Should Fitness Leaders Encourage Cheating on Your Diet?
My Answer: A Big FAT No!
WARNING: This is a rare rant, but I believe it’s necessary and could be helpful. Here is the email I got in my inbox today that is sparking this topic.
Here, I have another one for ya! How about: “Cheat on Your Spouse (Without Getting Divorced)”. Or, what about “Cheat on Your Taxes (Without Getting Caught).” I wonder how that would work out for ya. All I know is that title would never fly if it were about any other subject other than diet.
Have you ever wondered why we treat dieting differently than anything else? Cheating is cheating. Instead of teaching people to cheat, let’s teach people how to eat right and maintain a healthy balance so they don’t HAVE to cheat (which I’m sure was their intensions, but still sends a bad message).
I personally believe if we can teach people how to improve the issues that CAUSE cheating, we wouldn’t need to cheat to begin with. I also believe people need to know the difference between cheating and treating.
Why We Cheat
Why do people cheat on anything?
- They feel like they are missing out
- They are deprived, they aren’t getting what they want, or feel like they need
- They are greedy
- They lack discipline
- They are looking for happiness
- And many other issues I’m sure a psychologist would tell us our real issue is
Strict dieting (and depriving) can absolutely cause some people to cheat and binge. It’s caused from extreme short-term discipline, or extreme (but typically short-lived) self control. Just because you have good discipline for a period of time doesn’t mean it won’t backfire on you. Ask your spouse to not have sex with you for a few months and see how that works out for ya. If you do that, you are putting them in a very bad and unhealthy place, so why would we do that to your own body?
While some issues are caused by extreme yo-yo discipline, other issues that cause cheating are from the opposite, a lack of discipline and self-control altogether. People who never really work on improving self control will continue to struggle until they really commit to making permanent changes. Instead, people will dabble in eating better for a period of time, but they never really stick with it long enough to learn a new long-term disciplined behavior. Self control is difficult in any area of our lives – it will not be easy, and it will take constant practice, but it is most definitely healthy.
Think of all the areas of our life that require constant discipline. If we have to constantly control our tongue, control our anger, control our desires, control our thoughts and control our spending, why would we think we would ever get to a place where we no longer have to control our eating? Self-control is required in all areas of our life if we want to live fruitful, healthy lives.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11
Cheating vs Treating
Now that we’ve talked about why we cheat, let’s talk about how we cheat. First, I think people misuse the word. Instead of looking at having a piece of cake as “cheating”, we should look at it as “treating” – BIG DIFFERENCE. The same way we make room in our budget to treat ourself to a new pair of shoes or a new purse, we need to learn to make room in our budget for a dinner out or a piece of pie. As long as we aren’t doing it all the time, it’s a healthy way to have treats. Unfortunately, many people are not treating, they are cheating. They are not making room for that treat. They aren’t shaving calories off somewhere else. They aren’t working it off now, and they have no plans to work it off later. They aren’t working to “buy” that treat the good old-fashioned hard-working way.
People are just taking what they want, when they want – whether they can afford it or not. Anywhere else, that would be called stealing. In the dieting world, it’s called cheating – but I’ve got news for ya. People are NOT getting away with it. They are imprisoned in body fat, tight pants, insecurities, depression and despair.
American Needs Stronger Leaders
WARNING: The following content is rated M for mature. Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense truths, unpleasant news, offensive and/or strong language. Caution is advised.
I am so tired of seeing headlines suggesting dieting is easy and fast. It’s not. While it doesn’t have to be awful (and when done right, can be much easier than you think), practicing discipline isn’t easy. It takes some level of effort – and results are rarely fast.
I’d like to encourage fitness leaders to choose their words carefully and, may I boldy say, challenge American to QUIT cheating. We need to encourage people to be accountable. We need to speak truth in love and, for once, actually tell people “it may be your fault”. It’s not a fun message to give, but at some point, people need to hear the truth – even if it isn’t as fun.
Could you imagine if Magazines used headlines like:
- 10 Ways to Practice Self-Control
- Learn How Balance Diet and Treats (not Cheats)
- Get the Foods You Need, So You Don’t Fall Off the Wagon
- Overweight? Then Move More or Eat Less
Of course those don’t sound near as fun as “have your cake and eat it too”. And “get off your fat butt and burn off that cake” would not only offend half of American, but it probably wouldn’t sell magazines. Sadly, America spends so much energy on being politically correct, and non-offensive, they don’t have the guts to use headlines that people really need to hear. Instead, they tell people what they want to hear, even if it’s not true, unhealthy, only partly true or even damaging. We live in a “feel-good” society that preaches “if it feels good, do it” and “you deserve it”.
Fitness leaders needs to help people get to the root of the problem and fix it, instead of encouraging followers to find ways around the problem, or mask it. Personally, in my opinion, we shouldn’t teach people how to cheat, or even appear to. That is just a bad message to me. While teaching practical eating tips so people can ENJOY life, and not be miserable on a diet, would ultimately teach people how to FEEL like they are cheating (which I am sure is what the magazine was doing) – I don’t think we should even use the word cheat in a positive sense. Why? Because the uneducated dieter could be led to believe that some people are getting amazing results by “cheating right” and doing whatever they want. NO! People get good results by eating right and practicing self control.
“…people always want to see what they can get away with first…”
People are already looking for every way to lose weight besides the right way. I see it way too much at the gym. People work really hard at the gym, only to blow it on poor choices because they basically want to see what they can get away with and still get the results they want. If you are dieting that way, I’ve got news for you – you can’t get away with it for long. Living like that is risky. It’s no different than stealing and hoping to get away with it. You have to be ready to get caught and face the consequences. The best thing you can do is just live right – and, in this case, eat right.
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. Proverbs 25:28