One Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, I was planning and preparing a scrumptious meal for some friends who would be coming over to share a Sunday dinner with us. I put a lot of thought, time, and effort into making my meal absolutely delicious! I cooked my specialty signature dish for the main course (okay maybe signature and specialty are a bit too exuberant…I just cook it a lot) – chicken and sour cream enchiladas with black beans and sweet potatoes.
To top the meal off with a delectable dessert, I was planning on making a yellow cake and mixed berry trifle, complete with whipped cream. To up my dessert game a little, I decided to make the cake a chocolate cake instead, because what in this world is better than the combo of chocolate and strawberries? Few things.
That night – and that chocolate cake – began what I’ve affectionately named The Week of the Chocolate Cake, which affectionately turned into the Two Weeks of the Chocolate Cake. Let me tell you more…
After enjoying that luscious trifle, we had leftover chocolate cake just sitting there, not being eaten. So, naturally, we had the same dessert on Monday night and on Tuesday night, which is when we finished it off and it was no longer sitting on the countertop watching us and begging to be eaten. I enjoyed every mouthful.
The next day at a work meeting, out comes a chocolate cake. It looked delicious! I had a slice. I savored every bite. The next day, I took my little one to a birthday party in a park. Out comes a chocolate birthday cake. I had a slice. It was OK.
Two days later, we had some more friends over for dinner. They agreed to bring dessert. You can guess what they had in tow for dessert? Yep. Chocolate cake. I had a slice. My body was starting to like chocolate cake less and less the more I ate it. They left the cake with us, so yes, we ate some for dessert for a few days.
By this point…I never wanted to see a chocolate cake again in my life. If this wasn’t enough chocolate cake for one story, a few days later was my birthday, and what shows up on my table while everyone’s singing to me? Yep. Chocolate cake. *heart sinks, eats out of politeness*. How am I going to eat more chocolate cake? That equaled a few more days of chocolate cake. Finally, I went to an end of the school year party, and you can 100% guess what was sitting on the table…Do I even need to say it?
So that’s how one trifle turned into the Week of the Chocolate Cake which turned into the Two Weeks of the Chocolate Cake.
I don’t share this story to brag about how much chocolate cake I have recently eaten. Instead, I share this story to highlight a few lessons I learned about intuitive eating. But before I do I want to make a disclaimer that I am not a certified dietitian, so I feel a little bit uncomfortable making claims about food and intuitive eating that might not be 100% correct. But I’m going to lean into the discomfort and share it as this was my experience.
1. No matter how scared you are that you won’t be able to stop eating something delicious, you typically will be able to stop if you do not restrict that food.
For the first few chocolate cakes, I was so excited to eat them and savored every bite. I hadn’t restricted chocolate cake beforehand, it just wasn’t something I had on hand every day before the Week of the Chocolate Cake. After the first week, they stopped being delicious and I inwardly groaned when the chocolate cake was pulled out.
I mostly did not want to eat chocolate cake after that, because I had eaten some every day for a week already – it had lost its appeal. So many clients tell me they’re worried to eat chocolate cake, donuts, breakfast burritos, chick-fil-a, or a variety of other foods because they’re terrified they’ll never stop.
When they tell me this, I usually make a well-timed joke about how I expect they’ll still be eating the donut or the burrito in our next session if they literally can’t stop – they’ll be forced to bring it with them to our next session! No client that I’ve challenged to try one of these fear foods has ever had to bring the food to our next session, because they’ve always been able to stop. I can testify to this fact – not only did I stop eating the chocolate cake once it was a regular part of my life, but I also didn’t even want to eat the chocolate cake anymore!
2. Your body craves foods you restrict.
The more you try not to eat certain foods, the more you will want that food. The opposite is also true – the more you eat of a certain food, the less you’ll think about it as the day goes on. Ask me if I crave chocolate cake, I dare you. The answer is no.
3. Your body wants a variety of foods.
Even though the Week of the Chocolate Cake was a fun time period where I had a slice of cake every day for…well, about two weeks…I also wanted other foods that added other necessary nutrients to my diet. Chocolate cake offers some nutrients for my body, and other foods offer other nutrients for my body. As I ate chocolate cake every day, I also found myself craving apples, meat, yogurt, and broccoli – all kinds of foods that will give me all kinds of nutrients in addition to the chocolate cake.
4. Your body knows what to do with the food you eat.
I don’t own a scale or have any interest in weighing myself…But my clothes still fit me just fine after the Week of the Chocolate Cake. I trust that my body knows how to handle the cake and put it to good use. Change happens gradually. And if my close did feel tight, well, I don’t think that would signify a problem.
When my clients tell me that they can’t eat chocolate or they can’t eat french toast (insert any fear food here) because they’re afraid they’ll never be able to stop, I usually have them eat that food once a day for a few days to show that they’ll usually be able to stop when they quit restricting that food. Further, this exercise shows that sometimes your body even stops wanting the food once it has had it.
Now, I wasn’t restricting chocolate cake prior to the Week of the Chocolate Cake, but now that I have stumbled upon performing the same challenge that I have my clients do, I can solemnly swear that I do not want chocolate cake for at least a few months. I am glad I took part in every celebration that the cake was a part of, as food is such a huge part of our celebratory rituals as humans, and I’ve learned valuable intuitive eating principles that I can take with me into my life and work.
Now- please don’t pass me any more cake!