Cheating vs. Relaxing
There’s a concept in the dieting world called a “cheat day,” where the dieter will stick to a strict diet most of the time, but will take one day to indulge in the things they like, the things that they were trying to give up by dieting in the first place.
This could also apply for non-dieting situations, in which the hopeful habit changer is trying to restrict their use of some other kind of drug. A “cheat day” would essentially be a relapse day.
The name of this concept, the “cheat day,” is a misnomer. Actual cheating happens when you take advantage of a feature of a system, when you achieve an outcome for which the system did not intend. But our diet “cheat day” is an integral part of the dieting system.
Why do we build in a cheat day, anyway? We do it because we know, deep down, that 100% restriction will never work, and that we will relapse at some point if we try to do that. Either life experience or just common sense teaches us this.
So in that case, the “cheat day” play an important role. It allows us to stay connected to our vices, but only just so. We flirt with a relapse but never quite pull the trigger. The strategy works for some, and it doesn’t for some others.
So it’s not quite cheating. There’s a strange dichotomy with eating healthily: unless you absolutely love to eat healthy foods, you are constantly fighting a battle between doing what you know is right and indulging in the joys of life (like sugar).
Perhaps we could call it a relax day instead, where we put our guard down and let whatever happens happen. And perhaps the relax day could extend into the way we act during that day. Instead of being mad at ourselves for indulging, we can build “relax” into the system so that we can live life in a more balanced way.