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.