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.