25 February 2013

Why cheat?

Many years ago my friend George Jelinek remarried. During her speech his wife Sandy commented that as she came to first know George, she realised he had a strong commitment to eating well. After a while she felt she knew him well enough to ask if he ever cheated on the diet. His answer surprised her. “Why would I do that?” He seemed almost incredulous. "Why would I cheat on something that was so good for me?"

Yet for many it is not so simple, and "cheating" is a real and challenging issue. I wrote of this years ago as it seemed pivotal to Lifestyle Medicine. There is so much to gain by eating well, exercising and meditating regularly, and so on; yet the problem is that to receive those benefits, we actually have to do these things! So “why cheat?”

The article of years ago drew a huge collection of well thought out, intelligent responses. Insightful. So it seems timely to go “Out on a Limb” and share them with a new audience and ask for your own insights. But first

Thought for the Day
Watch your thoughts, they become your words
Watch your words, they become your actions
Watch your actions, they become your habits
Watch your habits, they become your character
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny
So, do you cheat on what is good for you? My guess is we all do to some degree. So how often? Why? What follows are actual quotes from others responding to this question. What do their respsonses trigger in you? What insights do you have into why people cheat? Feel free to add your insights to the Comment section, and widen the conversation.

There is not one single answer.  

Firstly we are all weak creatures who find it difficult to commit and stay committed.

Second, we have different personality types, some seek and live comfortably within strict (Black & White guidelines) such as those who are drawn towards fundamentalist religions.  Others find this approach very restrictive.

Third, there is ego involved, with a common human tendency when told what to do and how to do it, there is an urge to do the opposite.

The Doctor will make me better

The doctor will make me better was my initial attitude.  Capped with this was also the attitude of the local health professionals who, with the exception of a few, were very much against us.

Feeling undeserving

Some people are not aware of the fact that they feel on a deep level that they do not deserve to be well, or to recover, "because it might be Gods will that I die."

Enjoying being sick

Some I met seemed to like being sick and attended the group sessions just to regale everyone with the story of how bad this cancer really is, they would come for a few weeks and then return at the start of a new session to tell the whole story again.

Self Love

I think it's quite simple.  Yet not very.  From my limited yet consistent observations of people facing serious illness and other life challenges, it all comes down to Self Love.  Capital S.  Capital L.

Knowledge and Experience helps

Knowledge has been a key to everything.  As time has progressed I have learnt more and adapted it a little to suit myself and I find these changes to my life very satisfying.  I started to feel the benefits in well being and happiness, and with time, healing.  When medical tests (MRI) confirmed this healing it was wonderful.

Maintaining this lifestyle does require discipline, it is a marathon.  Support from friends and family is indispensable.  Time passing also helps enormously as understanding develops and benefits accrue.  Belief in what you are doing is essential and knowledge supports belief.

Link with parents

I think people do internalize a relationship of self-care from their early relationships with parents and if this has been fraught in a variety of ways - neglectful, persecutory, narcissistically inclined - then it is very difficult for people to take up the response-ability to do this self care for themselves.

As is obvious, virtually all patients are up against mainstream beliefs, the full force of cultural wisdom, and the beliefs of everyone they know.  My oncologist told me "We can't cure you;  we aim to keep you as well as possible for as long as possible".  There are very few beacons which say "You can do this!"

The lack of deep, visceral, belief creates a distressing inner tension and turmoil; it is incredibly hard to remain positive.

It took me two full years of hard, conscious, work to acquire that deep-seated belief.  At the course you said, "This stuff works, folks, but you've got to actually do it".  I wrote that down, but I didn't really need to, because it was burned into my brain.

I used those simple words of your on many, many occasions.  Not to spur me on to action (for I've never been short on action!), but to reassure myself, because the issue for me has always been belief.

Trying too hard

I tried so hard that I nearly lost all, for my trying was not born of inner conviction, but rather was simply drawing on precious reserves of nervous energy.  Juices, meditation sessions, healthy meals - all were done in order to tick the list.  But of course it didn't stop there - exercise, daily sun bathing, growing vegies, researching, reading (to spur myself on) etc etc etc.  It all became something of a nightmare because I was trying so hard.  I would stand in the kitchen and feel myself go woozy and overwhelmed, just with this sense of trying so hard.

I suspect that it is much more common for you to deal with people who don't comply because of all sorts of reasons other than the one of trying too hard!! Trying too hard leads to exhaustion, and consequently rejection of the thing that causes the exhaustion.  So from my perspective, then, I feel that there needs to be some awareness around our drivers.  That an exploration of the emotional/subconscious journey can perhaps be as critical to survival as diet and meditation.  Obviously, the more self-awareness, the more understanding of why we do or don't 'comply'.

Finding balance

There is a happy 'ending'.  I am now joyfully exploring the world of balance, and am excited at the prospect of finding a completely new way of being, one that is built neither on hopelessness nor teeth-gritting determination, but on a more peaceful, healthful, going-with-the-flow.  It is already a much more beautiful place to be and, surprise, surprise, it is no harder from this position to 'comply' than it is from the position of whip-whip drive-drive gotta-do gotta-do.

Join the conversation; add your reactions/insights to the Comment section below.


Go with the flow or intervene


BOOK: You Can Conquer Cancer – the fully rewritten version that goes deeply into the detail of the lifestyle changes and how to follow them

Two great events coming soon, the Surviving Cancer night as featured in last week’s blog, and the Holistic Cancer Congress that I will be speaking at in Auckland on March 16 and 17.

Holistic Cancer Congress

I will be speaking at this exciting and innovative conference that is open to all those affected by cancer including practitioners, health professionals and oncologists. The Congress will highlight the latest developments in holistic cancer research, treatment and prevention.

Leading experts in their field will share their knowledge and experience of using a holistic approach to the treatment of cancer, which combines the best of medical science and contemporary holistic healthcare, and includes treating the emotions, mind spirit and body.

 There is a special “mates rates” offer of NZ$295 for those who register through my blog -- a saving of $200 off the normal delegate fee of NZ$495. Click here

Those who are unable to attend the conference can watch it online for US$99 (normally US$299). This will also provide online access to the 2012 Holistic Cancer Congress that brought cutting edge information on holistic health from leading experts. Click here

Surviving Cancer - Come and be inspired, be informed and support the Gawler Foundation

St Michaels on Collins, 120 Collins St , Melbourne

Tuesday March 5th from 6.30 to 8.30pm, No bookings necessary just come!


  1. Hi Ian,
    How relavent this weeks article is to my current situation.Diagnosed last May with stage 3 breast cancer and chosing to accept minimal conventional treatment. Surgery , Radiotherapy declined chemotherapy and drug therapy cheating has'nt entered my mind.I agree entirely finding that balance and what drives you does take some sorting through. It was suggested by one of my health care team to have 5 days on 2 days off another one is convinced in no time I will be crippled with arthritis and depressed.
    They are my biggest detractors , you cannot follow this path without self love, self belief and passion. I have definately gone down the path of trying too hard it's difficult not to when you want to live. The longer you live in this way the better you feel so for me the trying too hard stopped and life has returned to a comfortable pattern.
    As you said support from family and friends is essential and where would I be without the team at Yarra Junction. The Life and Living program gave me the confidence to follow my chosen path.
    Thanks Ian and warmest wishes.

  2. Hi Ian
    Reading your blog this week has turned on a light for me. There is a world of balance! Having always been such a striving person when disease struck everything stopped- above all motivation ceased. I can't believe the lethargy, the slowness, the lack .... Maybe this is just the heavy end of the scale and finding the balance and a completely new way of being is to follow.
    Thank you as usual for a splendid blog!

  3. I'm not sure that talking of 'cheating' is appropriate here. 'Perfection' isn't necessarily healthy. I'm not a disciplined person, and find I simply cannot (and probably should not) eat things I don't like simply because they are supposed to be good for me (some of that's alright, but not all the time). I don't actually believe they ARE good for me if I don't like them. Maybe that's the body's way of saying 'this is not for you'. A balanced life is one where it's OK to be 'naughty' some of the time. It may even be essential!

  4. Why Cheat?.... Because sometimes I am doing it more because I'm afraid of what other people will think than sound good reasons of my own. Because circumstances and conditions change, and sometimes it makes a difference and sometimes it does not. Because indulging ourselves with little things sometimes helps us with discipline over the big things....

  5. When I first came to a Gawler group I was amazed to hear people talking about having trouble sticking to what they wanted to do. People had different ideas of what they wanted to do, but quite a few could not manage whatever it was they had decided upon. This blog has been really helpful to try and understand what to me seemed almost incomprehensible. Why the hell would you want to cheat? But then I have got better.

  6. So incredibly interesting and insightful comments - TY. It resonnates with me that its not information and advice that people lack in this info age, but consistency, commitment, core belief and understanding in that which they want to achieve.

    Our personal history seems to imply that it has something significant to do with our destiny, but in the end any negative association with our past whittles if the 4 former ideals are practiced.

    I hasten to make a comparison between the unwell and extreme sports people who risk their lives seemingly doing crazy things that many of us would consider a wasteful risk of a good life. They say with some consistency that its not that they don't fear, but they manage that fear to give them extreme focus. They are fully aware that they might die in an instant, but by doing what they do they say they are never more humble, appreciative and alive. So intensely aware of the present and life itself.

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