Why cake is important for a happy relationship with food
It is 10.15am on a rainy Friday. I am sitting and relaxing in a little cafe away from the hustle and bustle of the city streets.
I am eating a large slice of chocolate cake with creamy icing. It is delicious. It is tasty. I am relishing every mouthful. I am also very focused on the experience of eating.
It is likely full of sugar and fats and all the food groups frequently demonised. A nutritionist might well tell me that I need a hearty soup or a salad full of nutrients. I am not thinking about this though. I want cake. If I had the salad, I would still be thinking about the cake. I would be left feeling dissatisfied or as if missing something.
For me, cake is not a treat or an indulgent episode of eating linked to ‘bad’ or naughty food.
Cake is allowed. Cake is permitted into my eating. Cake is therefore pleasurable and guilt free.
Cake is not a replacement meal or something that has to be balanced with my daily eating. I had breakfast. I will still have lunch and snacks and dinner as usual.
You might think ‘if I did this, I would be put on lots of weight. I only have to look at cake and I balloon’.
And of course, if you or I ate many cakes and frequently it would affect weight.
But the paradox is that when cake is allowed, you will likely find that you eat it less. You will not be obsessing or thinking about it every day.
When you ban certain foods you will yearn for them more. You will dream, think and fixate over them.
When you demonise certain foods, you might feel guilty and ashamed when you do eat them. You might then go on and eat more cake or pizza or biscuits to feel better and block these feelings.
When you try to control your eating by eliminating food groups or counting calories or missing meals, you lose touch with your natural hunger and what your body needs. Your body tends to fight back and then you are vulnerable to over-eating or binge eating. I know this first hand. I have experienced it in the past.
When you listen to your body and respond to what it needs, you are less likely to eat too much or too little for your body’s requirements. You will likely find that your body craves healthy and nourishing foods for much of the time anyway.
I have found that my body doesn’t really want cake every day when it is permitted. Cake doesn’t hold any particular appeal anymore. It is just like roast dinner or Caesar salad or scrambled eggs on toast.
Six steps to support you in listening to your body
1. Start to notice your personal hunger signals. How do you feel your hunger? Do you actually know? I personally get irritable, tired and lacking in concentration often before I feel my tummy growl. You could keep a diary to try and tune in more to your body and listen to what it needs.
2. When you are hungry, think about what you are hungry for? Hot food? Cold food? Crunchy? Smooth? Crisp? Chewy? Sweet? Sour? Savoury? Bitter? Respond to your body’s hunger as is practical.
3. Sit down to eat. Eating at the cupboard door or on the run doesn’t allow you to register the eating experience so fully and then you might not feel satisfied.
4. Begin to slowly permit all foods into your repertoire of eating. This may feel overwhelming at first, so aim to do so only one food at a time. When you do this, plan it in and make the experience as calm and enjoyable as possible. Sit down, savour and taste the food.
5. If you have been depriving yourself of certain foods, initially you may want to eat more of them as the backlash against deprivation. Persist through this though phase and the foods will lose their magic allure.
6. Start to recognise when you want to eat for reasons unrelated to hunger. For boredom, anxiety, anger, sadness or loneliness. Ask yourself ‘what is it that I really need right now? Is it actually food?’
Be compassionate and kind with yourself as your embark on this journey of improving your relationship with food and your body. This might feel very difficult at first. You may have been out of tune with your body for a long time. If you get stuck in making changes, this might be a time to consider getting further support by seeing a counsellor.
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