Home / My Paleo Diet Experience: Dealing with Diet Cheating

My Paleo Diet Experience: Dealing with Diet Cheating

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After completing two weeks of my Paleo Diet experiment, I felt that I was turning a corner.  My cravings for grains had subsided and it was getting easier to prepare Paleo compliant meals.  As I went into week three of the experiment, I was feeling confident that I was going to succeed.  Perhaps, I was a little overconfident.  After working so hard to eat within Paleo Diet principles for 19 straight days, I cheated.  I ate a bunch of chocolate and had a slice of carrot cake. 

To this day, I still don’t understand why I ate the chocolate.  It wasn’t in the house.  I made a special trip to the bulk food store to get some, and I never go to the bulk food store.  All I know is a chocolate craving came over me and I had to have chocolate macaroons.  Neither words of encouragement from my wife or a pack of angry wolves were able to stop me from getting that chocolate.  I must have eaten half a pound of chocolate within 3 hours of the purchase.

The carrot cake on the other hand was a result of a family visit.  I wasn’t going to have any cake but when it was served; my inner voice that has been saying no was absent.  I ate the cake with gusto and enjoyed it.

What surprised me most about my cheating experience wasn’t that I cheated but how I felt afterward. I felt an incredible sense of shame and guilt.  These feelings were shocking because I have never really tried to diet before and I was the type of person who never denied myself anything.   Feeling this way because of food was a totally new experience to me.   

The feelings that I let myself down stuck with me for several days.  In fact, I began to think that I should just give up on my Paleo Diet experiment.  Negative thoughts began to creep into my head.  I was hard on myself.  My inner voice was telling me that I didn’t have the discipline to make this lifestyle change.  Despite losing 75 lbs. over the last two years, I was beginning to think that I wouldn’t succeed so why bother trying.

Apparently, my feelings of guilt and shame are common in people trying to diet.  In their study Guilty or not? Feelings of guilt about food among college women, the Institute of Health Sciences, VU University in the Netherlands found that a majority of the sample regularly experienced mild feelings of guilt when eating between-meal snacks in the afternoon or after-dinner eating in the evening.  In addition, eating candy and ice cream accounted for the most ‘guilty moments’.

The fact that I’m not alone made me feel better, but what sort of coping strategies could be used to combat these feelings in the future.  Personally, I reminded myself that I have had much success in getting healthy over the last few years and that one little cheat wouldn’t ruin all of my hard work.  After telling myself that several times, I began to believe it and the positive feeling I had about myself began to return. 

Matthias Conradt aus Backnang’s dissertation Associations among Obesity-Related Guilt, Shame, and Coping discusses coping and found that no studies exist that evaluate the success of different coping mechanisms towards weight loss.  However, if a person is able to cope with the guilty feelings, they often return with renewed commitment to greater success.  Once I began to believe in myself, I too felt a renewed commitment to success. 

Now, I’m ready to tackle the next three weeks of my Paleo Diet experiment.  I know that I won’t fail just because I cheated on these two occasions.  I’m motivated for success.  I just can’t let my guard down.  My old habits are still with me but I won’t let them rule me like that again.

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About Layne Pennell

  • Good Luck Angry! It gets better. Stick with it!!

  • I recently discovered Paleo and the same thing happened to me… except my weakness was pizza. Hopefully I can get back on track tomorrow.

  • Thanks everyone for your support. I’ll have to do some research about what Lila said with the 3 and 12 week humps.

    And yes Monica, it did have the yummy cream cheese frosting.

  • Monica

    Good Grief Chuck! If you have lost 75 pounds then stop beating yourself up. Seriously, that is amazing in itself and proves your determination! I hope your carrot cake had that yummy cream cheese frosting on it because you deserve it!

  • Chuck “cheating” is fine, once you’ve established a strong pattern. But if you’ve had difficulty sticking to a paleo or similar plan, then cheating too soon will sabotage your diet. I had this happen to me until I realized what was happening. Once I decided that I was going to stick to it, period, it became easier. I am thinking that for me, in about 3 months time I might be able to safely eat small amounts of starchy carbs upon occasion. Bottom line is you have to know yourself.

  • Hi Layne,
    Great article. But I can explain what happens when changing one’s diet so dramatically and the body’s chemistry is changing. The first two weeks ARE easy, but the third week is critical. It is then that you will revert or fail since your body is saying, “okay, the jokes over. NOW can I have that cookie?” (or what ever you body craves) This is chemical. It is not a failing of your efforts, but you have to be aware that it happens. For a couple of days your body will crave a carb that you don’t want to eat. By the end of the 4th week you should be over it. People tend to think that they are weak and stupid for giving into a craving, but we’re not! It’s all chemistry. You did a good job!. I had a lot more trouble, until my doctor explained the sequence to me. There is also a twelve week hump to get over too. Just be aware that you might experience something similar again later.

  • chuck

    cheats every once in a while will keep you sane. just don’t go overboard with it. the stress you are puting on yourself is worse than the cheat.