The post below was originally published in 2011, and it's been updated each year to reflect where I am in my life and the new...Read More
Cheating At Solitaire
This whole eating thing can be really hard.
It shouldn’t be.
I get hungry. I eat clean food. End of story.
Except pesky things like emotions – and the bratty need to act out against rules – intervene and soon, I’m talking myself out of a face-first fall into a bowl of miniature Halloween-wrapped Snickers bars (potentially while wearing a silly costume) – or I’m talking myself into a “cheat dinner” (even though I don’t really want it) because I “deserve a treat.”
A few weeks ago, Dallas and Melissa at Whole9Life wrote about The trouble with points. In a nutshell, using external award/punishment to inspire behavior change in ourselves or others ultimately backfires.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot as I (re)commit to my Whole30-inspired October Cleanup II: The Reckoning.
Yes, if I “cheat,” I will feel compelled to confess it here… I’ll probably cop to it on the Whole30 blog posts… and I’ll whine about it at my morning workout – so there’s public shaming involved.
But that’s nothing.
Y’all are kind and loving and forgiving and supportive. I know you’ll understand if I eat too many nuts or snarf a pound of grapes in a feeding frenzy.
The problem is not “breaking the rules” or “cheating the system” and then suffering some kind of external punishment. The real problem is cheating myself.
The entire point of the Whole30 is to see how I feel if I totally clean up my diet. Not how you feel about me or yourself if I clean up my diet.
When I think about it that way, the sexiness of “cheating” completely evaporates.
It’s easy to believe that a spoonful of Sunbutter eaten directly from the jar at midnight with the fridge door propped against my hip is “getting away with something.” It feels deliciously illicit and indulgent. (And who doesn’t respond to that?!)
But reality turns the Sunbutter to sawdust in my mouth.
I cheat the system, I cheat myself.
And, ultimately, that is no fun.
Finally – at the risk of being a little groovy for y’all – isn’t the food just a metaphor for life? The same is true for any aspect of living in which we’re not true to ourselves. Working a job that doesn’t jive with your core values? Not feeling your emotions in all their scary, beautiful, overwhelming power? Trying to meet someone else’s expectations about what your life should be? Honestly, I think that’s why the Whole30 is so challenging. It looks like it’s about food, and we talk about the food, and you can make it just about food, but it’s really about you. Me. Us. And life.