74. Cheating that Works

74. Cheating that Works

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

Cheating that Works

It is impossible for a man to be cheated by anyone but himself.
 ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I only cheated on an exam once. It was in middle school and I happened to catch a glimpse of my friend’s math paper and saw that her answer to a question differed greatly from mine. After a brief ethical tussle, I succumbed, erased my numbers, and then hastily scribbled in hers. Although that answer was correct, the remaining answers on my test were not. I didn’t cheat again.

Until now. This time, it was a test of willpower. I’m on a special diet with foods carefully selected for balanced nutrition and caloric value. A piece of cheesecake is not an option. So here was my dilemma:


Should I. . .

A. eat the cheesecake and spend the rest of the week berating myself for my lack of willpower?

B. eat the cheesecake, pretend I didn’t and then blame any weight gain on a broken bathroom scale?

C. not eat the cheesecake, feel surly and take out my frustration on the annoyingly skinny and perky aerobics instructor at the gym?

D. eat the cheesecake and work off the calories?


Choice D seemed like a win-win solution. Not only would I get to enjoy the cheesecake, but I’d get an exercise session. Knowing my lack of follow through, I knew that if I devoured the treat before the exercise, I’d rather wallow in my guilt than get off my duff. And then it hit me: an ingenious plan to use my cheesecake as an exercise incentive. I plated a thin slice of cheesecake and carefully walked it up the stairs and set it on my bedside table with a small fork. I donned my exercise outfit and went downstairs.

The lure of the cheesecake got stronger so I launched my plan: I would run up and down the stairs and then back up again. My reward: one small bite of cheesecake. If I wanted another, I’d have to run down and up and down and up again. Off I went. Ah, creamy vanilla goodness without guilt. I wanted another bite so I quickly sprinted through another stair-climbing run.

Admittedly, it is harder to savor the creaminess of the cheesecake when my tongue was dry from panting. I placed a bottle of water next to the cake.

Down and up and down and up again. When I trudged over to the cheesecake, my hand bypassed the plate and went for the water instead. I didn’t want the darned cake anymore. I’d rather all this sweat and effort do more than offset the calories from cheesecake. I was exhausted and I’d have nothing to show for it. The scale wouldn’t move; my waist wouldn’t shrink. Sure the cheesecake tasted fine but just not good enough to make me run up and down the stairs one more time.

My plan worked. Now, anytime I felt tempted to indulge in a former favorite, I remembered my stairs trick.

I learned that other diet cheaters use their own cheating rules. They are surprisingly effective. Here are two:

1. The Drown It Rule: In order to eat a bite of the forbidden food, you first must drink an entire eight-ounce glass of water and wait 10 minutes. Then, you can have one bite. If you want another bite, you have to repeat the water drinking and waiting routine. This keeps the cheating to a minimum as your stomach fills with liquid and as your brain receives the fullness signal.

2. The One-Inch Rule: You can cheat and eat anything you want as long as you keep it to a one-inch piece only once a day. The extra calories from a small bite, once a day, should not affect your overall daily caloric intake by much.

Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t play by the rules. He saw the half-eaten cheesecake in the bedroom and finished it while watching Discovery Channel in bed. “Hey, that’s not how it’s supposed to go,” I said. “You can’t eat a bite until you run down and up the stairs.”


“That’s the rule of cheating.”

“There are no rules to cheating. Cheating breaks the rules.”

“I know, but in order not to really be cheating, you just follow a new set of rules,” I explained. “This one calls for you to run up and down the stairs if you want to take a bite of cheesecake.”

“Who made up this rule?” he asked, scraping the plate with the side of the fork.

“I did,” I replied, proudly. “And it works. If you follow the rules. So now run down and up the stairs.”

He didn’t budge from the bed. “There isn’t any more cheesecake so what’s the point?”

I poked his rounded belly and said, “That’s the point.”

The next time he asked for a piece of cheesecake, I left only a small bite on a plate upstairs. “What’s this?” he complained. “Where’s the rest of it?”

“Downstairs on the counter.” I’d left a second small bite there for him to find after he climbed down the stairs. He went down and stared at the small square. Before he could protest, I reminded him about the rule. “You can have another bite upstairs.”

“This is ridiculous. I’m not going to go up and down the stairs to eat a piece of cheesecake.”

“See.” I felt triumphant. “It works!”

We both lost 10 pounds, thanks to my trick. But although he’s lighter, he’s a bit crabbier. I’m coming up with another trick to take care of that.

~Lori Phillips

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