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Cheating At Solitaire

This whole eating thing can be really hard.

It shouldn’t be.

I get hungry. I eat clean food. End of story.

Except pesky things like emotions – and the bratty need to act out against rules – intervene and soon, I’m talking myself out of a face-first fall into a bowl of miniature Halloween-wrapped Snickers bars (potentially while wearing a silly costume) – or I’m talking myself into a “cheat dinner” (even though I don’t really want it) because I “deserve a treat.”

A few weeks ago, Dallas and Melissa at Whole9Life wrote about The trouble with points. In a nutshell, using external award/punishment to inspire behavior change in ourselves or others ultimately backfires.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot as I (re)commit to my Whole30-inspired October Cleanup II: The Reckoning.

Yes, if I “cheat,” I will feel compelled to confess it here… I’ll probably cop to it on the Whole30 blog posts… and I’ll whine about it at my morning workout – so there’s public shaming involved.

But that’s nothing.

Y’all are kind and loving and forgiving and supportive. I know you’ll understand if I eat too many nuts or snarf a pound of grapes in a feeding frenzy.

The problem is not “breaking the rules” or “cheating the system” and then suffering some kind of external punishment. The real problem is cheating myself.

The entire point of the Whole30 is to see how I feel if I totally clean up my diet. Not how you feel about me or yourself if I clean up my diet.

When I think about it that way, the sexiness of “cheating” completely evaporates.

It’s easy to believe that a spoonful of Sunbutter eaten directly from the jar at midnight with the fridge door propped against my hip is “getting away with something.” It feels deliciously illicit and indulgent. (And who doesn’t respond to that?!)

But reality turns the Sunbutter to sawdust in my mouth.

I cheat the system, I cheat myself.

And, ultimately, that is no fun.

(Damn it.)

Finally – at the risk of being a little groovy for y’all – isn’t the food just a metaphor for life? The same is true for any aspect of living in which we’re not true to ourselves. Working a job that doesn’t jive with your core values? Not feeling your emotions in all their scary, beautiful, overwhelming power? Trying to meet someone else’s expectations about what your life should be? Honestly, I think that’s why the Whole30 is so challenging. It looks like it’s about food, and we talk about the food, and you can make it just about food, but it’s really about you. Me. Us. And life.

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45 Responses to “Cheating At Solitaire”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Love your post today!!! It is SOOOOO true on many levels. I've been starting to have the same realizations about cheating with food, too, and it's so nice to see someone else write them out.

  2. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Glad you like it! Turns out, this is not the first time I've had this idea! I wrote a similar post in July 2009… slightly different context, same basic idea: be true to oneself 'cause that's what matters.

    http://theclothesmakethegirl.blogspot.com/2009/07/cheating-at-solitaire.html

  3. Brenda says:

    Good post! I think many of us relate.
    P.S I made your chili today minus the beer. Just had a small bowl and it is pretty yummy and spicy! I would have enjoyed some cheese on top ;)

  4. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Hey, Brenda! I've been making it without the beer lately, too — and a few extra shakes of hot sauce :-)

  5. Chappy B+ says:

    We can all relate, Melissa. I've been reading your blog for months now, and I see you posting to the Whole30 comments, as well. You've got some real insights that not everyone gets. The biggest challenge isn't taming the tongue, but taming the mind that controls it. Thanks for all you do. Ken "Chappy B+"

  6. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Thanks, Chappy B+! It's been a long haul and if I have perspective others don't, it's just 'cause I've been plugging away at it for so long. Melissa Urban REALLY helped me re-calibrate the way I think about food, but that doesn't mean it's easy now — but it's much healthier and most of the time, I don't think about it anymore, which is AWESOME.

  7. Carla says:

    Spot on Melissa! I needed that!

  8. LG says:

    I'm so grateful for you! These recipes really help me stick to my clean eating. I am not a cook! Well…I'm working on it!
    LG

  9. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Carla & LG! Glad my blog is helpful. Thank YOU for reading!

  10. Meghan says:

    I shared on FB I liked this post so much. So says the girl who had not one but TWO pieces of cake at a fancy dinner meeting/lecture… it's just like a wedding, I rationalized. Bad, Meghan, very bad.

  11. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Good Meghan… who slipped and ate cake. No bad :-)

    Thanks for sharing on FB!

  12. Lydia says:

    "Y'all are kind and loving and forgiving and supportive. I know you'll understand if I eat too many nuts or snarf a pound of grapes in a feeding frenzy."

    I dunno about "y'all." I'm over here thinking "Pull yourself together, girl, and just do it already!" It's only thirty days! =D

  13. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    And that is why it's good to have YOU in the audience.

  14. Lydia says:

    Ha! I'm glad you think so. Now put on your big-girl pants and get happy about eating clean!

    If I can eat 100% clean while at a wedding last weekend, and I'm visiting family in southern Indiana this weekend, you can eat 100% clean, too. Go, girl!

  15. Dallas says:

    Mel,

    Thanks for the shout-out, and for being so present and supportive in the W30 comments. We love you!

    Dallas + Melissa

  16. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Love you back!

  17. Nicole Unger says:

    Great post! I’m on day 7 of my Whole30 and I’ve finally stopped feeling angry, foggy, sluggish, and sad. It’s not all flowers and rainbows, cuz man would I love some dairy creamer in my morning joe, but it’s way easier and I feel great. I am shocked. Best yet, my belly doesn’t puff out from the extra grains and carbs it’s trying to figure out what to do with. Thanks for the reminder that this is “me against me” and if I cheat, I cheat myself.
    Bravo!

  18. Lacey says:

    Hi i am on day 7 of the whole30 and i am not 100% oh yay no sweats but i am getting there. I use to be a sugar bad card eat out junkie. An over a weekend i decided no more and went cold turkey! It’s hard but i am doing it! My husband loves that i eat at home now, we will be able to save so much. The only problem is i dont have alot of support. An i find it hard to navigate around web sites, but I’ll keep my head up and keep reading. Hopefully i can learn to navigate this page since whole30 uses you alot:) thanks for reading.

  19. Diana Romrell says:

    Thanks, Great post!!! I’m starting my whole30 over tomorrow! Not having support from home has proven to be difficult. Thanks for reminding my why I wanted to do this in the first place.

    • Mel says:

      Congrats on tackling the Whole30. It can take a few false starts to really get it, but the investment is worth it. Keep on keepin’ on! We’re here for you!

  20. Meredith says:

    Excellent analogy! And so true. Simple and sweet – a great post! PS just got your book and started reading. Lookin forward to cooking!

  21. needed this today. great post.

  22. Jackie says:

    Thanks very much Melissa for a wonderful post. I am on my 8th day of the whole 30 and your post resonated with me!

  23. Joan says:

    Day 7! As I started to read your open-faced blog, the words,”To thine own self be true” began to play pingpong in my head! The reason that I was stirred to start was not just being overweight, sugar levels too high, gluten intolerence, or fungal overgrowth! These were all burning needs, but the thing that brought me to tears was the conviction that I had been dishonouring my body (Fearfully and wonderfully made… made in His image to glorify Him!)
    And you doubly hit the nail on the head with the reminder…
    ” “breaking the rules” or “cheating the system” and then suffering some kind of external punishment. The real problem is cheating myself.” ”
    Any cheating is cheating myself! Woah!
    We all make excuses (the devil made me do it, or just this once, just this teeny-tiny bit)!!! A friend, wise in counsel told me: “Any excuse is just a well-planned lie!” Ouch! Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!
    So the objective is to stick with it! Cold turkey! (glad turkey is in!) and no lies!
    To mine own self be true! Mmmmm…
    Thanks for listebibg! Joan

    • Mel says:

      Congratulations on seven days of clean eating! I’m really glad you found this post helpful. Thanks for stopping by to say hi. Best wishes for a great Whole30 experience.

      • Joan says:

        Thanks Mel! No encouragement at home, just a kind of ‘tolerance’…
        But this morning my sugar levels are best yet! You see, I had been willingly seduced bt the GF lifestyle etc.
        , over-doing the whole thing and my body couldn’t cope! Yippee it is!

  24. I love this post — the topic has been heavy on my mind, and coincidentally (and thankfully!) popped up in my Whole 30 newsletter yesterday.

    I find myself making resolves to stop a few habits, but quickly finding a justification for cheating the system.

    Seeing that the real problem lies in cheating myself(!)…how can I justify that? It’s a powerful way to look at it…and myself.

    Something that I’ve loved about this Whole 30 protocol I’m undergoing is that it’s more about my food habits and myself as opposed to the food — just like you mention here. Something I’ve recognized I need to tackle head on for a while now.

    Thank you for being such a comprehensive resource!

    • Mel says:

      You wrote: “Something that I’ve loved about this Whole 30 protocol I’m undergoing is that it’s more about my food habits and myself as opposed to the food…”

      That’s what I really love about the Whole30, too. I feel like it helps me be more AWARE, which is so helpful.

  25. Joan says:

    Day 15… doing so well! Not feeling so ‘hungry’! I even like black tea after 70+ years of white!
    Had a bad moment after I opened a new differently branded Coconut Aminos and sprinkleda few drops on my salad forlunch. I’d spilt a drop on my finger and licked it – as you do! It was so yum. But so SWEET! Checked the label, and this one had coconut sugar! Heart sank! Hadn’t read the label closely! Ouch! Yikes! Go to jail! Only 3 drops!
    Then what did it say for today? That sort of accidental slip-up wasn’t the end of the world! Anyway, that bottle is finding a new home ASAP!
    To mine own self be true!
    No scales or measure tape!
    Sugar levels getting Smiley Faces! :) And… I’ve managed a compliant Birthdat Roast Lamb with roast veggies, Compliant luncheon at resturant
    , and a chicken stirfry for lunch at a seminar is cooling in the fridge for an early getaway! New is good, honouring my body!

  26. Joan says:

    Day 15… Doing so well! Not feeling so ‘hungry’! I even like black tea after 70+ years of white!
    Had a bad moment yesterday after I opened a new differently branded Coconut Aminos and sprinkled a few drops on my salad for lunch. I’d spilt a drop on my finger and licked it – as you do! It was so yum. But so SWEET! Checked the label, and this one had coconut sugar! Heart sank! Hadn’t read the label closely! Ouch! Yikes! Go to jail! Only 3 drops! Really can’t afford to have grimy specs!
    Then what did it say for today? That sort of accidental slip-up wasn’t the end of the world! Anyway, that bottle is finding a new home ASAP!
    To mine own self be true!
    No scales or measure tape!
    Sugar levels getting Smiley Faces! :)
    I’ve managed a compliant Birthday Roast Lamb with roast veggies, as well as a compliant girly luncheon at restaurant, and tonight’s chicken stir-fry double-up has some for tomorrow’s lunch at a seminar, cooling in the fridge for an early getaway! More organised! Yay! New is goo! Honouring my body!

  27. Stephen says:

    Fabulous posting here. Most if not all of my success has come from my understanding what you say here, about not cheating myself. Something miraculous occurs inside of myself as I quietly own doing the plan to its perfection. A simple and powerful joy emerges from such. Thank you for the clarity. It is working.

    • Mel says:

      Thanks for joining the conversation! It’s hard to be true to our commitments to ourselves sometimes, but a pause to breath and make conscious decisions almost always works.

  28. Stephen says:

    Mel, one of the overarching definitions on commitment for me is, “to do whatever is required” to meet my objective. I like that, because it keeps me Real with what I have committed to. Further, I believe in two great questions to create velocity toward my dreams.

    1. What do I want?
    2. What am I willing to do to have that thing?

    Love the laser, love the conversation, love how I feel on the program.

    thanks,

    Stephen

  29. Kim says:

    Mel,

    oh my goodness! Awesome thoughts for us on our 7th day! Working hard at taming the sugar dragon and this definitely hit the spot…ON! Hubby gave Well Fed 2 for Christmas…we LOVE IT! We are working on inflammation and weight loss in this thing, and the recipes have helped so much…now looking for WF 1 :))
    THANKS FOR YOUR ENCOURAGEMENTS!

  30. LBB says:

    Wow. Just wow. This really hits me. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve been doing the Whole30 with an exception–using ZIPFIZZ for caffeine…I tried without but just couldn’t hack the energy lag.
    And then last night way overdid the nuts and larabars. It’s like I’m packaging old bad habits with better food.
    The thought of just doing this for myself and not to prove anything to anyone is so prolific because I publicly seem like I”m just ROCKIN’ this whole30 on my instagram, etc. And, for the most part, 90% of the time I am. But I’m not 100%. It’s time to do this for myself. But oh man it’s so hard!
    Thanks for this article!
    xo

    • Mel says:

      No shame, LBB! It’s great that you recognize what you’re doing… that means you can change it. The Whole30 is all about that: seeing patterns and slowly learning how to change them to be healthier patterns. Sounds like you’re on the right track. Best wishes to you!

  31. Lynn says:

    Wow! Working a job that doesn’t meet your core values. Ouch! That one hit a nerve. Day 7 of my second whole 30. So true…

  32. Joan Westaway says:

    Hi Melissa! I’m officially on day 3, second time round! Started 2 days earlier, but again opted for the daily emails after I started! Find them so helpful too! I haven’t gone off the W30 lifestyle by very much since Jan 1 start this year, but was giving in to too many Creme Brulees when out at a resturant! Back in harness again! Wish I’d seen about the August challenge a few days earlier! But my body is benefitting. When I first read your page, I was convicted that my body was a temple… and I’d been abusing it! Ooo-er!
    BTW, love WellFed2 as well! You are a gifted fun writer!

  33. samantha says:

    This is my 2nd Whole 30 and joined the daily email set up, so glad I did as it’s so inspiring.
    I’m doing well so far (on day 7) just got to curb the caffeine, aiming to stop after midday, I can’t think of any other reason why my sleep is interupted, reading a post by the Whole 9 team made me address this.
    Love that we get links to specifics like this post of yours.
    At my desk at work right now (fitting in work when I can!)and I’ve wriiten ‘don’t cheat yourself’ on a post it and slapped it on my screen-genius-no escape.
    Thanks Melissa

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