would somehow stretch from a single meal or occasion to an entire day, or week. Now that I look at these events as ‘splurges’, I’m able to enjoy and then move right back to plan. I had to learn to think of them as I do my budget item. A mani/pedi is a nice treat, but I can’t just go on spending endlessly. 🙂 That little switch in thinking helped me eliminate all my pre-event dread moments, which really put a damper on the whole thing.

    • Karen

      I was just writing in a reply up above that I had you and Jody in my head when I was writing this post. Because you both have such great approaches to your healthy eating lifestyles. When I am doing well with my eating, I can see this too. And I hope that someday I can also enjoy the splurges and get back on track and have it all be part of day to day life. I thought I was there, but not yet. But I still think I can do it!! Thanks for always being such a great cheerleader Cammy:) You inspire and motivate me more than I can say.

  11. Ah how familiar I am with this… Yes, Karen, I know exactly what you mean. For me? Many refocuses. One slip leads to a “Well who cares” mentality -> binging -> weight gain -> self-loathing -> hardcore -> slip …. and so on.

    Well done for highlighting this. I really need to give it some thought.


  12. I understand where you are coming from Karen. I use to do the same thing! Once I got off the red light, green light way of thinking either being on a diet or off the diet that all changed for me.

    I subscribe to the way of thinking that Jody does. This healthy eating is a life style choice so I can’t go “off” my life style, I can make better choices some days than other days.
    Some days like my recent trip to San Francisco I chose to enjoy some desserts that I normally don’t have at home. That didn’t mean that I was “cheating” I was making choices to enjoy those high calorie non nutritional choices.
    I know it is just a matter of using different words but some how they make a difference in my view of my own behavior.

    Because I am making those choices and nothing is really off limits it makes it easier to pass up the foods that I really don’t want at any event. Also since I have been so open and vocal about my life style my friends now work at providing something healthier for me when we eat at their house. They tell me what they are going to serve and I sometimes ask if they mind if I bring something of my own choosing instead and no one is offended.

    It has taken me a life time to get to this point but I am so much happier and healthier because of it.

    • Karen

      I have been thinking a lot lately about my defining some foods as “bad.” I know a lot of people think that is just setting one up to cheat or for failure. I would have said it was not, but given my summer of backsliding, maybe there is something to that notion. You are one of a handful of bloggers who I love to follow because your approach to eating and a healthy lifestyle seems so practical and doable.

  13. Great post. I have my own very definite set of “pre-cheating scenarios”, and it’s a big part of my continuing struggles. We had family this weekend, I ate great and had no binge desires, but a common trend is that when I get through something like that, I “give myself a day, or a breather” and get into some form of overeating.

    I loved Jody’s post – very wise.

  14. Cheating does beget more cheating! Great post!

  15. I swear my husband was doing this all week last week “we are gonna start the P90X, let’s splurge.”

    Um let’s not and just pretend we did?

    I think when you realize what you are doing it’s easier to avoid it 🙂

  16. I like that — cheating and “pre-cheating.” Unfortunately the two usually go hand-in-hand, so it’s double the amount of cheats. UGH.

  17. Amy

    What workd for me is one – its not cheating, I am indulging. The word cheat is too negative. You are choosing to eat something and there is nothing negative about that. Two – I adjust the rest of my day. More water, less cals in the other meals, maybe more exercise.

    I get the whole pre cheat – post cheat, shovel in “before” thing. I used to do that. Somehow I overcame that mentality. Doesn’t mean I don’t indulge. I do and I do often but without the guilt or the re-start mentality.

    • Karen

      Funny you should say that about the word choice because I was just sharing with someone today that the word might be something that some healthy eaters suggest is not helpful. And I am all about playing with semantics. I hope that someday I can view it either positively or at least neutrally:)

  18. Kudos to Mr. WT who sounds like a pretty sharp cookie. And kudos to you to, because, reading between the lines recently, I think you’re DOING IT! (NOT pre-cheating). Keep it up!

  19. Thoughtful post. Your post reminds me of the addage that success begets success. When it come sto helathy living and styaing the course, the success I have and continue to have keep me strong. But as I posted a few weeks ago, I am afraid of the BINGE, which I equate with all of your precheating comments above. Keep those voices at bay, Karen, talk them down. Blog about those voices, but don’t let them get the best of you and allow you to cross the boundary and cheat. It’s like we are our own worst enemies-trying to slef destruct our best intentions. Stay strong. Keep teh voices at bay. You can do this, and you CAN beat the precheating voices of UN-reason. Michele

    • Karen

      I think there is momentum that builds when we do well and when we do… not so well. I am shooting for the success begetting success now:) Thanks for the pep talk Michele.

  20. Ummm, I may have pulled the scenario #2 pre-cheat a few weeks back…

    Polar’s Mom

  21. I think scenario one is to clear guilt. We often feel guilty when we “cheat” and yet we want to feel good in social situations. If you pre-cheat, you can rationalize that eating poorly doesn’t matter because you’ve already cracked. The pre-cheat is what you’ll feel more guilty about, allowing you to enjoy the social event. Like the first cigarette after an attempt to quit. So much guilt, but the second is always easier :p

    Scenario two baffles me. I have seen people do it. “Diet starts Monday!” so they sit there ploughing through junk on Sunday. Completely illogical. Same with those that decide to start a diet, only once the junk is gone. But rather than throw it away, they eat it! The mind is a strange thing 🙂

    • Karen

      I had not thought about that twist on the first scenario – interesting. The second one seems soooo common to me. When I began in December after the holidays, I did so with a ton of fabulous food sitting on my counter including gifts of my favorite chocolate. I need to go back to the thinking and motivation from that day:)

  22. So, yeah, Karen…the whole pre-cheating thing is ME! I say to myself…well I think I’ll start a new plan Monday or tomorrow or whenever so I can {and I better} eat whatever I can!! You know…while I’m filling the dishwasher I’ll eat or while I’m reading or watching TV or right before bed. *sigh*. It is a real issue for me.

    I appreciate your comments on my blog, Karen. I am very happy I stumbled upon you…we share the same issues!! Together we CAN reach our goal weight, right?;)


  23. In the past I have done the “get it out of my system” thing before embarcking on a new program/diet. Not recently, though. I have been known to turn down the cake at my own birthday party! It isn’t events that get to me, more it is me being emotionally upset and self-medicating. I am working on that one…

    This weekend I had my first planned splurge meal since May, including a cocktail and a small fro-yo. I was back on track the next morning with no issues.

    • Karen

      Good for you Susan! I had an unintended splurge last night. We were invited to the football game in a penthouse suite with food provided. The game didn’t start until about the time I would normally be heading to read in bed! Tired and hungry, I ate. Not crazy. And I am not feeling (much) guilt. Calling it “normal.” Back on track today and had no pre-cheat!!

  24. I know all about pre-cheating. Did it this weekend. It was pretty awful. Hindsight is 20./20 though, isn’t it? I could have totally avoided the situation NOW, but I couldn’t at the time.

  25. I talk about foods being “expensive”, not in terms of $, but ww points. It’s the precheats that cost your ass a 2nd mortgage, literally.

    Thanks for being a steadfast hero in my world.

  26. ugh, i know that feeling of anticipation, usually it’s a dinner involving friends or family since they tend to eat differently than i do. besides, when you get together socially – you don’t get together to eat salad. salad isn’t exactly party food.:P

    that said, everyone needs a cheat day! you’d go stark raving mad without one, so don’t beat yourself up too much. as long as you’re eating healthy 85% of the time, you’ll be just fine!

    • Karen

      I have wondered if I would be well served to have a planned cheat day – or cheat meal – or cheat snack, now and then. If I know it is coming it might mean less other cheating. I know this works very well for some.

  27. Well, I can relate to the whole thought pattern from before I started my program ten years ago. It’s me exactly! Most of my weight problem was actually caused by the bingeing in anticipation of the dieting deprivation rather than stress eating or emotional eating.

    But I love this term, this “pre-cheat!” It’s what starts the avalanche, right?

  28. Yep. I pre-cheat. I’m getting ready to start a new diet and I’ve already planned my last meal. It includes bread, sweets, salty foods. I’m already disgusted with myself but it won’t stop me.

  29. Scenario two I have participated in a zillion times. i will start tomorrow, so today I cheat! Funny, cheating at something I haven’t even started yet. That is like failing a test without even taking it.

    • Karen

      That is a great analogy! And it is like “intentionally” choosing to fail that test. I need to remember this one. Thanks Patrick.

  30. losingmore

    maybe the danger comes i thinking of having a forbidden food as cheating. I don’t really believe there are any forbidden foods….just foods you can enjoy less frequently and in much smaller portions than others. With that said, if you should plan to have that particular food, in moderate portions, of course, than it is not cheating…it is not negative, it is just what it is. Food. Same as any other food.

    Maybe this would help alleviate the feelings of negativity which bring about the pre cheat and the anxiety over attending events.

    • Karen

      I have actually been thinking along similar lines! You read my mind:) I know many who don’t believe in labeling foods “bad” or “good” for that very reason. I used to think it was smart for me, and my lack of control, to cut out some foods. But now I wonder about that approach.

  31. I’ve done this and many more variations on the topic. Cheating for me involved one taste, then another and off I went. I think, after all these maintenance years, that I no longer really think of it in terms of cheating, but in terms of not making a good choice for myself. That has helped me recover from the episode without falling apart.

    • Karen

      I still remember you talking about your food rating on the Dr. Oz show and how you only splurge on great tasting things. That would be great advice for me to follow:)

  32. Karen — I’m thinking I might just as well quit blogging and direct everybody here because you are SO saying everything that is happening in my life. Love the term “pre-cheat”. I know that I need to get back to that place where I’m on plan no matter where I am or what I’m doing.

  33. Karen, your husband is a clever man for coining this term. With that awareness, bet you don’t pre-cheat at all during the upcoming social events. 🙂

  34. I love this topic and you have written very eloquently about it…

  35. Mon

    Hi Karen,
    Just wanted to cheer you on with your determination not to pre-cheat. You can do it!
    I used to be like you, but after a few years of up and down I now embrace the healthy living approach to food.
    No diets, but lots of learning about nutrition and fitness has turned me around big time.
    I’ve written a ebook since then and will be publishing it soon on the net.
    You can do it girlfriend!

  36. I pre-cheat in both of the ways you describe, especially just before returning to a sensible food plan (formerly, a diet).

    Good for your understanding and resolve regarding the weekend socializing ahead. I’ll be tempted too… both days… one is a class and one is an annual meeting, both of which with a large layout of home-made goodies. The pre-cheat urge is already upon me. But now that I’ve read about your resolve, Karen… well, I just plan to join you in no pre-cheating either day. I’m also going to work on the “resentment” thing! Thanks!

    • Karen

      I wish I could remember which blogger wrote wonderfully yesterday with the word “rebellion” because I realized that fits me too!

  37. Well now I know I’m a serial pre-cheater :S

  38. Wow. What powerful insight to what is driving your behavior. All I can say, is been there done that with the diet starts Monday so let’s party till then. That is why for me “dieting” and “depriving” don’t work. “What you resist persists.” As soon as you tell yourself you can’t do something or can’t have something it is all you can think about. It is how our brains are hardwired! Best not to set yourself up for failure, I say.

    I have had to find (through years of trial and error) a way to eat that is sustainable for the long run and as the years go by, it gets easier and more nourishing. I had to get rid of all the “good” “bad” thinking to. It is a lot about intention and awareness too. Eating salad to punish yourself for being fat is a totally different experience than eating salad because you love yourself and want to feed yourself lots of veggies for all the wonderful health benefits they provide. Same activity but totally different thoughts, feelings, and effects on the body, mind, and spirit!

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