How many times have you heard someone say, “I cheated over the weekend!” Or “I was bad – I ate a cookie”. Maybe you have even complained about how you “blew it and cheated”. I’ve seen diets with “planned cheat days” and I cringe when I hear it phrased in this way. The language and words that we use have a big impact on our focus and how we view ourselves. Do we really need to add more negative images around how we deal with food?
Cheating is defined as acting dishonestly to gain an advantage. Why do we equate eating a cookie with being dishonest, and what advantage are we gaining? None that I can think of. How have we as a society hijacked whether we are good or not, whether we are worthy or not, based on what we eat.
I prefer using the words zig and zag instead. It’s terminology that I learned from Tony Robbins that works perfectly to describe “on” and “off” days. Zig and zag. There’s no judgement and it doesn’t make us right or wrong. Most days I zig, which means eating foods that align with my health goals and that fuel my body.
Occasionally I zag, which means eating food that may have limited nutritional value but brings me pleasure. Zagging is about moderation, enjoyment and balance. It’s about eating food that is enjoyable in small quantities. And I know that if I zag too much it actually decreases my joy in my life. I don’t feel my best.
If we are going to make peace with our bodies and food, we can’t allow the food we eat to determine if we are good or bad. Really, it just boils down to choices. When a client tells me they ate something bad (meaning it didn’t move them closer to their health goals) I ask if they enjoyed it. What I mean is, was it a conscious choice to deviate from the plan and enjoy the food? Or was it an irrational decision caused by a trigger?
Of course, there are varying degrees of behavior here. One situation might be eating a cookie and another might be eating a whole bag of cookies. Obviously there are deeper issues at play when we scarf down the whole bag of cookies in one setting.
But if you choose to have a cookie (or whatever your favorite indulgence is) then at least enjoy what you are eating! For goodness sakes, it’s just a cookie! There shouldn’t be any moral judgement about eating a cookie!
Some people might say that I’m getting all hung up on semantics. But the words we use, matter. They go deeper to our core than what we realize.
Zigging and zagging has a dance quality to it. Or a yin and yang feeling. No judgement, no pressure, no condemnation. It’s about enjoying life. No cheating here!