Have you ever polished off a carton of ice cream, a family-sized bag of potato chips, or an entire pizza the night before starting a new diet? In the moment, it felt like you had to, because starting tomorrow you’ll never have it again. Besides, tomorrow is a new day and an opportunity to start fresh.
Yes, tomorrow is a new day, but in reality, we all end up eating those foods again, and usually in excess, because in our minds, we’ve labeled them “bad” or “rebellious.” And, sometimes, it can feel so good to be bad.
But this pattern creates a less-than-productive cycle that can result in increased guilt, body distrust, harmful weight cycling – basically, an unhealthy relationship with food instead of a sustainable, long-term healthy lifestyle. The “now or never” approach to eating is also known as an intuitive eating principle called “Last Supper” eating. Last Supper eating is when you give yourself full permission to indulge, even if you don’t really want to, because in your mind, it’s the last time you’ll get to have that food or drink.
Shifting the mindset
What if, instead of setting yourself up for another go-around in this vicious cycle, you learned to create long-lasting healthy behaviors this new year? What if you focused on fueling your body with healthy, delicious foods instead of taking away what you love? What if you were more mindful about what you were eating, instead of eating in a Last Supper panic?
Shifting the mindset away from Last Supper eating is especially important around the holidays. By indulging large quantities of not-so-healthy food at holiday dinner parties with family and friends, our bodies can become stressed. Blood sugar becomes unstable, leading to mood swings and more cravings, and our digestive tracts are put through the wringer, causing discomfort and decreased nutrient absorption. We cause even more stress by cutting those foods cold turkey the next day.
In order to avoid this bodily stress and move away from the Last Supper mindset, turn these three strategies into habits:
Fill up on the good stuff to prevent panicked eating and poor choices. Focus on whole foods, limit processed foods, and include variety.
Track your meals and snacks in a journal or app to help you become aware of what you’re eating and help you reach your fitness and nutrition goals (e.g. lose weight, gain muscle, eat a more balanced diet, etc.
Eat mindfully. Take a deep breath before you take a bite. Taste and experience what you are eating and, most importantly, enjoy it!
By making the decision to focus on balance and moderation, your last “Last Supper” might be the very last. Next go-around, you’ll have the tools and balance to better enjoy holidays, family gatherings, dinner parties and meals with loved ones, without unnecessary added stress.