Is There Room For Cheating?
This has got to be one of the most commonly asked questions.
Doesn’t help that it’s perpetuated by many Paleo (ish) websites, blogs and even books.
The proverbial cheat meal, in my opinion, implies that whatever one is eating is so restrictive they feel deprived in some way and that indirectly causes the need to eat something that is saltier/sweeter/has more crunch/fills you up more and so on and so forth.
In addition, there is the psychological component which plays a role; if one embarks on a new eating plan that eliminates a food or group of foods that one has an emotional attachment to, it’s easy to focus on that and think ‘I cannot live without ever eating ice cream (or nachos, or whatever that particular foodstuff may be)’/
Both can appear to be placated if one decided they can eat these foods sometimes. How often may depend on how often they’d been eating these foods in the past, but in the event that the frequency is decreasing, one might argue that at least these poor quality foods are being eaten less often, which would be a step in the right direction.
Here’s a great example: a client who is an overweight mom in the Midwest confesses she hardly ever eats any veggies and has found herself in the habit of going more and more often to the drive through, even though she knows that what she’s getting is hardly nutritious, for her or her four kids, but for the simple fact that she feels frazzled and at her wit’s end and going to fast food places is easy. Period.
If she were to begin by adding veggies to her daily routine as step one, even if she were still going to McDonald’s, even that would be a start.
If that same woman, in a few week’s time, begins to lose weight, feel more energetic and realizes she can actually carve out some time to grocery shop and cook, she’s going to advance further along her path to healthy eating and better health.
Maybe after a month or two, she learns about Paleo and thinks it sounds like a good fit, especially when she learns that it’s a great way to eat for anyone with autoimmune issues or with diabetes, since her mother has lupus and she’s been told by her doc that she’s pre diabetic.
But wait… when she learns she’ll never eat grains, dairy or legumes again, she shudders at the sound of it, not understanding how, when done properly, Paleo doesn’t feel restrictive.
Does that mean she’s not going to try it?
Alternatively, if she thinks about it and decides to try being mostly Paleo and sometimes having the reliable comfort foods she has grown used to, it suddenly becomes more doable.
It’s my hope that anyone in this situation (and there are many, many people fitting this description, so if you’re one of them, don’t feel alone!) would ultimately make eating these ‘cheat meals’ fewer and farther between and get to the point of identifying how these foods make them feel poorly, compared to the abundance of fresh veggies, fruit, lovely proteins and natural fats on Paleo, which make them feel fabulous.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting that if you are already living and loving a True Paleo lifestyle,that you should now begin adding weekly pizza and beer nights.
Rather, if including some of these as part of your journey to True Paleo makes you try Paleo in the first place, I feel it makes sense as one particular means to an end.
There’s no mistaking the importance of the role the mind plays in this, and if taking steps, even baby steps to get there is the way it’s going to work for you, go for it.
Better to get there slowly than not at all!