A couple of days after Halloween I saw a post on a diabetes forum that asked: "Did you cheat this weekend?" "Cheating" in that context referred to eating Halloween candy.
I objected to the wording, and it was revised to "Did you give in to temptation?" A better choice of words, perhaps, but it got me thinking about the concept of "cheating."
I've often heard both diabetic and non-diabetic people refer to "cheating on my diet." This means eating something that is apparently forbidden; you can't have food that you might actually LIKE to eat. That would be cheating. You're supposed to give up sweets. No chocolate. No candy. No ice cream. No cake, cookies or pie. No juice or regular (non-diet) pop. Some people give up bread, pasta and potatoes.
Now, I'm not going to deny that all of those foods are pretty darn high in carbohydrates and/or sugar or that they can be pretty tough on diabetes control.
My problem is in making any food seem "forbidden" so that if you eat it, you are "cheating." Cheating makes you feel guilty. Cheating is a bad thing. It's something you do in secret. You don't talk about it.
Other people make you feel bad about it, too. My ex-girlfriend used to go online and post to various discussion forums about how I was a bad diabetic because I dared to eat an ice cream cone. Other people point and laugh at the person who orders a burger and fries and a Diet Coke "as if the Diet Coke is going to cancel out all the calories in the burger and fries" without knowing that maybe the person who ordered that food is not counting calories, but carbohydrates.
I don't think there is anything wrong with eating that Halloween-size chocolate bar, or having a piece of cake at your friend's birthday party, or a piece of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner, or an ice cream cone on a hot day, as long as you know how to calculate enough insulin or exercise to cover for it. I remember one summer afternoon when I had an ice cream cone at the recently opened Ben & Jerry's stand at the mall; I fully intended to give myself some insulin to cover for it, but I was waiting for the effects of the fat in the ice cream to wear off first, because the fat delays the carbohydrates making your blood sugar rise. Well, I did so much walking that afternoon that my blood sugar never did rise, so I didn't need to take that extra insulin after all.
Calling something "cheating" gives it a stigma. It makes us ashamed of eating that chocolate, pie, ice cream, whatever. It makes us hide what we're doing instead of asking for help: how do I calculate the carbs in this piece of birthday cake? How long after eating this ice cream should I take this insulin bolus? I think maybe I'm eating too much pie, cake, ice cream, chocolate -- what should I do?
As I've said before in this blog, I don't advocate eating piles of cake, cookies, candy, chocolate, etc. I believe in moderation. What I don't believe in is self-denial. Denial and deprivation can lead to binging. I found this blog that talks about the "deprivation binge." Quote: "when certain foods are restricted because they are ‘bad’ or ‘forbidden’, tension builds up and a breaking point is eventually reached with a binge."
I think that is one of the biggest reasons to get rid of that "cheating" stigma. Binge eating is bad for everyone, but it can be especially bad for a person who has diabetes.