April 07, 2023
Guest post written by Ruth Burrowes, Master of Science in Food and Nutrition at Brescia University College
Easter is just around the corner, and for many, that means stocking up on their favourite holiday sweets. However, as a Dietitian, I know that holidays can be a challenging time when it comes to people’s relationship with food.
If you’re one of those people who secretly dread having sugary treats around the house, this blog post is for you.
In this post, I’ll be breaking down the psychology behind food cravings and discussing how Intuitive Eating can help you improve your relationship with food.
Does this sound familiar?
You want to be “good” so you deny yourself the usual Easter treats throughout the day, but then you decide to “reward” yourself with a few chocolate mini eggs in the evening (after all, you’ve been good all day!) You have a few eggs… and then a few more. You can’t seem to resist. Before you know it, you’ve polished off most of the bag.
“I’ll be better tomorrow,” you promise yourself, but after being “good” all day, the same thing happens again the next day. You feel like you can’t control yourself around sweets so you may as well eat them all now just to get them out of the house.
What’s going on?
Well, two things:
This sets us up to “fail” because we can only avoid our sweets for so long and once we get a taste, our under-fueled body tells us to go back for more!
Unfortunately, because we’ve placed moral value on our foods choices (labelling some as “good” and others as “bad”), when we give into our cravings, it often causes feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety. When we feel these negative feelings, we often respond by restricting our food the next day to “make up for it,” not knowing that this actually makes the problem worse, leading to what is know as the “binge-restrict cycle.” You can read more about that here.
Spoiler alert: the cycle of deprivation followed by over-consumption is detrimental to your emotional and physical well-being!
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
The Intuitive Eating approach offers a more holistic approach to eating that helps people reject diet culture and honour their body’s innate wisdom.
When we remove the label of “good” and “bad” from foods, it frees us to eat in a way that’s both nourishing and satisfying. Not only that, but normalizing eating sweets without guilt or judgment can actually reduce our cravings for these foods.
Practicing Intuitive Eating can help you approach eating in a way that feels balanced, satisfying, and enjoyable.
Here are some tips for navigating Easter as an Intuitive Eater:
I wrote a whole blog post about why you shouldn't do this here, but the main takeaway is that if you try to restrict to "save" calories to account for the sweets, it will backfire. Your body is not a bank account. You can't just save up earlier in the day to make up for a big purchase later. It's important to eat regular meals throughout the day so you're not ravenous by the end of the day. Remember that restricting often leads to over-eating. Your body needs food in order to do everything it needs to do in a day. Your body's whole job is to keep you alive, so if it senses that you are restricting and in a famine (regardless of whether the famine is intentional), when you finally allow yourself to eat, your body wants to over-eat in preparation for the next famine.
Instead of feeling guilty about indulging in Easter treats, give yourself permission to enjoy them. Remember that no food is off-limits in Intuitive Eating, and that includes chocolate bunnies and jelly beans. When you allow yourself to enjoy treats without judgement, you can truly savour and appreciate the experience.
Part of developing a healthy relationship with food involves paying attention to your body’s signals so you can make choices that feel good. While eating, pause halfway through check in with your body and ask yourself how you feel.
Are you still hungry, or are you full? If you're still hungry, keep eating. If you're still eating but feeling full, is there something else your body needs in that moment? Remind yourself that the sweets will still be there later when you get hungry again.
Often when we eat out of guilt and shame, we eat quickly almost in an attempt to forget that we're eating. But what happens? We don't get to enjoy the food we're eating. Easter chocolate is delicious, why shouldn't we enjoy it?
Take a moment to appreciate the appearance, aroma, and texture of your food before taking a bite. Chew slowly and savour the flavours. Focus on the experience of eating and be fully present in the moment. When you eat mindfully, you may find that you feel more satisfied and have an easier time tuning into your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues.
Many of us have internalized food rules and beliefs that can lead to guilt and shame around eating. During Easter, it's important to challenge these rules and beliefs and give yourself permission to enjoy treats without feeling guilty. Remember that all foods can fit into a healthy diet, and that there's no need to label foods as "good" or "bad".
It's normal to feel uncertain or out of control at first when you start giving yourself unconditional permission to eat. However, with time and practice, you can make a conscious decision to enjoy sweets when you want them rather than denying yourself the pleasure of eating only to overeat later.
If you're struggling to practice Intuitive Eating during Easter (or any time of year), know that you're not alone. Seeking one-on-one support from a Registered Dietitian or certified Intuitive Eating coach can help you navigate your relationship with food in a way that feels balanced and sustainable. If you want to see if I would be a good fit to help you along your Intuitive Eating journey, book a FREE discovery call today.
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In my practice, I often work with people who are managing a chronic disease (diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc.) and while weight loss is never a focus, there is a common misconception that when individuals start making dietary changes to manage their chronic disease, weight loss will follow. After all, we're always taught that if we eat the "right" foods and move in the "right" ways, our bodies will get smaller.