Do you have Cheat Creep?

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It starts with a piece of dark chocolate after dinner. It’s raw, so it’s healthy, right? Really it’s an antioxidant supplement, you tell yourself.

It grows slowly, without your conscious awareness. A glass of wine on a Wednesday. “Just one” piece of bread at the restaurant before dinner. A croissant at the farmer’s market because it just looks so damn good and you feel so Parisian. And what’s a croissant without a cappuccino? Just this once…

Next thing you know, your little indulgences have gone from once or twice a week, to once or twice a day. And suddenly, those pants are feeling tighter. That lil’ bit of bloating is back. You notice you’re feeling headachy lots of mornings. Your energy is lagging.

Before you know it, you’ve thrown your hands up in the air with a wild case of the f*ck-its, eating everything that strikes your fancy, arguing you’ll “start again on Monday.” (See what I think of that little act of procrastination here.)

You are officially experiencing what I like to call Cheat Creep. It’s slow, it’s subtle, and you don’t notice it until you’re knee deep in treats and way off your program, feeling shitty.

Cheat Creep: the slow, subtle, unconscious increase of dietary indulgence from the occasional treat to the everyday rule.  |

Know what I’m talking about?

Yeah, me too. Welcome to being human. All but the most disciplined among us have experienced this at some point in time (and I bet even the disciplined have their moments).

So what do we do about it?

  1. Forgive yourself. Blame, shame and other forms of self-flagellation have no place here. So you slipped off the wagon – maybe even way off. What good will it do to beat yourself up? None whatsoever. It’s time to look yourself in the eye and say, “Wow, we got off track here didn’t we? It happens and I forgive you. Now let’s get back on track.”

Which brings us to point number 2:

  1. Get back on the wagon. The earlier you do this in the process, the easier it is to do. While drastic measures sometimes feel appropriate, it doesn’t need to be some full-blown cleanse. And honestly, going from major Cheat Creep to cleansing just sets you up for that ping-pong effect of going back and forth from extremes. We’re looking for long-term sustainability here, not short-term pendulum swinging.You already know what to do. Start with the next meal, and then the next, and the next. There is no better time to start than today, and tomorrow you’ll be so glad you did.
  1. Ritualize indulgence. This is my strategy for preventing future Cheat Creeps while still enjoying the truly occasional indulgence. The hardest thing about Cheat Creep is that it sneaks up on us, so awareness is half the battle. If you ritualize an indulgence, you bring it front and center into your awareness, and so it’s harder for it to sneak in. An example from my own life:

I love coffee. I’ve been drinking it since I was in my early teens and it is, to me, one of life’s greatest pleasures. I love the taste, the ritual, the smell, the energy-boosting and the incredible mental clarity it gives me. But coffee doesn’t love me back. I tend to be high-strung and I easily overtax my adrenals, a situation that coffee exacerbates. I also discovered a food sensitivity to coffee a while back, and while I’ve healed it, I can only have it a couple of times a week or I risk creating another sensitivity.

If I just wing it and have it “every once in a while”, that coffee will be back to a daily habit before you know it. So I ritualize the experience. I get one, fully caffeinated latte (my favorite way to drink it) on the weekend, and another mid-week (usually on my busiest day – Tuesdays – as a little “go get ‘em Tiger” pick-me-up). That’s it. No more, no less.

I now have a space to channel my love of coffee. I don’t risk it creeping into my everyday, and yet I get it regularly enough to satisfy my urges. The bonus is that now those two coffee mornings feel like a real treat, not a guilty pleasure.

Do you suffer from cheat creep? How do you get yourself back on track? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Do you have cheat creep?  |


  1. Sheena


    Oh yes…I definitely get cheat creep. You described my exact experience. I love the idea of ritualizing indulgence. If I could name a time for indulgence it would be date night with my husband and family night with our kids. I think an annual detox can help too. It gets my body centered. I remember what it feels like to feel good then am less likely to want the foods that are bad in my body. Over the years I’ve noticed that fast food is repulsive and other desirable treats are unappetizing. These things simply don’t sneak in anymore.

  2. Sue


    This article was exactly what I needed. Thanks Margaret. I’m so far off my wagon, I can’t see it anymore. The idea of having to eat this lifestyle forever was depressing me and I’d find solace in chocolate and homemade ice-cream. Organic, of course. So, I’m throwing away my Monday excuse and starting now before the holiday weekend. Thanks!!!

  3. IsabelRose


    This year I have finally achieved “clean” status inside & out. It has been a long haul getting to this peaceful & highly energetic state. Like you, Margaret, I too LOVE COFFEE and always look forward to my 3 weekly servings. I either have my delish Bulletproof ritual or my new amazingly yummy addition, Mocha Frappucino. A few years ago I sadly realized coffee messed terribly with my hormones and so I cut it out entirely from my diet for nearly a year. Then I started experimenting having only one cup of my Bulletproof once per week. That was last year. A few months ago I increased it to 1 cup 2x/week. And just 2 weeks ago I’ve added a 3rd cup. I always look forward to these “holy mornings”, Sunday, Wednesday, Friday. Alas! My body is at peace with my choices.

  4. Erica


    Yes! I definitely experience this. I’m pretty good at staying away from the bigs things I can’t tolerate, but have a tough time with anything sweet, even when I’m using maple syrup or honey. I find anytime I let myself go and have treats even “healthy” ones, I go right back into my old habits and then I have a tough time getting started again. Then if there’s any outside stress, I’m a complete goner! I love your suggestion for making it a ritual. I’ve talked about doing that, but haven’t really carried through. If I make something for the family on Friday and there are leftovers on Saturday, then… I need to make a ritual and stick to it.

  5. donna


    YES! I am suffering from that very thing right now. And I had taken me 2 years to lose. It’s almost all back again. I know it’s my fault- I am responsible for my own actions- but I am also surrounded by people who definitely do not support me in my efforts and it is so difficult to stay on that road to health when you are undermined by your spouse and family and work!

  6. Becki


    Really needed to read this – I had been doing so well and feeling AMAZING!! I’d lost weight, my skin was clear, people were commenting on how well I looked! (Note the past tense)
    About 4 weeks ago I discovered I am pregnant with my second child and it’s like it was a green light to eat all kinds of crap because it helps with the nausea, because I’m gonna get huge anyway, because because because!
    Deep down I know these are all excuses and actually, the baby growing inside me should be more reason to only put good, nutritious and healthy food in my body, not the opposite.
    Thank you for popping up on my Pinterest feed just when I needed to be inspired!

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