That term, ‘cheating effectively’, isn’t something I made up. I read it in a forum. In the case of the writer, she was talking about adding vegetables to meals, in order to bulk them up without using too many more calories.
It sounds eminently sensible to me. More food when you’re hungry, without pushing the calorie count up to a point where you feel uncomfortable with it later.
A few minutes later, I read part of a blog where the writer spoke regretfully about having had a few bad diet days, starting with valentines dinner with her love.

I understood what she meant but part of me rebelled, probably because I’ve said much the same thing at different times in my life and I know now that I don’t ever want to regret happy times with people I love. For any reason. Especially food.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a real ambivalence around food. There were treat foods and real foods, the distinction was pretty clear and for better or worse, I absorbed the values placed on it.
As a teenager, with a healthy, strong body, overlaid with a soft curve, I worried, as teens do, and imagined that eating only salad might make the boy at school that I had a crush on, suddenly conceive an undying passion for me. It wouldn’t have worked. Even if I had been able to resist eating properly, I’d never have had the courage to tell him I liked him. I was shy like that.
I’ve done what the valentine woman did, regretted parties, dinners, late night coffee and cake, huddled around a table, talking earnestly with people I enjoy.
It’s been a love/hate relationship, with me and food. I’ve hated it when my choice was to overindulge and loved it when I’m cooking, planning to cook, shopping to cook. I’ve loved it when it’s been giving me comfort for things real or imagined and then hated it again later when I caught sight of myself in a mirror.

I’ve fought so hard with food all of my life, giving it far more power than it ever asked for. It’s just food, minding its own business, giving nourishment, doing its thang. There was….is…no need.
I love the look of food, the endless possibility of preparation, the smell of the ingredients and the satisfying snick of a sharp knife through an onion or a capsicum. Assembling a meal gives me real pleasure and then the smells and the first exploratory taste.
This passage of time that I’m calling my journey, is shifting my perception of food and my relationship to it. The fact is that I’m allowed to love it, without guilt. There’s no reason not to, because it’s just food, it doesn’t define anything. I can choose what to make and what to eat, and those times when I go somewhere for a meal with my love, or in any other situation, it’s okay to have what feels good to me and then continue on in my journey, without guilt.

For lots of people, this stuff is obvious but for me….I think I just had an epiphany.