Really, it’s ok.
Yes, you got it right: I am a Nutritionist who advocates for eating cake. Straight up.
With a few boundaries:
In small portions.
The real food kind.
In my life, I have spent a good couple of decades berating myself for what I put in my mouth. I refuse to do that any more and I will not advocate that others put themselves through that kind of self-abuse either. Truth is, we have spent such a long time struggling with what to eat and what not to eat, that so many of us have found ourselves so wrapped up in the push and pull of it all that it’s become a negative presence in our lives.
You can be strong in your conviction to eat well, be well, feel well, and still receive all the benefits of indulgence, my friend, an absolute truth. My honour.
It can be done.
To be clear, I’m not talking about ding dongs and twinkies here, people, I’m talking about a healthful cookie, a real-food brownie, a piece of good quality chocolate, a homemade almond chocolate turtle 😉. You get it.
Allowing good quality treats as part of your regular dietary regime is not only justifiable, but arguably necessary.
Good Reasons To Allow Indulgence
Restrictions Backfire: One of the strongest arguments for why diets don’t work is that humans do not respond well to restriction. When we feel as though we are not “allowed” something, the desire to have that something tends to become stronger, eliciting feelings of anxiety, leading to guilt and shame, when we “cheat”. Food choices needn’t have guilt & shame attachments, in fact, it is often those emotions that contribute to further dysfunctions with food. Allowing all real foods, choosing wisely, with strong values and education in place, is a much better, and more sustainable, long-term practice.
Promotes Enjoyment of Food: Eating is meant to produce feelings of joy. If we remove the element of joy from eating, we encourage disconnect with food. It is this disconnect that encourages poor eating practices such as over-eating, fast-eating, eating while the mind wanders, and eating without presence. The more disconnected we are, the less likely we are to feel feelings of satiation, fullness, satisfaction, and nourishment, that are necessary for positive food relationships.
Encourages Good Choice Making: If you are to give yourself permission to enjoy that piece of cake, you are making a conscious decision. It is this conscious decision making that encourages proper consideration of food quality, food quantity, and nutrient density. We are less likely to choose those lesser quality foods, if we are present and considerate in our choice making.
Reduces Feelings of Guilt & Shame: Allowing occasional indulgences can actually reduce negative feelings around food. Instead of telling your self that you “are being bad” by eating a delicious chocolate chip cookie or piece of pumpkin pie, indulging with intention turns on the signal in your brain that tells you to simply enjoy the experience and relax into it with joy and purpose. The intention brings you into your body, turning on your senses, igniting digestive fires, and turning down the volume on the negative voices in your head.
Health Benefits: Once you have made the switch over to more nutrient-dense and higher quality treats, the health benefits begin to become obvious. Simply making the switch to virgin coconut oil from refined oils, to nuts & seeds from wheat, and to whole food sugars from refined ones, can change the way your body is affected: a lesser spike in blood sugars, earlier satiety signals, and a reduced need to overindulge.
Indulging With Intention
Choose The Right Time of Day: Our metabolism is functioning at its strongest during the middle hours of the day, between 10am and 2pm. Choosing to consume a piece of cake, a chocolate cookie, or a whole food brownie during these hours can work to your advantage in several ways: you will metabolize the extra calories at a faster, more effective pace, you are less likely to overeat or go back for unnecessary seconds, and your digestion is stronger at this time of day. By choosing a better time of day, you are able to increase your body’s ability to process added sugars & calories and prevent weight gain.
Find a Calm Environment: The digestive system responds to stress in the same way you do. If you are eating in a stressful type setting, the digestive system cannot do its job as effectively as it would like. By decreasing any outside stress: screens, work discussions, feelings of pressure or anxiety, loud environments, you can increase digestive function and nutrient assimilation – essentially getting more from your food and increasing proper storage/utilization of nutrients.
Go Slow: Chew, chew, chew! Taking time to chew your food properly will further increase your digestion, nutrient assimilation, and decrease stress on the body. Our digestion actually begins in the mouth, as we have digestive enzymes that live in the mouth and are activated as soon as they are exposed to food. Further, the more we can break down food before it reaches the digestive system, the easier the workload is for our digestive organs.
Be Present: Take a few breaths before you eat and tune inward. Pay attention to where your mind is and try to bring it into focus with your food. Taking just a few moments to reunite your mind with your body, will further the connection between you and your food. The more present we can be with our food, the more able we are to pick up on signals of satiety, nourishment, and satisfaction.
Engage Taste: Close your eyes and really taste your food. Feel the textures in your mouth, experiment with trying to pick up on the subtleties of flavours and intensity. So often, we are eating without tuning into our taste sensations and when we do this we are not only reducing our body’s ability to extract nutrients properly, but we are missing all the fun! Experiment with tasting your food, practice with your friends and family, try blind-folded taste tests or ingredient guessing games, this is a great way to further tune in to your food relationship.
Any relationship is work, even those that don’t involve anyone else but you.
Your food relationship deserves priority; it deserves love & respect.
And YOU deserve to LOVE food.
Looking for more ways to make Peace With Food?