Monday, October 11, 2010

The consequences of "cheating"

In the first 14-ish weeks of the MNP, people who are starting their weight loss journeys are in a group together which meets once a week.  The first half of each group session is spent listening to an educational CD that is on a weight-loss-related topic, and the second half of each group is spent checking in to see how each person is doing on the fast.

Over those 14-ish weeks our group dwindled from about 13 down to 4.  While one person from our initial group actually made his goal weight and transitioned back to food and into the Maintenance phase of the program, the other 8 group members dropped out for one reason or another.  One or two people had health-related problems that made them drop out, and two people had crises in their lives which made it difficult to stay on the fast, but the rest of the group dropped out because of one dirty little word: cheating.

As a kid, my mother and I had many power struggles over food, and the two words that she often used when I was on a diet but not sticking to it were "cheating" and "snitching."  Needless to say, hearing the word "cheating" makes my gut clench in a defiant, 13-year-old kind of manner that immediately makes me want to start being oppositional just because.  As a result, when I first started on the program, I was very offended by the word cheating in conjunction with not staying on the fast. However, I learned in the first few weeks that cheating, at least in the context of this program, has a special meaning: CHoosing to EAT.

With that re-frame in mind, I became much more comfortable with the word cheating in a weight-loss context.  I also became much more conscious of the fact that eating food when you're supposed to be fasting (i.e., on the shakes) IS a choice that each person makes many times over during the weight-loss phase.  But most importantly, I really began to see and realize the consequences that cheating had on the members of my group.

Most people who cheated started out with something small and relatively healthy - a bite of a sandwich, a piece of fruit, or brussels sprouts.  But each time a person cheated, it invariably ended up bigger and much worse than they intended.  A bite of sandwich ended up being dinner out with the family followed by a night on the town drinking with one guy's buddies.  A piece of fruit ended up being the "gateway" to a whole week where that lady started out each day with a shake and ended up eating regular food by lunchtime.  And there was another effect: each time a person cheated, they had a harder and harder time getting back ON the shakes, and therefore losing weight.

After the initial weeks were done, the 4 survivors (and believe me, we felt like survivors!) got moved into a continuing weight-loss group.  One of the survivors was someone who had cheated pretty regularly, and had decided to go into the Transition phase because she wasn't able to maintain the fast any more, but the other 3 of us had maintained the fast without cheats the entire time.  I don't know about anyone else, but I expected the people in the continuing weight-loss group to be like us: motivated, focused, and consistent on the fast.

With that in mind, you can imagine my shock at finding out that EVERY SINGLE other person in the room (aside from the 3 of us faithful survivors) was regularly cheating on the fast.  So instead of having a great group of people who were supporting each other as we continued the fast, I began to worry about being dragged down by the people who were struggling to stay on the fast themselves.

And then I reminded myself of the MNP definition of the word of the word cheat: CHoosing to EAT.  And I reminded myself that even if other people have cheated, that doesn't mean I have to.


  1. The word "cheater" has strong implications in the subconscious mind. Just hearing it sends all kinds of negative energy through my mind. It would be wonderful to neutralize the effects in my own journey.

  2. Sylvia, I totally agree -- I still cringe sometimes when I hear it, but reminding myself that in this context it's a contraction of choosing to eat has really made a huge difference for me.