Easter used to be a very stressful time of year for me.
First, there was all the special chocolate around and I didn’t know how to handle it.
Second, it involved seeing people which was hard if I was heavier than the last time I saw them.
And third, it marked a turning point for me in terms of what would happen next with my eating.
I used to marvel at people who had a take-it-or-leave-it attitude to Easter chocolate (or any chocolate for that matter).
You can probably relate to some or all of these difficulties I had. I thought it might be helpful to look at them all in turn – because this might help you to actually enjoy Easter this year.
What to do about all that chocolate?
The reason you’re scared about all that chocolate is probably because you have some unchallenged beliefs and assumptions about it. Things like:
- Chocolate is fattening
- Once I start I can’t stop
- Sugar is bad for me
- I’m addicted to chocolate [sugar/ carbs]
The truth is that no food by itself will make you gain weight. Weight science is complex and not yet fully understood. There are many reasons people gain weight: genetics, epigenetics, stress, illness, trauma and… their dieting history! Yes, ever having dieted is a strong predictor of future weight gain. I want to make it clear that I do not think being in a bigger body is a bad or problematic thing, I’m simply clarifying how the belief that any particular food is fattening (especially a calorie-dense food) is a faulty assumption.
The reason it’s hard to stop once you start is because of the restriction, whether this is physical restriction or mental restriction. To your brain, deprivation is deprivation. If you keep telling yourself you shouldn’t be eating this, or you shouldn’t eat this much of it, or tomorrow you’ll start again, you will eat beyond comfort and beyond satisfaction.
The key to making peace with chocolate (or any food) is to eat chocolate! Eat it without guilt and without conditions. Try to stay connected with the experience of eating the chocolate. Do you like it? Taste good? Great! At what point do you stop enjoying it? (I promise you there WILL be a point where your enjoyment decreases). That’s always a great place to stop, knowing that you can have more any time! It’s not going away!
Except that it IS going away, because Easter chocolate is only around for a short period. Guess what? If it was always available we wouldn’t buy and eat so much of it at this time of year because we’d know we could have it whenever we wanted it! (Clever business model, huh?)
As for the other reasons – sugar is not bad for you! Everything fits into a healthy approach to food. The key is variety. If all you ate was broccoli, that also wouldn’t be good for you. Cutting things out only leads to dysfunction with food. And here’s some good news: sugar isn’t addictive. Nope, that study you may have read about where rats preferred sugar over cocaine can be explained by the fact that the rats were hungry! (Clever rats to choose the calories which would keep them alive.)
What to do about seeing people
I don’t know what the rules or guidelines are where you live – but for us in the UK, Easter in 2021 isn’t going to be a big family affair. Our restrictions have only just been relaxed so that we can now meet in groups of 6 outdoors. But in other parts of the world, restrictions are much more relaxed and you might be meeting with friends and family in larger groups. One of the impacts of the pandemic has been weight gain for many people – even people who haven’t previously struggled with their body image or their weight.
This might mean even more diet talk and body bashing than normal. And perhaps not! Maybe people will be so pleased to be able to see each other again and to have face to face contact that these topics will not be so prevalent.
But given the fatphobia that exists in the culture, it’s probably going to be the former.
If you’re meeting with people this Easter that you haven’t seen in a while, it might help to have to responses already prepared. Practice them! They’ll come out more easily if you do.
Here are some examples:
- ‘I’ve learned that diets don’t work so I’m working on listening to my body instead.’
- ‘Worrying about how my body looks is really bad for my mental health. I’m working on appreciating my body and treating it well.’
- ‘I’m just grateful my body has got me through this pandemic – I’m not focusing on weight.’
- ‘Did you know that focusing on how we look is actually bad for our body image? This is true whether you like how you look or don’t like how you look! I’m working on thinking about my body as an instrument not an ornament.’
- ‘Change the subject! ‘Tell me one thing you have learned over the past year?’ or ‘What’s one thing you’ve realised about yourself this past year?’ Or something else!
Easter as a turning point for eating
I used to see Easter as a turning point for what would happen next with my eating. When I was living in South Africa, Easter would be leading into winter. Lent would provide an opportunity for extreme dieting. Then Easter would come along and all hell would break loose, because I’d been restricting for 6 weeks. Going into winter meant that I didn’t have to diet so Easter would tend to lead into months of bingeing.
In the northern hemisphere (I live in the UK), it was the opposite. Easter marked the cut-off point for me where the diet HAD to start so that I’d have lost weight before the summer. This meant Easter was a kind of ‘last supper’ where I’d binge on all the chocolate, knowing I wouldn’t be eating any of that for several months.
Can you see the trap?
Restriction and/or determination to lose weight causes binge eating.
Stop trying to lose weight. Stop restricting. I know it’s easier said than done. (That’s where I may be able to help you)
Also, in terms of eating, see Easter as just another day. Eat regularly, eat enough food. Don’t ‘save your calories’ for the main meal.
And… ENJOY THE FOOD!
Let go of guilt. You’re allowed to enjoy eating. At Easter and every day!