The chant my little children use on occasion when accusing a brother of cheating goes something like this: “Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater.” If I were to write a chant for weight loss cheaters it might be: “Cheater, cheater, chocolate eater.” I put myself squarely in the frequent diet cheater camp and apply the quote to myself because I was the queen of cheating on my diet. I used a lot of tricks to cheat on my diet, but the only person hurt by my cheating was me. Here are some common diet cheats and solutions on how to stop cheating yourself.
Trick #1: Fudging the Numbers
It’s pretty easy to know how many calories a food has. There is the USDA database, sites like MyFitnessPal, and even books. It’s also pretty easy to fudge your calorie numbers because after all, who but you knows exactly how much ice cream, yogurt, or fruit you ate?
I used to fudge the numbers when I filled out my Weight Watchers booklet, the food diary for my nutritionist, and even in a journal I kept just for myself. In some ways, writing down fewer calories than I ate gave me permission to have just a little bit more for the day. Obviously, you won’t lose weight if you are eating more than you need to drop pounds.
This is an easy one. Just stop. If you eat a bowl of ice cream that is 1 cup instead of 1/2 cup, write it down and calculate the correct number of calories. Be honest with yourself about servings and portions.
Trick #2: Conveniently Forgetting to Write Foods Down
I’ve met with a lot of clients who tell me, “Oh, yeah. I also had a few cookies, two sodas, and a bag of chips but I forgot to write it down.” I understand forgetting to write things down, but if you are doing it all the time you probably aren’t forgetting but choosing to forget.
Write down food and drink immediately after you eat or drink. Don’t wait until that evening or the next day. It all comes back to being honest with yourself.
Trick #3: Blaming a Lack of Weight Loss Anything But Overeating
Weight loss doesn’t happen in a straight line. There are times when you hit a weight loss plateau and times when your weight loss is just plain slow. But, if you are not losing weight at all or keep losing and gaining the same few pounds again and again, you are probably overeating.
For me, acknowledging that I wasn’t really 100 percent into my diet helped me move past the blaming my lack of progress on hormones, the weather, my husband, and the fact I was always tired. It may be that you need to restart your diet, recommit to living a healthier lifestyle, or take a break.
Trick #4: Overestimating Exercise Impact
I didn’t exercise much when I was morbidly obese, but when I did I was very generous with my estimation of how many calories I burned. I’d happily tell myself I had burned 500 or 600 calories during a 10-minute walk and then eat way more food than I needed.
Be skeptical of the calories-burned numbers on the computer panel of exercise machines or websites because they are often overestimated.
Don’t eat back any exercise calories you burn. If you just look at exercise as a way to get more fit and consider the calorie burn as a minor benefit, you will be less likely to reward yourself with extra calories for exercising.
Trick #5: Eating in Secret and Lying About It
Secret eating takes many forms. I ate secretly in the car and while the kids were napping. Other people I know take food into a room and scarf it down while their family is in another room.
I used to fib to my husband when he asked what happened to the ice cream in the freezer. I’d say I didn’t know when I knew exactly what happened to it. I had eaten it all earlier in the day.
Do your best to eat in the company of other people. Never eat in the car or sneak away to stuff some chocolate chips in your mouth.
At the end of the day, the only person you hurt by cheating on your diet is yourself. It doesn’t hurt your family or your friends if you cheat. Just you.
After years of cheating on my diet, I finally acknowledged this truth and lost weight once and for all. Don’t beat yourself up over cheating; instead, acknowledge it happened and promise to turn things around.