What's worse? Cheating on your diet? Or not enjoying it when you do?
Okay, first of all, let's drop the word "cheating" from our lexicon. Dieting isn't about being "on" or "off." This is real life. And whether being careful about our food intake to lose excess weight or doing it to maintain the weight we've already lost (and don't want back), there are going to be times that we have a cookie or some other kind of treat -- whether planned or not. (For more on this, see my recent post on the topic of being "on" and "off" of a diet.)
The question then becomes, are we really enjoying the treat? And I mean really-really. Too often, those of us with a dieter's mentality will devour a decadent food without enjoying the actual consumption of it. It's as if we go into some altered mental state while chewing the cookie or whatever the said offender to our diet is (or was -- burp!).
I remember back in the day, when I was attempting (over and over again) to lose 250-plus pounds of excess weight. While trying every kind of diet out there (usually on a Monday or Tuesday and then again the beginning of the following week), I would often catch myself standing at the kitchen counter, chewing the remnants of my treat (AKA "cheat") and realize I hadn't even enjoyed the full experience. I was eating as if I was a caged animal that had broken into the kitchen ("the forbidden zone" as it were) and snuck a treat before being caught. When a better tactic would have been to take the cookie, chocolate bar -- or whatever -- and put it on a plate, then sit down and enjoy every last decadent morsel of deliciousness.
Do you understand the difference between these two scenarios? One is about ravenous eating before getting caught (or, perhaps, catching ourselves) and one is about true enjoyment. And no, it's not "wrong" to enjoy a treat even when you're on a diet of one kind or another. Life is about moderation. So if you're going to treat yourself, do so in the healthiest mental state possible. This could equate to meeting a friend at an ice cream parlor to split a sundae, getting a freshly baked cookie at the mall and sitting down near the fountain to enjoy it while people watching or even (gasp!) picking up a delicious looking apple at a farmer's market and then enjoying it with a few teaspoons of all-natural peanut butter.
Yes, that's right, healthy snacking should be as enjoyable as the more decadent kind of snacking. But no matter which type you're doing, you really should be enjoying the whole experience and not eating like a vampire that's afraid of dawn's first light. It's this kind of eating (scared, fast, unconscious) that's one of the likely reasons we've ended up at the undesirable end of the scale in the first place.
So next time you have a craving, take a breath. Decide if you're really hungry and then if you really want the treat. And if it's really worth it. Assuming it's a "Go," then make the actual eating of the treat a metered and enjoyable experience. Really savor every moment as much as you're savoring every morsel. Then, when it's over, take another breath. There. Now you're eating (and treating) like a "normal" person. And that's what you are. Normal. Whether you have some excess weight you want to lose or not.
(And remember you can always feel free to go for a walk after the snack to burn off some of those decadent calories.)
Snacking should never be about guilt, anxiety or desperation. Put the full range of enjoyment back into snacking and see how much it can help your overall eating plan and goals.
Oh, and if you need someone to split that ice cream sundae with, I'm definitely available.