Mindful Eating: How to have a guilt-free and healthier relationship with food this Easter!
Struggle with over-eating, not eating enough, feeling guilty post-feed, or not even sure? We hear you and you're not alone. 4% of the Australian population lives with an eating disorder, and disorder or not – events and celebrations can cause many of us food angst. Whether you have a healthy relationship with food, or, this is the first time you've even thought about it, we spoke with renowned counsellor, PT and body image coach, Sami Rose on all things guilt-free eating this Easter.
Sami, over to you.
There can be quite a lot of food-related anxiety when it comes to events like Christmas, birthdays, or social events in general, and Easter is no different!
We’re surrounded by chocolate at every turn throughout your supermarket visit (and if you’re anything like me, a pantry now fully stocked with Easter eggs!) and if you’re someone still working on your relationship with food, it can be hard to find that balance.
Because diet culture often tells us that chocolate is a “bad” food, or that we shouldn’t eat “too much” of it, it’s not always as simple as enjoying a few yummy eggs and moving on, and for many of us, eating foods or quantities outside of our normal diet can come with not just some physical discomfort from a belly full of hot cross buns, but sometimes feelings of guilt, shame, and disappointment too, often paired with a fear of weight gain or plans to “start again” after he holiday period.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, you may be struggling with food rules and restrictive, all-or-nothing thinking, which stops you from giving yourself the freedom to eat foods you enjoy without those resulting negative thoughts overshadowing the experience. In my work as a Registered Counsellor, specialising in body image and eating issues, I see many clients with early signs of disordered thoughts and behaviours around food/weight, which in some cases can escalate into an eating disorder over time. That’s not to say it’s an issue for you personally, however if the negative thoughts you experience after eating makes you feel bad about yourself, “ruins” your day, or causes you to punish yourself with restriction or compensatory exercise, it’s a good idea to check in with yourself and work on creating a more peaceful relationship with food and your body.
Here are five helpful tips to help you through the upcoming Easter period if you’re struggling with your relationship with food and/or your body:
1// Challenge any food rules or all-or-nothing labels around chocolate being “bad” or “naughty” – language is important! Chocolate (or any other food) is not bad, and you are not bad for eating it, even if it’s in a higher quantity than usual! So let’s re-frame that wording – perhaps we see food as less nutritious than fruits and vegetables, but it could also be delicious, comforting, enjoyable, and even maybe one of your favourite things to eat, which sounds like a good thing to me! Trying to re-word the way you approach food can help give yourself full permission to indulge in foods you genuinely enjoy, without assigning any negative connotations that you need to feel “guilty” for. Life is short – eat the chocolate!
2// Remind yourself that it’s okay not to be perfect, but add positives where you can – Even if you eat less nutrients (like fruits, vegetables, or lean protein) over the Easter period, it doesn't mean it’ll have a big impact in the long run. It’s a few days in the grand scheme of life, and it’s certainly not going to have much of an impact on your weight or health in such a short period. But that doesn’t mean it has to be all-or-nothing! Don’t write the long weekend off as a “yolo” and vow to start fresh again next week – if you do have the opportunity to add in any foods that will benefit your body with vitamins + minerals, water, or even fibre-rich foods to help your digestive system, consider what you can ADD that will help you feel good, inside and out! You can absolutely have veggies with your dinner and another handful of choccy eggs for dessert – it doesn’t have to be one or the other!
3// Be present in the moment – If your thoughts around food can become all-consuming at times, see if you can zoom out and take a step back to not focus so much on the food itself, but on the memory making opportunities and joy that this season can bring! Are you trying a delicious new Easter egg you’ve never had (highly recommend the Turkish Delight Cadbury eggs!) – YUM! Is this the first time you’ve spent quality time with your family in months? YAY I bet you’ve missed them! Are you finally getting some down-time from work, to rest and recharge after hustling with a heavy workload? FANTASTIC, get that mental rest! Don’t let obsessive thoughts about food or your body get in the way of other enjoyable parts of life, and see if you can remind yourself to be more present to make the most of it!
4// Slow it down and ENJOY it – If you’re eating more flexibly than usual over the Easter weekend, try not to miss the experience by rushing through it, being distracted, or getting in your head mentally calculating calories or jumping to negative self-talk. If you’re eating for pleasure, let yourself feel the good feels! Take your time, using your senses, noticing if your body is sending you signals around hunger or fullness, paying attention to how things taste, smell, or feel in your mouth. Use this as an opportunity to practice mindful eating, and remember that food isn’t just about fuel or nutrients, it’s also perfectly acceptable to eat for pleasure, comfort, as part of traditions or bonding experiences, or simply because you want to!
5// Be kind to yourself – Even if you end up eating more treats (or more food in general) than you planned, it doesn’t make you a bad person, a failure, or in need of punishment with future restriction or extra exercise to “burn it off”. You’re human! If you do want to stay health-conscious and add some positives like nutrients or movement, go for it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have the best of both worlds and share that Cadbury bunny with your little sister or a decent helping of mum’s famous dessert that only comes around once a year. Beating yourself up over some chocolate is far worse for you than eating the chocolate itself, so give yourself a break and learn to just embrace imperfect action, and lean into doing what FEELS good!
When it comes down to it, Easter is only a few days out of the 365 we’ve got in 2022, so if you want to soak it all in and lean into the festivities, it’s not going to de-rail your fitness goals or be anything more than a few days of fun. That also doesn’t mean you have to “write the weekend off” eat every single hot cross bun in the house asap so you can be “start fresh” next week – simply focus on adding the positives! Eating for enjoyment is a positive! Social festivities are a positive! Nutrients and movement are positives! Resting or giving yourself a time-out from your usual routine can be a big big positive! And most importantly, doing things that feel good for you and make you happy, are the biggest positives ☺
I’ll leave you with one last thought to ponder on…. Choc-chip hot cross buns, or traditional?!
Happy Easter! x