Have you ever decided to start a diet "next Monday" … and then spent the weekend gearing up for this upcoming diet by gorging on all of your favorite "guilty pleasures" as if every meal is your last? You are not alone.
Many dieters are caught in this vicious cycle — known as the "Last Supper Syndrome" — led by a fear of restriction, guilt and failure. When you know that you are about to put yourself into a state of famine, how could you possibly not feast? This knowledge drives you to eat as if you will never be able to eat these beloved foods again.
Sure, you may enjoy the taste of your Last Supper, but when you have thoroughly stuffed yourself, the guilt and negative self-talk rears its ugly head with a vengeance. So you start that diet on Monday with the guilty feelings still surrounding you, and you vow to restrict yourself from all of the "bad" foods until you are thin/buff/a size 2.
As you go through the week, you start to follow your diet's rules: should and shouldn't, or good and bad, or whatever you call your restrictions. But then the negotiations begin.
You are doing great on this restrictive diet, you have even exercised a few days this week, so you deserve to reward yourself with those "guilty pleasure" foods, right? You have been so deprived that the little you allow yourself turns into a lot more than you intended. And while it feels good being in the moment of food bliss, the second you come down from your high, the guilt and negative self-talk returns. And thus the vicious cycle begins again.
How many times have you been going around and around? For me and many others, I am sure it is more times than can be counted. I think it's time to put an end to it. But how?
How to End the Restrictive Eating Cycle
If the rules of restrictive dieting aren't bringing success, and willpower fails in the presence of rules, how are we to reach our goals? When hunger is not the reason for eating, reaching satisfaction is nearly impossible.
It's simple, really. Remove the rules. That's right — end restrictive eating, stomp out food stigmas and rid your life of diets, cleanses, jump starts, quick fixes or whatever you call them. Instead, start eating mindfully. Listen to your body: Are you hungry? Are you bored? Are you overwhelmed? Are you celebrating? If you are hungry, then by all means, eat! If you are feeling any other emotional, spiritual or physical sensation other than hunger, address those needs. It's a simple as that.
Well, it might not be simple at first. It takes practice and it may even require the help of a health professional such as a therapist or a registered dietitian nutritionist. Seek out help. Once you choose to free yourself from restrictive eating, you will be free to spend your energy on your emotional, spiritual and physical parts of your life. You may even begin to do all the things you have been waiting to do until you found diet success, instead of spending your time obsessing over a set of rules that have failed you time and time again. Are you ready?