Why Cheating Really Isn’t Worth It.

stuffed animals from childhood, nostalgia

Here are two of my favorite stuffed animals from my childhood.  People who know me really well know that I’ve never outgrown my deep affinity for stuffed toys, and my closest inner circle (and now all of you) knows that sometimes, I still make sure they’re sitting upright and don’t get buried under things lest they smother or feel like I don’t care about them anymore.

I read one of those “tug-at-your-heartstrings” stories this week, imagining Calvin and Hobbes as old men, and I haven’t been able to get over how sad it’s made me. People laugh or roll their eyes when I tell them that I refuse to see chick flicks, or sappy/sad movies, but the problem is that, for most people, they can watch the movie and have a good cathartic cry and then move on.  For me, I’ll be sad about it for weeks and will internalize it into getting sadder and sadder about something that’s going on in my own life. Naturally, I’m a little pissed at myself for reading the story, but the damage has been done, and now I’m struggling with the aftermath.

Here’s the other thing; when I took control of my health last May, I discovered through process of elimination that gluten affects my mental health in a negative way.  During my first foray with gluten-free eating, my depression/anxiety cleared up drastically within the first week, and I continued to feel fantastic until I started to slack off and allow myself some “cheats.”  I know that some people think that cheating on a food lifestyle here and there is okay, and for the most part, I’d agree.  However, here’s why it just doesn’t work for me:

  1. It’s never just “one” cheat.  If I was able to just have some gluten on the *very* rare occasion, then I’d probably be okay, but my problem is that ONE special occasion then brings out my all-or-nothing mentality (well, you’ve already cheated once today…might as well take the rest of the day/weekend/month off and pick back up again afterward).
  2. The payout is rarely worth it.  Now, I’m not talking about some once-in-a-lifetime trip or something like that.  I’m talking about the “plate-of-spaghetti because it’s Valentine’s Day” or the “big hunk of birthday cake because you’re are a party” type of cheats.  Is it really worth it to feel bad the next day over something that wasn’t really a dynamic experience?
  3. You’re only cheating on yourself.  I thought about this the other day when I was getting ready for bed and really didn’t want to floss my teeth (I know…lazy me).  I was going to let it go for the night, and then it hit me that the only one who’s going to suffer the consequences of that decision is me.  I’m the one who may end up with a cavity, and it would be a result of my decision.  Why is it that we mostly worry about how our decisions will impact others, but never seem to really consider how they will affect us?

My dad is a diabetic with heart problems; he can’t afford to “cheat” on his food lifestyle.  A “cheat” will result in atherosclerosis, kidney problems, diabetic neuropathy, and worse.  And he lives with that reality.  If I have too much gluten, I get anxious and sad and life becomes (even more) overwhelming and daunting.  That’s a reality I have to live with.  It’s not even about weight (although losing weight has been an excellent result of cutting the gluten/most grains); it’s about deciding whether a food is worth compromising my mental health.

The answer to that question, friends, is “usually not.”

I’m not trying to tell you to restrict your diet or engage in unhealthy food behavior; on the contrary: I’m suggesting that you think more deeply about the ramifications (both short and long-term) of your choices (food and otherwise).

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